Evaluating the Influence of Mass Mediain Conveying Images of Reality TV ProgramsIntroductionFirst, about reality television: it is the most popular genre of television programming in America at present. These programs include game shows, soap operas, dating shows, crime drama, talent shows, travel programs, and sports. Considering reality shows’ myriads of forms, it is not surprising to find that they lack coherence as genre (see Mittell 2004, and Hill 2005). What accounts for its popularity seems to be people’s propensity to enjoy the unscripted dramatics or humorous situations involving ordinary people, and the real situations (see Hartley 2005).
Now, this paper is not on the impact or effect of reality television programs, say, to individuals or society at large. It is about the influence of mass media – seen through the prism of different theories on mass media – in conveying images of reality TV shows. And this we shall present in this paper with the use of pictures, illustrations and other material evidence. Likewise, at the outset, we also have to mention an instance of delimitation in the treatment of this paper’s subject matter.
It could have been easier to fulfill the task had there been a single, identified reality show. That is, the task is not herculean should it is directed only to, say, American Idol or Don’t Forget the Lyrics. For such an approach could result to a more focused identification and discussion of themes and messages, and the material evidence that are to be used could also be perceived with an unmistakable element of connectedness. But since one of the topic’s elements is broad, then we will only make do with generalities. Themes / Messages IdentifiedThe following are just four (4) themes and messages of reality TV shows.
The significance of these themes and messages consists in the fact that they will form the backdrop of our evaluation. How are these themes and messages conveyed by the images of reality television programs? (This section is heavily indebted to Freeland (2004) and Mittell (2004). ) [Cultivation of audience’s interest in] spectacle of violenceViolence of all sorts is being shown in reality shows over the boob tube. And it is of many patterns, although it is possible to simply divide them into just two categories – those that highlight horrors of nature, and those that focus on people who are affected by either crimes or accidents. The first category is typified by Raging Planet of Discovery Channel that shows for example the gory of wildlife involving predator and prey of every class, color and size aside from actual footages of lava spewing out of the mouth of erupting volcano or black smoke emanating from a raging fire in the forest.
Other reality shows of the same broadcast contents are When Disaster Strikes and When Animals Attack.
In the former, there are shows of, for instance, people being swept by raging waters, people in distressed as they cling on to a vehicle to stay afloat in rising flood waters, or even a person being saved from a burning house by a daring fireman. In the latter, there were shows with manifest details how a preying carnivorous flower would devour an insect, a group of jackals hunting a hapless and visibly tired deer, or a young buffalo being feasted on by wild cats as vultures are waiting for their share of the crap.