Being dishonest with words.

I’ve had an odd career. I’m talking about it like it’s over, but who knows what will happen next. Maybe I’ll be Mayor some day. Anyway, I worked on game shows for many years, usually designing interactive online versions of TV classics like Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, Family Feud – the list goes on and on. That lead to doing some work with “Reality Shows”.

Many of the most successful Reality Show formats originate from Europe where lots of small countries with small populations had to create shows on tiny budgets. This lead to pretty much a video camera at the car wash solution and developed into what we all know and hate as Reality Shows.

At the time I couldn’t figure out why I disliked them so much. Why did their dishonesty upset me so much more than any other part of creating a TV show, putting on a play or making a movie? My dislike of them was one reason I changed careers after 7 years of being a ‘game show’ person.

It has to do with how they present themselves and the twisting of language.

They are no more ‘Reality’ than BattleStar Galactica but for most people the style was convincing. The cheap production meant authenticity. The ridiculous behavior seemed honest and familiar. The lack of familiar actors implied Truth.

Reality Shows take advantage of style to present themselves as somehow more authentic, even though they are developed, shot, edited, directed and paced just as classic narrative drama and comedy. But by using a seemingly ‘cheap’ style and using modern on-the-go video equipment they make us think they are somehow more truthful, more honest, more grounded in Reality. Style over substance in a BIG way.

Why is this important now? Because I think we have reached a zenith in media where people no longer know what to believe. I am not blaming Reality Shows for the state of the country, perhaps they are a symptom. An excellent example of how easy we can be fooled.

Now I more clearly understand why I found them so off-putting, They are dishonest in a way that a typical sit-com or police procedural will never be. They are dishonest in execution and by design create an illusion of reality that seems convincing enough to garner their name. The word Reality has been dealt a disservice that we may not recover from for many years.


About mfearing

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6 Responses to Being dishonest with words.

  1. Thank you for sharing this interesting insight into the growth of “reality” TV and how it might mirror the attitude towards fact in other areas of the media and life. I have never enjoyed reality TV – I just don’t find it engaging for one thing – so I despair at the fact that channels are so over-loaded with it (presumably because it is cheap and easy to produce) because it means less funding or scheduling space for more interesting or important programming. It’s a sort of path of least resistance model, I suppose. I had not thought before, however, about how that fictionalising of reality might have contributed to the normalisation of “false facts” and the inability of some people to differentiate between fact and opinion. It is all rather bleak and depressing, isn’t it?

    • mfearing says:

      I think it has played a part in dismantling Truth. And the ultimate victory of style over substance. It is cheap and easy, path of least resistence. One of my jobs had me watching hundreds of tapes of reality shows from all around Europe for possible licensing in the US. That’s when I realized I needed a new career because I had no interest in them – it was obvious it wasn’t the job for me. I sometimes regret not caring more about that content, I think I could have made a lot of money staying in that world and making myself care. But I am not good at faking things that way.
      I try not to think about politics too much, but bleak is a word that very well describes my feelings these days. And irony. There is so much irony with the current state of politics in the USA now. Following the Russian model of authoritarianism by the party that always warned of authoritarianism…the inability for elected officials to actually answer real questions from the media, paying audiences to sit and applaud. Oh me oh my. Bleak.

      • I absolutely concur. And the lack of robust resistance to it adds to my despair.

      • mfearing says:

        I think there is more resistance than may at first be obvious. Honestly in my bleakest moments I fear we will shortly see Trump demanding enhanced powers from Congress in exchange for him signing their bills. That’s step 1 on a real road to American Fascism. Next up would be criminal investigations into any independent media institutions while using Fox as a true Govt. sponsored propaganda machine. And I suspect things will get much worse for average working folks and some scapegoats will be found. And that too plays into a one party system which promises that fixes only come from The Leader. In those moments of darkest fears I retreat back into my life, to my work which I love and caring for my family because I’m not sure what happens after that. But like I said, those are only the darker moments which I am hoping don’t occur.

  2. Lance Lavandowska says:

    Your story reminded me of this thing I read yesterday

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