Reality television, the one place where we have an open window into people’s lives. But as time goes on and we expect more and more, is it becoming more of an open door policy? And if so, where do we draw the line?
With the recent death of pop icon, David Bowie, Celebrity Big Brother was faced with the accusation of using grief for views. David’s ex-wife, Angie Bowie has starred in this year’s show and was informed of her late ex-husband’s passing.
Despite the show creators’ sticking to their promise of telling her in in private, they wasted no time in showing her grief stricken reaction to the news minutes after. For myself and plenty of other CBB viewers, this was a major over-step of privacy. But in a show where the entire premise is complete access to someone’s day, is there any such thing as an invasion of privacy in reality television?
Some may argue that with a show in which you show your entire life, there’s no corners that should be cut and that viewers expect it. But, in our fixation for quick, drama packed television, do we forget about the people behind the contract?
In the situation of Angie Bowie, it’s hard to see how people can really defend a situation in which grief is essentially being used for pity porn. In no other reality would people be expecting to see your reaction to a tragedy, so why is it okay when we put the reality in front of a camera crew?
For many it’s the simple fact, that reality has now became television. There is no grey area to stop ourselves from expecting complete unprecedented access to the lives of other people, regardless of the context.
We’re in a world where any information we could ever want is a click or a tap away from us, so with that comes a heightened level of expectation. Even on shows entirely scripted, news of the cast’s lives is not only expected but demanded.
There have been several cases of reality television refusing to take star’s feelings into consideration over drama filled scenes, with creators even saying “I’m looking for one thing only: Will people watch?” So it’s pretty clear that reality television is not the grounds for making morally correct TV and more, fun, explosive, drama.
We’ve seen everything under the guise of entertainment in reality TV from domestic abuse to some fairly brutal fights. But with this being sold as just a part of entertainment, is it also condoning the behaviour it’s allowing to be showed?
MTV show Teen Mom came under mass fire after filming and airing domestic abuse with absolutely zero intervention from the production staff whatsoever. Not only did Amber Portwood repeatedly hit her then partner, Gary, but she also delivered several threats of violence to him. What did the staff do? Enjoyed the show.
Not only did they show something hugely inappropriate, they also perpetuated the stereotype that women on men violence is something to not be taken seriously.
Racism has also been a huge problem that reality producers turn a blind eye to; whether that’s the late Jade Goody arguing and referring to fellow Indian contestant, Shilpa Shetty as ‘Shilpa Poppadom’ to Big Brother America having full supercuts dedicated to the amount of racial slurs and discrimination that POC contestants faced, it was evident that producers would gladly keep in ignorant housemates for the sake of controversy.
And of course, how can we talk about reality television being hurtful without talking about the big blows. Yes, it’s the classic reality TV fight! There’s so many of these that it’s impossible to even pinpoint just one but let’s just say that some participants even find themselves in the emergency room after a hit too far, but it’s all just part of the fun as far as producers are concerned. There’s even some shows designed specifically for the purpose of ‘catfights’. We’re looking at you Bad Girl’s Club.
This isn’t to say that a reality cast and crew should be expected to be baby sat to ensure perfect behaviour, but to intervene when it gets to a place where true harm can be done to the person who’s doing it or is having it happen to them.
Ultimately however, it’s pretty clear that at the gist of these reality shows is sheer drama. And if a broken nose or racial outburst will keep the viewers tuning in then the producers will have no reason to stop them. Perhaps it’s even ours, the viewers at fault for giving it the views necessary to get it aired.
So yes, whilst television can indeed be an educational platform as well as entertainment, sometimes we just have to accept things for what they are. If you want twerking bottoms and drunk people then Geordie Shore is your ideal. However if you want something that will stimulate you mentally and leave guilt free watching, then perhaps Countdown is more your cup of tea. You could even make it in the winner’s teapot!