Lately, much has been made of what is real, or reality. In our society today, reality is becoming more often based on what we are told, or programmed to believe. I am referring to the idea of “reality television”, which has now had a high impact on what reality in everyday life is like.
I have watched bits of most of the reality shows that have come into production until 2016. At that point, I gave up my cable, and thus the ability to watch current television. I now use my DVD player, and watch movies or old television shows through Netflix and Hulu. I am reading more, and more diversely. I have given up reading newspapers per say, and read via the internet a wide variety of press that gives me a more balanced perspective on things. I can read both things liberal and conservative, and in-between. I then can choose what I see as the truth, or reality. As such, I am taking back my freedom of thought, and the responsibility it carries. What follows is observation and my interpretation of what is happening.
The phenomenon of reality television grew out of game shows. These were mostly entertaining, and actually made people think. Some, like “The Dating Game”, were funny, some like “Jeopardy”, were challenging. The “Amazing Race”, “Big Brother”, and other shows like this are games. May the best man/woman/team win. However, some of these shows showed humanity in a very degrading way – contestants who were in marriages using sex to gain position and try to thus win. Maybe these people would do this in real life, maybe not.
The cooking shows, also reality, are based on a talent, as are the music, tattoo, and dance shows. While there is the occasional bias, most of these actually manage to keep the best of the lot to the top of the last show. These I enjoy. The dramas run along the artistic taste. Can there be behind the scene things? Of course, but these shows at least try to keep it to the talent, and not the win at any cost of the former mentioned shows.
Another group of reality shows are the ones that grew out of Soap Operas. These were run during the day, advertizing soap products, to housewives and home keepers, as a diversion to their “dull existence”. I knew people to become so invested in these that they thought that this was reality, and that the lives of the people on the screen were real. Luke and Laura’s wedding on one of these took some of my classmates to ditch class at the university and watch.
Theses shows then moved to-night time, via “Dallas” and shows like this. Again, after a short time, people could not tell the difference between these as shows and real life. Many people thought that these actors lived as the people in the shows, and rabid fans would come up to them on the street and engage in conversation about their character as if they were really suffering the pains they did on the show.
It was a short step from this to the various “Housewives” productions. Where wealthy women are playing out the fantasy of the soap opera shows in these shows. Some of these had been just ordinary people before their shows. Unfortunately, this gave the perception that this was normal, everyday life for all people. If you did not live this way, then something was wrong with your life. Some people went to the length to try to emulate the life style of some of these women. Actually, most of this was pure acting after a short while, however “The Real Housewives of..” became a standard. After all it is “real”, right?
A combination of these reality shows was born. Some of these shows were short-lived, and some became a longer term event. People competing for jobs, bosses spying on employees (actually one of these was excellent as the bosses fixed their companies and helped their employees), or creative ideas that competed for funding. One of these shows took off by storm. “The Apprentice”. “You’re Fired”, became a cult phrase in short order. Fortunately, most CEO’s realized that treating employees in the manner this show did would not create a healthy working environment, so kept to the models that worked for them.
The public took it differently. They took that the opinion of the head CEO in this show was supreme, and he always was making the best choice. They took that his crass and angry outbursts were how a functioning CEO acts and does business. It was tough, and devotees learned that you had to be tough and crass to succeed. You had to bully the opposition, and if you were not up to this, or the backstabbing of competitors, you would be fired. The head CEO attained not only stardom, but a cult following that would walk off the top of a high building following him. Everything he said was gospel, and he was, as he told people over and over, the smartest and the best businessman ever to walk the Earth.
After a time, this CEO started to believe his own hype, or maybe he actually believed it before the show. Only those closest to him will ever know the truth of this. He entered the lives of those who were not devotees, but because his devotees were so inflamed with their love of him, by entering politics. He believed that with time all people would love him, believe the reality of everyday life as he saw it, and follow him blindly, as his reality devotees did. His addiction to his own reality and inability to live in a life beyond the celebrity has created an instability in our society. What is real, and what is, well something else. Unfortunately, “You’re fired” has now become “You’re fake” and he continues to try to get all to believe his reality.
Reality is what I am seeing now without the regular doses of television telling me what is real. It is seeing my neighbor in need and stepping out of myself to help. It is taking walks in nature, where I can touch, see, and smell what is there, not imagine it from a screen. It is getting and giving affection to my children and grandchildren, not experiencing this by watching others do it. It is also the ability to discern what is historically accurate based on reading multiply sides of an issue, and doing this with current events. It is being real myself, and with myself. It is not taking someones word for what is real, and denying my existence, experience, and learning. Giving up ones freedom of thought is the first step toward giving up all freedom. It is the first step to accepting tyranny. We can all take back our freedom by doing this one little thing – do not give up your freedom of thought, or what is real in your life.