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“Reality TV rots people’s brains.” Strong words from Georgia Jagger, a girl whose fame is based entirely upon the notoriety of her father’s rampant drug taking, philandering antics and occasional music – those aspects which indeed make up a lot of today’s sordid celebrity culture. But that is all there is to it: uninformed and prejudiced sensationalism. Reality television thrives on these aspects as well as a shameless indulgence of excess. I am a sucker for reality television and I am not afraid to say so, because I know that it is nothing more than pure entertainment and people who see it as otherwise should lighten up.
Recently, criticism has been volleyed at reality television and its voyeuristic tendencies. Although I would like to think that the UK public has not become a nation of voyeurs, reality television taps into the crevices of an innate human desire that the British public are traditionally conservative about: sex. Reality television allows the public to indulge in such illicitness with very little shame. With a plethora of shows having the word “sex” plastered on the title, sex has become extremely hard to miss – Sex Box, The Sex Education Show and More Sex Please, We’re British, to name just a few. These shows immediately spring to mind and they all seem to seduce viewers and cater to the sex lives (or maybe fantasies) of ordinary people. Reality television has provided a realm that has made this candid issue more comfortable to address and talk about in the general British public.
Saturday nights have become the regular destination for many reality TV shows. From Strictly Come Dancing to the infamous X Factor, such programmes continue to be the bedrock of family entertainment. Many nights have been spent chilling with my family laughing at those who truly believe that they will be the next Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or, more humorously, David Blaine. Such shows not only epitomise entertainment but they give us something to laugh at, which is much-needed, light-hearted relief. This is not limited to Saturday night television; reality shows also provides us with a level of artifice that never fails to surprise. The Apprentice annually leaves you wondering why some of the candidates ever made it through the selection process, whereas Top Gear is never short of quality banter to keep you entertained.
My position on reality television should not be viewed as a naive stance. We are all too aware of programmes that tap into the fears and insecurities held by some in our society. Channel 4’s Benefits Street, which is nothing more than a 45-minute extension of the “two minutes of hate” from George Orwell’s 1984 novel, is a recent example of this anxiety and how TV producers have sought to earn more viewers and more money as a result of it. With a growing emphasis on the activities of those who are on the fringes of society, we run the risk of believing that the minority represents entire communities. Reality television thrives on the portrayal of extreme caricatures, so we must be reminded that such shows are created to merely gain the most viewers. They are seldom a true reflection of what actually happens in the world and no one should think otherwise.
From the outright salacious to the downright obnoxious, reality television will continue to be dominate our screens. Judging by the viewing figures and newspapers columns reality TV shows gain, it’s certainly not going to go away any time soon. People will continue to comment on its sometimes crass and structured nature, but this does nothing more than take the enjoyment out of it. Columnist Jenny Eclair said it right in her statement: “I can’t stand folk who are all snobby about reality television.” It’s simple and popular and people would be far better off just enjoying it rather than attacking something which gives so much entertainment to many people across the country.