Reality TV: Whose reality is it anyway?

Aman Kanth

We are living in strange times of exploding images and cacophony of sounds. If we talk of Indian television, we have come a long way from the Doordarshan era to the times of private owned satellite television channels, which have left a deep impact on the socio-political and cultural mores of our society.

Most of us can spend hours together doing nothing except perfunctorily hopping TV channels. For some, even nature’s call can wait when they are busy watching their most loved TV shows.

No, we are not talking about saas-bahu dramas, for they are a passé. Today, we are living in the times of 24X7 realism on television. TV is the almighty who can fulfil all your wishes and desires. In fact, we have different reality shows catering to different needs. For instance, if you want to become rich, you can try your luck at ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. If you are looking for some voyeuristic pleasure, watch out for ‘Bigg Boss’ and ‘Splitsvilla’. If you are game for some adrenaline rushing action, don’t miss ‘Roadies’ and ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’. If you want a revenge on your ex-lover, ‘Axe your Ex’ can be fun. If you have a funny bone, comedy shows are your calling. If you can cook, ‘MasterChef India’ is waiting for you. Okay, you can sing and dance, take part in ‘Indian Idol’, ‘X Factor’, ‘Dance India Dance’, ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs’ or ‘Just Dance’. Aha! Thinking of a dream wedding? How about ‘Swayamvar’ with a celebrity as your life partner? And if you are seeking justice, Rakhi Sawant is here to give you insaaf.

Do you notice that all these reality shows are targeted at certain sections of society - gender, class, age and in the name of wholesome entertainment, some reality shows do not hesitate from propagating greed, violence and false morality.

If our thoughts and opinions are created through TV, no doubt, we are living in a nightmarish consumerist culture. However, when we talk about reality TV, then the so called reality is an artificial construct where viewers are mere silent spectators, who are denied alternative ways of seeing and feeling things. Reality TV is subversive in nature because we tend to believe only what we are shown. We are thrown into an unreal world where we are just a part of mediated reality.

In fact, reality TV is not at all realism. Haven’t we heard of scripted/fake reality shows? How genuine is an audience poll? Is belligerence, deceit and character assassination acceptable social behaviour? How sustaining is overnight fame? And last but not the least, what happens after winning a reality show?

All these questions put a big question on the veracity of reality shows, which often emotionally blackmail the audiences, leaving them disenchanted in the end.

In retrospect, we audiences are no better than Truman Burbank. If Truman lived his entire life on TV, we are killing our time in front of the idiot box by living in the glory of someone else’s un-reality!

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