Wednesday, November 28, 2007

ode to reality television, otherwise known as: hook it to my veins

the impossible dreariness of today compels me to write on my beloved blog. i have been thinking lately about the function of procrastination and i believe graduate students excel at the art of procrastination like no other (what else is graduate school if not the procrastination of many of the socially proscribed compulsions of life - partnering, procreation, post post-secondary life in general - or at least this is how i imagine my grandmother sees it). today i want to comment on my other love, that is, television. an aside: i have a friend, S., who i have known a long time. whenever i call S. and ask what she is doing, she says, "watching television." never t.v., never 'the tube,' never anything but that lovely word: television. i love calling television television because it harks back to a fictional time when television was an art, an alternate way of seeing, a transporter to other lives, loves, maybe even lurid, sordid, and unspoken yearnings. anyhoo. my televisual eyes were not fully opened until i discovered, and fell desperately, consumingly, all-encompassingly in love with reality television. when i was thirteen or so i discovered the real world but that was just the beginning. i think my reality television love really began with the onset of the survivor era. when EVERYTHING became fodder for the lens of the reality phenomenon. what i love most about reality television is that it actually provokes discussion about what is "real" and what is not. in effect it exposes the lie that we are not always already mediated by that which surrounds us. frames us. alters us. for me, reality television cannot be about reality but must be. that is its central paradox. why it cannot be 'real' is of course a matter of modern truth-making in a postmodern world. but why it must be is the more compelling concern. when i see discussions about the ethics or problematics of how to correctly capture the 'real' and properly package it for television, i listen intently. for example, the recent kafuffle about the new american series kid nation provides an interesting example. cries of child labour, exploitation, enslavement and the like. as though relatively well-off children having the opportunity to demonstrate that children are in fact capable, able, and not desperately in need of suffocating 'protection' for cameras (and the entertainment of the masses) is damaging. as though putting children in a former ghost-town with bunches of rules and no adults is somehow real. or is it not? isn't the problem that actual child exploitation is a little too much to bear? a little discomfiting on a wednesday night at 8pm when we'd rather watch t.v.? isn't a show like kid nation a distraction, a simulation of what passes as 'normal' childhood these days in the face of child poverty and such? this post is far too cerebral. it was intended as a meditation on my favourite reality television shows. so before i list them with accompanying witty commentary, i will just say that reality television is my favourite because it upends the notion of the real by rubbing in your face the constructions (simulations? fantasies? de/i/llusions?) of everyday life.

* big brother - the quintessential reality show for the consummate addict. one day i will 1) stop claiming that this is the summer that i will resist it and, 2) stop being too cheap to pay for the live feed.

* the real world - this show NEVER gets old. how could it? egomaniacal americans in their late teens and early twenties in close quarters. please. this shit is genius.

* america's next top model - pick what is not to like about this show: beautiful women, drama, clothes, make-up, and did i mention drama?

* everything on mtv - mtv is the mother of all reality shows. those of us obsessed with anything from the hills to a shot a love with tila tequila should petition to give this channel a medal. or a nobel peace prize. or SOMETHING!

* beauty and the geek - two of my favourite things.

* daytime talk shows - from oprah to rachael ray - it's gold people. gold. (don't judge me dammit!).

* the food network - reality food shows - what can i say? i'm in heaven, i'm in heaven...

jacks out.

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