You Are What You Watch! Essay

1449 words - 6 pages

Imagine a distant post-apocalyptic future in which a large silver box has just been excavated from the ruins of what was once Los Angeles, a box that contains stack after stack of DVD’s with titles like Survivor, The Bachelor, Biggest Loser, The Swan, Real World, The Apprentice, and Hell’s Kitchen. What might anthropologists conclude about our 21st century society if these shows were their only glimpse into how we lived our lives? Francine Prose ponders this same question in her essay “Voting Democracy off the Island: Reality TV and the Republican Ethos,” in which she asks not only what future anthropologists might deduce, but, “for that matter,” what “contemporary TV-addicted children and adults” might realize if they were to more closely examine their motivation for watching these shows (22). Salman Rushdie, in his article “Reality TV: A Dearth of Talent and the Death of Mortality,” suggests that we need to examine reality television closely because “it tells us things about ourselves,” and even if we don’t think it does, it “ought to,” a claim that suggests that if we merely brush off reality television as a fad, we might be missing something inherently valuable about our nature (16). In her essay, “The Distorting Mirror of Reality Television,” Sarah Coleman suggests that reality television offers a distorted reflection, a “dark view of humanity in the guise of light entertainment,” a consideration that asks us to see who we are in this distorted reflection of our values (19). The question then is: what do we see when we see ourselves in this “dime-store mirror” (“Reality TV” 16)? Whatever the answer to this question might be, the question itself suggests that there is something inherently human about our fascination with reality television, something that suggests the possibility that this well-edited form of reality reveals a particular cruelty that very well may reside in all of us.
The majority of reality television shows are based around competition, which means that, in general, you will have one winner and a group of losers. Prose suggests that the primary lesson to be learned from the eat or be eaten mentality of many of these shows is that “the laws of natural selection are even more brutal, inflexible, and sensible than one might find” in Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest; furthermore, Prose adds that it is perfectly acceptable, even accepted, for the contestants to “marshal all” their “skills and resources to succeed in a struggle that only one person can win” (“Voting” 22). For many, this might seem perfectly acceptable. Why, after all, play a game unless you want to win? However, such a question avoids the very important fact that most of these shows also follow a curious interpretation of the values of team work— in this case each player working for the common goal of winning as a team, when, in the end, there can only be one winner. As a result, individuals are often seeking inventive ways to deceive,...

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