The harsh reality

31 July 2009

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Yes – I am a white, educated, middle-class Australian citizen.  And yes, I read classic literature, the ‘reputable’ newspapers and know my local and international politics.  And yes, I have travelled to many European countries, I drink skinny cappuccinos and am proficient in four languages.  And yes, I cannot get enough of trashy reality television.  I crave it, I love it, and most importantly I enjoy it.

Wait. Rewind. Did you just read that?  Did I just admit that?  Isn’t the typical trash television devotee generally an overweight ignoramus with no social life, no friends and, dare I say it, lower-than-average intelligence and a lack of redeemable personality traits?  Perhaps I’m being a little severe in my analysis.  But based on Michelle Johnson’s article in this week’s Age, it is apparently not very far from the truth.

Johnson manages to belittle contestants, producers and consumers alike without taking the time out to consider another side to the story.  That is, the fact that maybe we all need to ‘switch-off’, take a breather, a timeout. Why?  Perhaps because some of us are stressed-out-timebombs-ready-to-explode-unless-we-relieve-stress-through-musing-about-the-misfortunes-of-others (Phew!)

And some just need the distraction or the time where we can forget about the sad realities of poverty, pain and hunger in the world, or our personal dramas, stressful workloads, relationship woes and everything else that may be boiling away at the back of our forever ticking and worrying minds.

In the realm of her misconstrued ‘reality’, Johnson appears to have missed the point of reality television programs. These apparently ‘trashy reality’ shows are simply a paradox.  For many, real life – or shall we say ‘reality’- is not trashy. And in the case of shows like Dance Your Ass Off, World’s Strictest Parents, True Beauty and Australia’s Perfect Couple, they are not the reality that most of us are familiar with – nor do they reflect the slightest bit of what goes on in the real world.

So now, back to my shameless promotion of trash television…  Why can’t Johnson (and her ilk) just take these shows at face value?   They are produced with overtly commercial intentions.  ‘Dance Your Ass Off’ wasn’t canned after one episode because somebody called the ‘common-sense police; it was axed because the Nine network couldn’t beat rival ratings.

And to answer Johnson’s question of ‘How much can we possibly take of this brainless drivel?’  Well, to be honest, trash TV is not going to die as long as there are people like Johnson drawing attention to it and ensuring it stays topical.

Because as far as I’m concerned, rants about how nonsensical shows with imperfect couples, troubled teens in Mormon country, model-wannabes and overweight people engaging in awkward dancing is enough to evoke curiosity in anyone!

If you’re not interested or too middle-class for it, switch to Weather Watch on SBS instead.

Gulsum Unal is a recent Arts/Teaching graduate from the University of Melbourne.

What do you think?

Do you watch reality television?  Is it as ‘trashy’ and ‘brainless’ as it has been described, or is it entertainment which is worth watching?

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