TV and reality

Television used to be like the movies, an escape from reality. Television programs became so popular because the way of spectatorship is different form movies in cinema, television is handy. First of all, television acted as a tool of entertainment everywhere such as home, bars, caf� and shops. Audience are not required to gaze at the screen, in other words, audience are mobilized.

Due to the advanced technology, viewers have an option to review the texts by the remote control through the VCR machine.Because of the remote control, also called magic- wand, viewers are able to pause, rewind, fast forward to skip the advertisements or even change the channels, therefore, it generated the power of control to the user. The tradition television programs were focused on unique story, specially crafted, either funny or exciting or intelligent or emotional. However, the insurgence of reality television into everyday life has raised a question in audience’s mind, ‘what is real?’ By applying Leisbet Van Zoonen’s argument that there is no such ting as a delivered presence or truth in culture discourse, but inevitably a re- presence or representation (Van Zoonen 1995:319), the essay will argue that it is impossible to define whether reality television programs such as Big Brother adequately reflect reality but rather look at what is re- presented.Big Brother is just one example of a very successful reality TV show. Other good examples are Survivor, Jerry Springer, Australia Idol and I’m a Celebrity get me out of here. All these shows were made in favour of the television companies, and to make as much money as possible if they are successful. With the reality TV shows so popular, the TV companies can gain high ratings and publicity.

Tony Johnson Woods defines reality TV as a term encompassing a host of television programs, which can be broken into genres of lifestyle shows, talent shows, documentaries, talk shows and quiz or game shows (Johnson- Woods 2002:53- 54). Documentary in nature (narrator, naturalistic settings and unscripted conversations), yet following the format of a soap opera, the creators categorise Big Brother as a ‘docusoap’ which the srcipt was modified but base on a ture story.However, as Johnson Woods points out “Big Brother is more than a documentary with soap tendencies; closer examination reveals the influence of talk shows, game shows and even situation comedy” (Johnson- Woods 2002:58). Ignore whether Big Brother reflecting the relaity or not, there are servals elements set it up to popular.

Via studying the televisual illusion of reality, liveness and flows were found in the program.To show the liveness in Big Bother used the first personal camera, hand held camera and spy camera angel. In regular life, watching the intimate details of a stranger’s life is called spying, or ‘voyeurism’, and is frowned upon to the extent of being illegal with a penalty of up to five years imprisonment. But Big Brother indulges and seems to project a glorified version of voyeurism.

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Views can avoid all semblance of having a life and spend their time watching someone else do it for them. In Big Brother, we can see the ‘reality effects’ that both the themes of the program and the personal qualities of the participants have had on the Australian public.Jealousy, greed, humiliation and betrayl are fundamental themes explored throughout Big Brother.

The structure of the show encourages contestants to back stab their fellow participants by voting them off, and fosters greed by using money as the final motivation. However, as Jo Chichester argues such themes also play a valuable part in explaining the popularity of Big Brother and “reveal something deep in the Australian psyche” (Chichester 2003:11).Such themes not only produce entertainment but can also provide an addictive form of Schadenfreude.

Everyone loves to watch other people’s misfortunes and by participating in Big Brother, housemates hold themselves up for public humiliation and public defeat. As Stevie Fargher points out “each of us at some point is interested in the downfall of others, be it through corporate takeovers in the world of big business or hoping that the popular girl from school has become fat and unsuccessful before attending a high school reunion” (Fargher 2003:17).The living quality for each episode always contemporaneous. The situation for the contestant facing in the program may similar to audience’s life. It is also simultaneous community of viewers because there were thoudsons of poeple watching the show just like every single viewer, however, viewers were in different conditions when they watching the program such as cooking, chating on the phone or doing homework. These are all the livness which Big Brother brought to audiences.Focus on the flow and seriality, the viewers gain satisfaction from these types of shows due to the fact audience enjoy watching people make fools of them selves and watching hostile situations from a safe distance. The general public also like to see everyday people, interacting in everyday situations.

Also viewers can have some control over who or what they want to see by voting people they dislike or are bored with. The viewers get to see new faces on television rather than faces they’ve seen before.Recently, Big Brother have changed Australia’s perception of the ‘celebrity’ and represent how the nature of fame has changed in recent years. Housemates enter the house as regular people and exit as superstars who are invited to regular film premiers and show business bashes. Alison Neighbour suggests that this and the immense popularity of Big Brother indicate the nature of fame has changed dramatically in recent years.

“A famous person was once required to have a particular talent, and to work their way up to a celebrated position. Now, instant stardom awaits anyone willing to let the nation watch them in their daily lives, or be humiliated through Production Company’s idea of entertainment” (Neighbour 2002:1). Neighbour further suggests that the reason Big Brother has so much appeal is because it represents the aspirations of many Australians – fame and riches for doing nothing.The conclusions that can be drawn from the immense popularity of Big Brother and Australia’s recent embrace of reality programs cannot be underestimated. As Kubey argues “Television has become our species preferred and most powerful means of mass communication” (Kubey 1990:XI). By analysing the popularity of the show, the audience participation and media reception of both the program and the housemates, it is evident that Big Brother has achieved enormous cultural and political work.

As Leisbet Van Zoonen argues representation within the media is not only a literal reflection of women’s and men’s lives and identities, but also in modes of thinking, sets of norms, values and current discourse. (Van Zoonen 1995:311- 327). The fact that, that 2.

8 million viewers watched the original season finale and Big Brother topped the 16 – 39 demographic for nine weeks “provides a fascinating and often disturbing barometer of community attitudes” (Spencer 2002:1).Each season popular opinion is drawn to the “typecast Australian”. For three successive seasons, “12 supposed stereotypes entered the house” (Tranter 2003:2) and every time the ‘average’ Australian won.

Ben, Peter and Reggie – the winners of each season – are all working class heterosexuals with broad Australian accents. Unlike other genres of reality television, the very nature of Big Brother is not purely for entertainment purposes, rather the audience is given a real stake in the narrative outcome (Roscoe 2003:138). Consequently, the audience’s choices regarding their viewing preferences and who they feel comfortable watching on television will differ from when they are watching other forms of television.Therefore, we can assume from the way Australians voted that in a reality television context Australians are more comfortable with people from average social, economic and cultural backgrounds. Both Jo Chichester and Tranter support this view.

Chichester argues that Australian’s love of such ‘simple’ characters verify’s that we prefer someone that confirms the status quo. Using “inarticulate, unselfconscious, fish and chip shop owner ” (Chichester 2003:11) Reggie and her educational shortcomings as an example Chichester comments: Australians have reverted to a long held admiration for the simple over the complex, the honest over the manipulative, the working class battler over the beautiful lawyer (Chichester 2003:11).However, Big Brother also reaffirms the positive principal that ‘nice guys finish first’. Honesty, loyalty and genuine friendship are all traits possessed by the winners and runners up. Whilst in contrast, housemates portrayed as overly competitive became immediately un-popular with the general public and the media. This was exemplified by the media backlash against Johnny, one of the contestant, once it was decided that he was being fake because he hugged his opponents after voting against them. As Tranter argues, “obviously being nice and moralistic are still valuable traits” (Tranter 2003:2).The surge in popularity of reality TV reveals that authenticity is still desirable, however the point at which something can be defined as ‘truly authentic’ has blurred .

There is no doubt that Big Brother is not a complete reflection of reality. Images have been carefully framed, combined with other material and placed within the frame of a report with comment and analysis to guide the viewer (McQueen 1998:140) and by casting the candidates and setting tasks for the housemates to complete, the production team is able to manipulate the show. However as, Van Loonen argues “there is no such thing as a delivered presence or truth and “representations contain only a fraction of what could have been presented, thus all are selective abstractions” (McQueen 1998:140). In reality we focus on some things rather than others, order them in narrative and rank them importance (Spencer 2002:1).Within everyday life we are constantly constructing and reconstructing our identities and roles by the way we relate to others. As Judith Butler argues humans do not express some authentic inner “core”, but rather are the dramatic effect of performances, which shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times (Butler 1990:25). This is supported by Erving Goffman, whom views interaction as a ‘performance’ shaped by environment and audience, constructed to provide others with “impressions” that are constant with the desired goals of the actor. (Goffman 1959:17).

Thus, society desires “the authentic”, the constantly changing world means that defining something or someone as ‘authentic’ is impossible.In conclusion, reality television in general is that it is another form of entertainment and should not be taken so seriously by the general public and media. People should realise that the contestants are placed in extra ordinary situations. Contestants choose to be put in these situations for fame, money, attention and to escape from their normal, routine lives. Reality television shows take advantage of a society, which embraces fame as a good way of life, in order to make millions.

Celebrities are respected by the public and these contestants, who are normal people, dream of making themselves a well known face.Reference ListButler. J, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity London: Routeledge, 1990eChichester. J, ‘Regs of society they may be, but we still love an underdog’ Sydney Morning Herald 23rd July, 2003Fargher.

S, ‘Reality TV here to stay’ Illawara Mercury 1st August , 2003Goffman. E, The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life New York: Double Day plx5uO from plx5uO

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