An Alternative to Reality

Daily Prompt: If you could un-invent something, what would it be? Discuss why, potential repercussions, or a possible alternative.

The cast of the Real World San Francisco

It all started with MTV’s Real World in 1994. The premise: gather some young people from different walks of life, force them to live together for a few months, and follow them around with cameras to see what happens. It was a sort of social experiment–pretty brilliant, really. The result: honest TV programming. The first season, set in San Francisco, featured people who were educated, interesting, and relatable. They had discussions about race, sexuality, socioeconomic issues, politics. Sure, there were arguments, and one member was even evicted from the house, but you got the sense that these people shared a one-of-a-kind experience and developed a strong bond that would last much longer than the season.

Fast forward to today, the world of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, The Jersey Shore, Hillbilly Handfishing, The Bad Girls Club and that one about the guy who likes to gnaw on his own flesh. (Yes, I made that last one up, but it’s only a matter of time.) There is no limit on how far people are willing to go to be on TV, nor on the amount of money that networks are willing to pay them to make complete asses of themselves. And yet, the so-called “Reality TV” phenomenon is bigger than ever. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s spilled over into other genres. Think of all the sitcoms that use a “mockumentary” style: Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, The Office, to name a few. And let’s not forget the news programs, which have no qualms about exploiting drug addicts and otherwise mentally disturbed people to improve their ratings. As hard as you try, you cannot escape America’s fascination with shameless exhibitionism.

Agent 86, Maxwell Smart

But I ask, has reality TV improved our lives or even contributed to it in any positive way? Are we better people, a better society, a better nation because of it? My answer is no, and I’d go even further to say that it’s done quite the opposite.

I grew up watching a lot of Nick at Nite programming, along with plenty of Looney Tunes cartoons, and I have such great memories of these shows. They were clever, funny, sometimes even a little risque, and they are still so much fun to watch. I wonder if 20 or 30 years down the line people will say the same about Honey Boo Boo. I sure hope not. If I could undo any invention, Reality TV would be it. It would open up more opportunities for talented writers, actors, directors, and for programming that is inspired, imaginative, and not entirely about shock value. At least that’s what I’d hope would be the result. As for repercussions, I’d never know about Puck’s nasty habit of eating his roommates’ peanut butter from the jar with dirty hands, or the way Kim Kardashian whines about, oh, pretty much everything, or how much butter Honey Boo Boo consumes in a single day. But I think I could live with that.

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About Paola Maldonado

Mobile Developer @BuzzFeed. Co-founder of NYC Tech Latinas. Follow me: @PaolaNotPaolo

Posted on February 21, 2013, in Daily Prompt, Humor, Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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