Attempting To Answer The SAT’s Newest Essay Question About The Authenticity of Reality TVBy Luis Prada
Looking for a reality TV fix? Click the video below to play the latest TV headlines:
It isn’t often that a question from the SATs is the subject of controversy, but a number of students around the country who took the test this past Saturday the 12th of March are a little befuddled at the essay question they were presented with during the written portion of the exam.
In an attempt to make students think about a prevalent pop-cultural subject in a new, analytical way, the creators of the SAT added in a, essay question about the nature of realty television. The question (as it is written on the exam) is as follows:
“How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?”
Now, it’s been some years since I took the SAT. Not very long, but long enough to remember that when I took it there was no written portion on the exam. I graduated high school in 2004, and the written portion was introduced in 2005. So I missed out on that.
Seeing as the main controversy in this story involves intelligent students that don’t like wasting their time on shitty reality TV shows, and therefore feel they were entirely unprepared to answer the question, I thought I might take a crack at answering to make up for the lack of an essay when I took (and, admittedly, performed poorly on) the SATs.
Here’s my answer to the question above, appropriately sprinkled with profanity, thus ensuring it would have been immediately disqualified. I also have the added bonus of being to conduct some light research on the subject to clarify a couple of my points.
Reality television shows are, for the most part, unauthentic. What we are seeing on these shows is a heightened version of reality. A reality where scenarios are set up like mouse mazes in science labs, and the mice are all uber-stereotypical human specimens that are cast purely based on how cartoonish their personalities are. And they really are cartoon versions of the kind of people you’d meet in real life. We have all met a male or female that has no problem chatting up a potential mate. Reality TV producers are well aware of the stereotype of “The Casanova,” so through the audition process they will actively seek out someone that so fits this caricature, so when their exploits are filmed and shown on television they seem as though they are only a coat of black and white paint away from being Pepe Le Pew.
The notion of attempting to capture raw human nature on film as a camera crew follows an individual is inherently flawed, as all interaction this person has with others is tainted by the need to perform; thus, objectivity is destroyed. If a person is naturally camera shy, you will not see the true nature of the individual on screen, as the mere presence of a camera (along with the thought of the footage eventually being shown on television) will trigger the individual’s panic response, which would in turn strip away the possibly lively personality they have in private around individuals they trust – individuals that will not broadcast their emotional reactions to situations on TV for millions to see. But reality TV shows don’t cast people that are camera shy. They cast the most boisterous and lively character’s they can; the aforementioned cartoonish people. They want people that come alive in front of a camera; people that have no fear of not only being themselves, but take no issue with exploiting themselves by overblowing every aspect of their personality in order to play a role. As we have come to discover over the past decade of reality TV’s prominence, these character roles can be such things as “The Slut,” “The Douche Bag,” “The Straight Up Asshole,” “The Prude,” “The Nice Guy That Wants To Break Out Of His Shell,” and so on. In other words, they aren’t so much people as they are clichéd characters from a fictionalized and fully scripted movie or TV show. Adding the word “reality” in to the description of the show deceives viewers in to thinking these fictionalized, heightened personalities that we cast aside as the same, rehashed character types we’ve seen in fictionalized environments (scripted programs) are actually real, and viewers accept them as such. This is all taken to the extreme when the editors get their hands on the footage.
If a reality television show were in any way real and contained no producer intervention, nearly every episode would be dull. That’s just the nature of everyday life: a lot of the times life isn’t very exciting. Wake up, go to work, f*ck your wife, go to bed. And even if someone’s life is exciting and worthy of a reality show, their exciting lives are pocked marked with moments of dullness; or moments where an event could have been exciting, but the final result wasn’t that fun to watch, even though it may have been a big personal moment for the person in question. Personally, as someone that doesn’t watch reality TV, I am only aware of one such moment from the world of reality television, although I can only assume there are plenty more.
This moment took place during the first season of Joe Millionaire. At one point, the titular millionaire bachelor sneaked off to the woods with one of his female contestants. What the two actually did once in the woods is a mystery, but from what was presented on the program we can infer that the two either started making out, or the female contestant decided to give the bachelor a blowie in the woods, as if this were the set up to a brutal murder in a Friday The Thirteenth movie. The viewing audience experienced was a shot of a darkened tree line, accompanied by a slurping sound being captured by the contestant’s microphone, as well as the subtitles “slurp, gulp, slurp.” It was later revealed that the show’s editors had taken a slurping sound recorded at a completely different time and from a completely different scenario and looped it over the footage of the couple in the woods. The editors of the show even admitted to it later in an interview with celebrity gossip site RadarOnline.com.
The editors and producers may very well have been right in telling us that the chick sucked off a rich dude she barely knows in a creepy rape forest, but they didn’t have the evidence to prove it, so they manufactured it.
This one instance speaks volumes on the nature of “reality TV”. It’s all one meticulously fabricated process after another that begins with casting individuals that will artificially enhance their own personalities in the presence of a camera; then it moves along to the producers that will manipulate the circumstances that surround the personalities to artificially create drama, tension and conflict; and then, finally, the editors of the programs manipulate the sights and sounds of the recorded footage to tell the stories they want to tell, even if those stories conflict with the way the events actually transpired.