The Screen Demands it be Over the Top

The Reality Principle gave the impression that reality show participants consistently know the role they are going to be playing in the final product. I disagree with this notion. The process of shaping a person’s participation in the show is sometimes something the individual may be unaware of during the process of filming.

As an example, a friend of mine once described her experience of participating in HBO special on Brave New Voices, a slam poetry competition. According to her, the final product wasn’t a pure documentary as she was lead to expect. Instead, it had the traits of reality television The Reality Principle described. She was disappointed by how it created a narrative with protagonists and villains out of the people she worked with. The difference was shocking and uncomfortable to her. I think this is a trend that appears to be spreading: the lines between reality TV and other genres are blurring because the qualities that help sell reality TV get ratings. Game of Thrones is an example. Sure, sex is a part of the books, but intrigue and schemes take center stage. The HBO adaptation places sex and spectacle at the center of the show. Dialog and character motivation are cut down to make room for more sex scenes, and new sex scenes are added that never happened in the books. Although I understand why this happened, it still rankles.

This also a very old problem. Greek and Roman playwrights had to face some of the same issues, and there were some that lamented how nobody cared about art. Creating caricatured identities is also nothing new: it goes back to the same time, and is present through the world’s narrative traditions. What is new the speed with which huge volumes of content can be produced, and the accessibility for everyday individuals to do so. At the same time, I’m confused: given how many people have access to video production tools, have there been no famous vlogger reality stars, or did I just manage to miss them?


3 thoughts on “The Screen Demands it be Over the Top

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  2. In terms of vlogger reality stars, I guess it depends on what you mean by famous. Plenty of “YouTube celebrities” that put out daily or weekly vlogs are Internet famous (people like Smosh). Not many of them, however, have made the crossover to other mediums like movies or TV (ugh, Fred…).

  3. Pingback: UMDST Video #2: A look back |

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