The Irony of Reality TV Shows

Reality tv. It’s one of society’s most common guilty pleasures, and yet it is still shrouded in veils upon veils of negative stigma. Perhaps this is because it is the one genre of tv that invites viewers to judge real people, as opposed to characters that are written and performed. Or perhaps, it is because the lives that are often documented through the lens of “reality tv” are often wildly out of touch with those being led by viewers. I mean – it goes without saying that most people don’t find themselves in situations where they must give out single roses to their suitors. With that being said, though, I think there lies a certain understanding between producers and viewers that the content within reality shows is so rarely derived wholly and naturally from reality itself and that- by nature- reality tv is a sort of oxymoron. It is nothing but irony, as it claims to be completely real in that it captures the unscripted reactions of real people but then proceeds to put these- singular- people into scenarios that are far from realistic. 

It would be redundant to continue lamenting over the contradictory nature of real people in unrealistic scenarios, but I don’t think that is the only note of irony within this tv genre. Tv programs, among other things, are meant to be a form of escapism for their viewers, but yet, one of the most popular tv genres revolves around the idea that it is entirely within our reality, regardless of how far-reaching it may seem. It is within our reality but also… not really. It’s not really our reality; it’s someone else’s. I know it’s certainly not my reality; I, for one, wouldn’t be caught dead on most reality tv shows. If not for the sheer invasive quality of the cinematography style, then for the nature of the editing style, which shifts the subjects’ narratives and adds a certain drama to everything from the mundane to the bizarre. However, that’s not to say that I don’t watch reality tv sometimes. After all, it is entertaining, and I have a soft spot for a certain British Baking Show. These traits, though somewhat offensive to the subjects, are entertaining for audiences, hence their success and popularity. This brings me to my next point.

What is interesting to me about reality tv shows, with their close-ups of people’s reactions and formulaic editing techniques (which often rearrange shots to make them seem more dramatic than they maybe are in real life), is that while they skew our sense of reality, they also in a way, expose a different reality. It may not be everybody’s favorite version of reality, but it is a  reality nonetheless. It is reality as seen from another’s perspective, from the outsider’s point of view, something which we, as the viewers, are. We view these real events, perhaps not as they actually happen, but as they are perceived by the camera crew and the close eye of the editing team.

While reality tv may be incredibly contradictory by nature, I think that it only further adds to its allure. It portrays real people as caricatures in unusual settings and scenarios with unique problems to overcome. Reality tv sells us a version of reality, which in itself is rather ironic.

Share:

Join Our Mailing List

    Recent Articles

    How Netflix’s Downfall Will Affect You

    Since Netflix went public in 2002, the streaming giant has changed the way people all over the world access Movies and TV. Netflix has over 221 million subscribers in over 190 different countries. It gets over 10% of global internet traffic, has received 226 different awards and at one point peaked at a market cap of 314 billion dollars. Despite holding a monopoly over streaming services throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Netflix has begun to lose its control over the industry.

    New Show The Santa Clauses is the Perfect Christmas Throwback

    Disney has just released its latest addition to The Santa Clause, the Christmas trilogy that started back in 1994. But this isn’t another movie. This time Disney is shaking things up with a tv series, called The Santa Clauses. The show, which premiered on Disney Plus two days ago, picks up years after the last film took place, with Tim Allen’s character, Scott Calvin (a.k.a. Santa) trying to go into retirement. The show will follow him as he tries to select the next Santa to succeed him so that he may retire and leave the North Pole with his family.

    The Mandalorian: Release Date and More

    The Star Wars franchise struck gold a few years ago when they released the hit show The Mandalorian back in 2019. The show follows a lone ranger and Mandalorian, Din Djarin, on a journey through time and space to protect the alien child, Grogu (“Baby Yoda” for those who never learned his name), from enemy forces. As the show has gone on, the bond between the two characters has grown, and at the end of its second season, we all watched in tears as the father-son dynamic between the two became solidified in its heartwarming season 2 finale (a quick note for those who aren’t caught up with the show yet, the rest of this article will contain spoilers, so read at your own risk).

    When Will We Be Rid of the “Spicy Latina” Trope?

    To say that I was hungry for Latina representation as a preteen would certainly be an understatement; simply put, I was ravenous. As per the customs of Internet fandom, especially in the days of my youth, I would headcanon (that is, assert a non-canon identity onto) characters who I could easily imagine as Latina or Latino while eating up what little actual representation I could find.

    Lee Jung-jae Voices Sadness at Squid Games Success

    The success Squid Games had was a shock to the world. American audiences tend to only consume American produced shows, yet the Squid Games korean production did not seem to deter any fans. The TV show became Netflix’s most successful production in the platform’s history.
    After the success of its pilot season, plans for a season two were immediately put in place. One of the tv shows lead actors, Lee Jung-jae became “the first Asian to win an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama for his role as Seong Gi-hun aka Player 456.” In an interview with the Guardian, he explained that while is happy to be in such a successful show, the TV show’s content has deeply worried him, “I’m happy about it, of course, but it’s bittersweet. Yes, it’s great that audiences are consuming Korean content around the world. And they appreciate it. But if you think about the themes of Squid Game – how far are we willing to go to accumulate personal wealth; the lengths people are forced to go to – the fact it resonated with so many around the world is worrying.

    Hey! Are you enjoying NYCTastemakers? Make sure to join our mailing list for NYCTM and never miss the chance to read all of our articles!