The Truth Board

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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have a dirty little secret. No, I'm not addicted to Oxy and/or alcohol. I am addicted to Television. Especially Reality Shows. The problem with this addiction is that I am far too busy to watch anything, let alone shows that are not the best that TV has to offer. With the exception of a momentary opportunity to turn off my brain from the things that I have to do in "real" life, these shows do not give me anything. On the rare occasion when I confess to people that know me professionally (i.e. an English nerd that gets weak in the knees at anything Shakespeare or Renaissance related) which reality shows I like to watch, I am usually treated with confusion and shock. And given my love for multitasking, I am always doing something else while watching TV.

So, knowing all of these things, why do I still watch reality shows? I watch reality shows because watching them allows me to play my own version of "Where's Waldo?" This would be a good place to confess that I am also an avid follower of celebrity gossip. Having these two pieces of information, it is quite easy to piece together what actually happens and what is scripted and acted out in front of cameras. I love catching moments that are meant to appear authentic and genuine, but the fact that they are scripted is so obvious that it makes watching these shows worthwhile. One of my favorite examples comes from "The Hills," which is still categorized as a reality show even though many of its "cast" have confessed that it is scripted and that they are merely acting. Whatever happens on the show (friendships breaking up, being mended, relationships beginning and ending, etc) has absolutely nothing to do with what happens in real life. The cast of the show appear to have incredible amount of time on their hands to do whatever they may please, which is usually limited to seeing the same group of people in the morning for brunch and later in the day for drinks. Love interests come and go with the same frequency as on regular scripted sitcoms. Having watched and analyzed these shows, I still question my own interest in these shows as well as the public interest. If both the characters on the screen and the public watching at home know what the show is about and it is no longer perceived as what it is supposed to be, then why do we keep watching these shows? Is it the ability to play "Where's Waldo" and spot all the instances when the show doesn't make sense? Is it to see the horrible acting skills of the characters?

Having said "skills, " I feel the need to backtrack and explore that idea more. Does one need any skills to appear on a reality show? It appears that you do need certain skills for some of the shows (Project Runway and Top Chef come to mind), but for the rest of the shows on TV, it seems that the only thing that is necessary to reach stardom is luck to be picked out as the person that will walk around with a mike taped to their body. After all, what skills do any of the characters on "The Hills" have? What about the women on the constantly increasing "Real Housewives" shows? None, unless you count spending other people's money. Our society's acceptance of low quality and standard reality shows has reached disturbing levels, and people's willingness to go through things to get to be on TV is simply unacceptable.

During the past few days the media reported on a story that, I believe, brought the human desire for attention to an all time low. We all heard about the balloon boy. We all watched as the country's already strapped resources were used for the fulfillment of one man's idiotic dream. How could anyone put the public and his own son through so much just for their personal gain is truly beyond me. However, I cannot find anyone other than ourselves to blame for that event. It is the viewers that have turned reality television into acceptable programming and since these shows cost much less to produce than anything else, the networks are all too willing to give us as much reality as we can handle. The question we need to ask ourselves is how much reality is too much reality. When does fascination become an obsession? How do we stop this from happening? Unfortunately, I don't have answers to any of these questions. So far I have only been able to point out the problem, but I don't yet see a solution. Not watching these shows is an option but it is an option that many of us, myself included, are not willing to take. It is a long and hard day's night and the best way to unwind is by going through my DVR and pressing play on "The Hills."
Lilly Berberyan


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