Friday, March 2, 2012

How Reality TV is Really Like Dystopian Literature

I love shitty reality TV. I eat that shit up. Sometimes I can make myself feel better about it if it’s something like Project Runway which actually requires some kind of skill or if it’s like Toddlers and Tiaras where it’s more like a documentary. The thing is going on anyway, they just turn the cameras, and giggle all the way to the bank.

Anyway, today someone was telling me that they loved when the contestants fought (the part we all pretend we hate) because it made her feel smart and centered in comparison. She felt like, in the same situation, she would rise about such petty drama.


So then it struck me. Maybe reality TV is important for culture in the same way that dystopian novels are.

See, dystopian novels aren’t actually predicting the end of society. I don’t care what your high school teacher said. She was just trying to make you think. Give her a break. She works hard.


Dystopian literature is crazy and exaggerated for a reason. It’s actually a feel good genre. No stick with me. When you read 1984 or Swastika Night or Handmaid’s Tale you immediately compare it to the world around you. Most likely you believe that, while there are some things that could be changed, you and your country are not going to end up like that. No way. You know better. You would not give up your love even when faced with a terrible rat-death. You generally believe you are better than them.


When we talk about 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale we use it as an example that we do not want to reach, but probably won’t anyway. It is a warning that everyone understands is an exaggeration. Reality TV is the same way. We use it to measure our own drama and insecurities and feel secure that we have not, and will never reach, that lowest of lows.


Many of these reality TV shows have an open ended, but possibly hopeful ending too. Like Handmaid’s Tale’s possible escape, Hoarders and Intervention end in a message that the people you watched are still working hard. They could, of course, film it so that enough time had passed to see a full recovery, but they don’t. The ending is open ended so that we can hope, but the tension, the lesson, the parable, is still intact.


When the people on TV are having a meltdown we are given a unique opportunity to feel good about our own fortitude, our work ethic, our strengths, and our abilities. We ultimately believe that we would do better, and we should. It’s feel good TV.


You've seen it! You can't unsee it!

15 comments:

  1. OMG! I need to unsee! Is there no way back? Ahhhh!

    I see your point, and I agree that dystopian novels make us appreciate what we have now. However... 1984? There is absolutely no way that novel made me feel any better. Just the character's plight held me in a mixture of fascination and tears. What's worse is that I do see little signs of Big Brother encroaching on our society...

    Just look at the protests taking place in Madrid-and the government's response. Running from the police and their batons, about 200 protesters sought refuge in a restaurant. The police wanted to charge in to keep beating them but waiter Alberto Casillas stood at the door a swore by his "cojones" that they wouldn't pass. They didn't.

    Here are two images of him defending the people.
    http://estaticos.elperiodico.com/resources/jpg/4/3/1348737541734.jpg

    http://m1.paperblog.com/i/149/1492406/antidisturbios-aporrean-quienes-protestan-el--L-hlBDZg.jpeg

    What did the government have to say the next day? The riot police were protecting HIM and his business from angry protesters throwing rocks.

    Newspeak... Here we come.

    Four days later, the police went back to the restaurant, harassed him and he passed out from the stress. Luckily he's fine now.

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