Monday, 3 August 2009

Reality bites, shoots, and stabs

When we talked about the first reality programs, years ago, we worried about obvious things: that in the environment of these shows, things would be broken that could not be fixed; that sooner or later, someone was going to be raped, or badly hurt; that some already-damaged person might be destroyed. The genius of Series 7 is to see that this was never really the point. The literal horror is taken for granted, and it's sadly true that it doesn't revolt as much as it “should”: people are killed all through this program, but with the exception of a particular lethal beating, none of it makes you wince. But one winces every moment at the loss of shame, of self-respect, and of any kind of restraint, not just by the contenders, but by the relentless, sententious voice-over, and the public that it's co-opted to its perspective.
From my review of the film Series 7, posted over at my Bruce's Reviews side-project. Enough has been said about “reality” radio in Sydney in recent days, but what's saddest is that it took a severe incident involving a child to get the show pulled. As if the basic premise, and the general behaviour of the show, were not bad enough. It put me in mind of a distant time when deliberately contrived dysfunction was still felt as an innovation, and could offend just by being itself. I wrote the review in '03, of an '01 film; the first stabs at reality radio and television in the nineties were still fresh in memory. But as of this writing, children who were born in that period are in high school, and have known no other world.


Jonathan said...

I really don't understand why so much of a big deal is being made about this incident, without anyone acknowledging that it's pretty close to par for the course for half of what passes for radio or tv entertainment these days.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Well, I'm inclined to count the glass as being half-full in this case. If it's recognised that a line has been crossed here, and that something should be done, that's good — even if there should have been a similar recognition in other cases. I thought Media Watch was good on this earlier in the week: they gave most of their attention not to this incident, but to an earlier one that made it quite clear (even to those unfamiliar with the show) that there was a pattern of exploitation, and that it wasn't restricted to prurience about people's sexual lives (although it certainly included that).

Michael has an interesting post on this over at his blog.