Central to each of our lives is what we purport to be or rather believe is reality, or at least our reality. Each day, we are surrounded, if not bombarded, by that which is supposed to be reality, or what is portrayed as reality. Who is it who wants us to buy into that? Perhaps more importantly, we often do, but why?
Turn on any screen and see “reality” played out in its various guises. Want a shipboard romance with no strings attached? Got it. Think you’re as strong or wily as the person next to you? Be prepared for a ritual back-stabbing. And love? Not as in The Princess Bride – Wuv? Twoo wuv? That’s the stuff of fantasy, not reality unless you also buy into the premise of programs such as The Bachelorette and its opposite-gender version, The Bachelor. Scratch the surface of any of these programs and you’ll find a script, directing how this “reality” will be played out.
How is it possible that those amateur chefs in Hell’s Kitchen know how to make all those Beef Wellingtons without assistance? Reality? As Gordon Ramsey might say, “Donkey!”
So, what does it mean when “Reality” is spoon-fed to us, and we like hungry puppies, lap it up? In no way am I suggesting we believe this pablum. Do I believe there are those who do? Probably. If it works for them, go for it. But why does this fascination with “reality” continue so much as it does? Yes, it is entertainment, not of a higher form, but maybe it takes our minds off of our own reality. It is pure escapism that cheerily offers a way of life that doesn’t exist. That’s dangerous. It’s brain candy with no nutritional value.
It’s important to know where this lust for reality began and why. In 2007, the Writer’s Guild of America, (mostly television writers) went on strike causing all scripted programming to cease. The networks, confronted by losing revenue and eyeballs, developed what is now called Reality TV, and a new genre was born. Eschewing creative scripts, contestants (the new “actors” and happily unpaid in this fledgling genus) took on the responsibility of enacting “life.” It saved money, both on writer’s, and actor’s paychecks. And it made money. It was a win-win situation, the holy grail of media.
One hundred days later when the strike was resolved, things went back to a new normal, meaning the new Reality TV was here to stay. In that new realm, programs such as “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” became visual fodder for the masses. One may ask themself the question, ‘Well, who would want to marry my dad?’ Your mother did and I hope she’s glad she did. But that’s in real life. Would you offer up one of your parents for such an opportunity in real life? No, but if so, help is available. To those in the back who’ve raised your hands to answer, please sit down. We’ll deal with you later.
No, that’s not reality by a long shot.
But getting back to your reality and mine, where’s the script? Who authored it? I contend the real reality is that we’re all works in progress for which there are no scripts. Of course, we may have made plans to become a lawyer, write a book, and serve others. All are reasonable and even noble, but then life, the real reality, says, “Slow down kid, I got something to say about that.” Yeah, there ain’t no script for that. And there are no guaranteed happy endings either in this reality.
And one other thing completely unrelated to reality: Is anyone else tired of seeing Paul Giamatti acting as Albert Einstein for Verizon? Surely he is not as the royalties keep piling up. Good for you Paul, but please stick to Billions.