How can a relationship, any relationship, hold on to any kind of authenticity when both parties know that each is just dancing for the camera?
This is the actual question that started me off on my Flava Flav rant. But I am so over that show. I have not seen any of the current season. Why waste my time on a show that harps on fakeness while having not a shred of authenticity?
Unfortunately the 2007 writers strike unleashed on unsuspecting viewers a slew of ‘reality’ shows patterned after the Flavor of Love formula. Person ‘X’ is looking for true love. To do this, he/she moves into a house occupied by a number of potential candidates. One by one applicants are eliminated until the main character ends up with the man or woman of his or her dreams. Their ‘relationship’ usually does not even make it until the next season. And the search for love then starts anew.
The formula is tiring and tiresome. The shows are stupid and increasingly unfunny. There is nothing real about their version of reality. In fact, I don’t quite understand why these are called reality shows. I understand that the occupants of these houses may not literally be given scripts with lines to memorize – and even that is debatable on some of the shows involving groups of ‘frenemies’ who hook up with and then back-stab each other.
There is nothing realistic about these shows. Yet they continue to be consumed in such mass quantities that their enduring popularity tells us the viewers, something about the shows on the one hand, and about ourselves on the other. They speak to a lack of authenticity at both ends.
Although this is not unique to them, these reality shows highlight the ease with which people lose their authenticity once a camera is repeatedly thrust in their face. One example of this involves the events subsequent to the 1992 imprisonment of 17-year-old Amy Fisher, the ‘Long Island Lolita’, who shot the wife of her 36-year-old lover, Joey Buttafuoco.
Fisher was released after seven years, in part as a result of the wishes of the victim, Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Following the release, shooter and victim appeared in a number of reality shows talking about their mutual healing. But in a subsequent interview, Fisher disclosed that she actually felt no remorse as Mary Jo had profited handsomely from the criminal case. In 2006, Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco also reunited for the cameras, and in 2007, were reportedly pitching a show about moving in together.
Media psychologists study the impact of television and other media on the way people behave. Of concern is the possibility that the lack of authenticity that we see patterned for us daily in these reality shows, will come to influence the way we see and treat with each other in real life.
Take the strange case of Tricia Walsh-Smith, a 49-year-old New York socialite who is currently being divorced by her 71-year-old husband. How does Tricia respond to her legal circumstances? By making a video which she releases on Youtube. It is at once hilarious and pathetic.
Video has become our new reality. So much for the privacy of pain. So much for divorcing with honor. When last I heard, they are thinking about casting Tricia as a character in a reality show about New York housewives. I kid you not.
You would think that having a camera constantly monitoring their behavior would influence people to be more honest and authentic. For example, you would think that the almost constant media attention she receives would have prevented Hilary Clinton from repeatedly lying about facing enemy fire in Bosnia or retelling the untrue story about the sick woman who did not have medical insurance. But the opposite seems to be true.
The fact of cameras seems to have a paradoxical effect on people’s behavior. On the one hand, people often exaggerate those aspects of themselves that they want to be remembered – whether it is their implanted boobs or Kardashian-sized butts. On the other hand, the authentic side of the self seems to go into hiding. With time, the camera attention becomes addictive, and the false presence, like a virus, increasingly takes over.
There is no more pathetic example of this than Britney Spears. Recently, Ms. Spears was photographed wearing a towel at the gym. No, the cameras did not sneak into the bathroom. She was standing in the middle of gym, barefoot, wearing nothing but a towel. Classy Ms. Spears had apparently been taking a sauna when she decided that she wanted some water. Apparently, at the Bally’s Fitness Center in LA, there are no water coolers other than the single one in the middle of the gym in front of the glass windows. So, wrapped in a towel, Ms. Spears came sauntering out to get some water. She must have known that the paparazzi lurking outside would catch every shot. In fact, that seems to have been the whole idea.
[Part 2 of 2; see Part 1 below]