I am an optimist. Well, on most days I am. And reality TV plays the true leveller in my rather rose-coloured vision I have of my life and things around.
With little time to watch television, I catch up on most of the episodes on the World Wide Web. And it’s easy. Many of the TV channels have online feed of their shows, which makes it easier to just selectively watch the episodes you like.
But what depresses me is what is shown on reality television. Now, these shows are supposed to be unscripted, hence the emotions are likely to be real. So if these emotions are real then we have a relatively dark future. Programmes like ‘Bigg Boss’ show stars cramped in a house for weeks turn on each other, scheme, plot, be malicious and be rude. Turns out that most people think that’s entertainment. Twitter hash tags about the show are trending. It’s all over Facebook, and scandals are rife. It is as if the audience is deriving some strange sadistic pleasure in watching others behaving that way.
The worst is that the people in the show don’t seem to mind the insults they face. It is not just in shows like ‘Bigg Boss’ where participants are put into an unnatural situation and thereafter filmed to be presented to an audience. Herein lies a big grouse — it’s not really reality if what the audience gets to watch are snippets of the show that are carefully edited out by the producers to only present the drama, which is sometimes misleading. There have also been claims of the situations being script generated. Such claims can be backed by how relationships that have started on television have never worked after the shows have gotten over. Fights that have started out in these shows have ended with the shows ending too. Whether it is ‘Rakhi ka Swayamvar’, ‘Bigg Boss’ or ‘Bachelorette India’, the shows promote and use celebrities who have failed in their respective careers and are looking for a jumpstart.
Music, dance and other talent competitions have (at least on screen) started humiliating the contestants a little less over the past few years. It’s probably because of the ‘n’ number of cases where the participants have committed suicide or gone into depression. It does not, however, change the fact that the humiliation remains, and the shows try to portray a shortcut to success. True, many of these kids are talented and do get the kind of exposure that is unprecedented. Some local unknown talent and talent groups have indeed gotten more shows and recognition than it was possible in traditional method before. Then there are thousands who believe that standing on stage and being approved by a set of qualified or unqualified judges is the only way to make or break their career.
Being shouted at in an adventure reality show, or flaunting your most private moments and relationships on TV has become a national pastime. The competition and the obvious lies are accepted and justified as “all is fair to win” attitude of these people. It is something that many impressionable kids imbibe easily and apply to their lives. Easy to just put a disclaimer and shirk off all the responsibility.
Loud, crass, incompetent people like Rakhi Sawant, Dolly Bindra, Rahul Mahajan, Sambhavana Seth, Pooja Mishra, Imam Siddiqui have become stars overnight with the advent of these shows. They have glamorised materialism and vulgarity for the sake of TRPs and winning the show. The audience laps it up.
The idea of principles, morals and decency has no place on Indian television anymore. It has become a fight for who can create the bigger hungama. It’s apparently a lesser predicament for censor board to show these men and women use all the dirt on each other than to show couples kissing (lest some khap panchayat somewhere rules that that’s what is causing all the rapes).
“Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are affected more by the idea of fame than the actual work ethic involved. A lot of them just want to be reality TV-type people who don`t do anything,” says Katy Perry.
It is probably a reflection of the times we live in.