Monday, 7 October 2013

Reality TV

We all love it. It seems that they're more and more of our favourite TV shows, from the ones we curl up on the sofa to watch in the evening, to the ones we make the effort to catch up with online or even have on over breakfast in the mornings, while we're drinking coffee or doing our hair.

"Reality TV is morphine, give me that now, let me ease the pain."

From the glamorous lifestyles of The Real Housewives and the Kardashians to the more down-to-earth British reality shows such as Jeremy Kyle, The Only Way Is Essex and even the most recent one to appear on our screens: Educating Yorkshire, it seems that on every channel there are "real" people and "real" events for our entertainment. I don't know anyone who doesn't watch some form of reality show and I'm willing to bet you don't either. But just how "real" are these shows we seem to love so much? Are they actually nothing more than harmless entertainment, something funny to laugh over with friends or maybe just less depressing to have on in the background than the news?

I find it strange realising the window they give you onto someone's life - however many "scenes are created for your entertainment," essentially you are watching another person, just like you or me, living their day-to-day existence. And I don't know about you, but I would seriously struggle having cameras following me around. The silly things that slip out of your mouth without thinking; the times you trip up, hoping no one notices; awkward moments, arguments, things you wish you could take back - all documented and then broadcast for the whole world to see? I think it would be enough to make me never want to leave my house again.

What about those things that are - and should probably stay - private? Relationships, family
problems, illnesses, addictions? The plots of most reality shows centre around events like these: after all we're all human and stories and drama are what bring us together. But the difference between relating to a fictional character in a book or identifying and empathising with a situation in a film or TV drama is something we shouldn't ignore. It's cathartic to cry or to feel the emotions of a situation - but when it's someone's real life we're talking about, should it really be unfolding in the public eye?

I've been watching Educating Yorkshire recently, and in between laughing at my own memories of being in Years 7 to 11 and enjoying the funny moments on the show - including the girl that shaved her eyebrows off - I was really surprised by one of the episodes that dealt with the subject of a boy whose brother had suddenly died. I've been in a situation not unlike this myself and it was hard enough coping with the emotions and stress caused by a family member passing away on top of the normal issues of being a teenager and being in school everyday, trying to study for exams, cope with problems with friends and so on. I can remember leaving school at the end of the day, just desperate to get home and not have to deal with other people, or think about anything, for literally months.

I still feel like this now sometimes, although its far more under control than it was, but I genuinely cannot imagine how hard it would have been to be in this situation knowing it was being used as material for TV, for other people to watch and see how much you were struggling. I felt so awful watching it, knowing exactly how hard it is to get through even one day sometimes, let alone thinking into the future, as it feels like we're constantly asked to do at school.

Sometimes I think this is the main problem in our society. We're obsessed with "fame" and "celebrities" and entire industries are formed around building people up into stars and success stories and then tearing them down the minute we realise they aren't perfect. No wonder people rely on drugs or drinking to cope with the pressure and, to be honest, probably just to be numb enough to it all to be able to function. And really, its one thing when its someone who has actually signed up for a career in the public eye, but it begins to get a whole lot more complicated when we all want our five minutes of fame; we all want hundreds of twitter and instagram followers, reading our every thought and seeing all the photos we share with the world.

Where do you draw the line over what stays personal?

I admit this may have gone into a bit of a random direction, especially as this really isn't the kind of thing I normally write about and honestly, my Real Housewives addiction probably isn't going to end any time soon but I do think is something important to talk about. What do you think? Leave me a comment to tell me your opinion, or am I the one only one worrying about this...?

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