Cleam for Life

People are interested in each other’s lives. The theater was once used to create a staging framework in which actors show life subjects and life courses to an audience.

Today, the “stage” of television is fascinating: anyone who wants to see people and what they do can use the offers of “reality television” or télé réalité, for example in programs such as “Big Brother”, “Supermodel”, “I am a star – get me here Out!”. 

The variety of programs is now large. High audience ratings confirm the attractiveness of the programs. What they all have in common is that they claim to show reality, which leads to the idea of ​​dealing with “real people” who do not follow a script (“No actor, no script”). The viewer is given the impression that these TV programs reflect authentic life. This, in turn, satisfies curiosity and the longing to be able to “really” share in other people’s world through a “media window”. 

The fascination of reality TV

A strong re-fictionalization can currently be observed: The people shown are characters depicted by (lay) actors, and the stories follow a script. Only the aesthetic design seems to be reminiscent of “real” reality TV. However, these so-called “scripted reality” formats (such as “families in focus”) derive their attractiveness precisely from the fact that the people shown cannot do anything other than “real”, private parts of their own person and living environment in them Role play and to introduce. Such «collapses in reality», which fascinate the viewer, are based on a (to take up the terminology of the interaction theorist Erving Goffman) Klaus Neumann-Braun: Media and everyday life II The fascination of reality TV fish relationship between «anchoring» and «description» – that is in this case, on the one hand, on physical and habitual “facts” and toughness, and, on the other hand, on specifications of the televisual staging. So here the “real” anchored in the life and person of the actor, there the description of life shown on TV as a script with a role on the border to fake. It is this mixture of the real («That is really») and the fictional («This is fake») that is responsible for the specific aesthetic appeal of reality TV. Media science records three important effects of this type of television: First, reality TV is characterized by an indissoluble mixture of reality (pre) reflection and reality intervention, with the result that this staging itself creates reality that can be expected in the future. Secondly, this affects in particular the delimitation of leisure and work or everyday life and “startum”: Because the initial involvement of everyday people in the (entertainment) program of television is a further differentiated area of ​​TV work including possible opportunities for advancement (so-called Celebrification) emerged. Media researcher Mark Andrejevic put this in the formula “The work being watched”. 

Third, there are questions about media literacy, since such hybridizations pose particular challenges in understanding and processing such formats in several respects – among other things with a view to the merging of fact and fiction to the so-called faction. The reality TV genre demands an attentive as well as a critical audience.

Poorly dressed, loudly screaming people arguing about relationships, family secrets or money; Adoptive children, who tearfully hug their biological parents for the first time; Mothers who swap their families; Debt advisors listing savings opportunities on a blackboard; Junk dealers looking for marketable items in garbage piles; ugly people or farmers looking for partners; Overweight people trying to lose weight; Designers who ironically comment on women’s clothing purchases and makeup; Craftsmen renovating houses; the luxury life of millionaire families, successful or unsuccessful attempts to emigrate. And even this seemingly endless chain of examples of reality, which Reality TV presents to viewers every day,

The form of television entertainment described by program managers and producers as reality TV has been a focus of cross-channel program development since the early 1990s. This is where the medium brings together its main areas of storytelling and observation. The original promise of television in the 1950s to act as a window to the world gradually turned into apparently direct insights into private living environments. The staging remains invisible to the public through so-called realizers, who tell their amateur actors how to behave and what they have to say.

Media border crossings towards the social web

In the context of growing competition with moving image offers from the Internet, production companies, and program managers at the broadcasters are trying to optimize the experience dimensions and potential effects of their broadcast offers. Crossing media boundaries between television and the Internet include the presence of reality actresses on the social web.

Reality TV formats combine fictional narrative structures and documentary concepts and forms of presentation (direct observation with a moving camera) mostly with amateur actors and thus achieve a high authenticity impression. Many in the TV audience believe that they are “Mitten im Leben” (RTL) of the people. In the main topics of the reality formats, traditional lines of core content from different mass media are combined. Topics such as “The Life of the Stars” or “vie d’étoiles” connect to the established range of tabloid journalism, while interpersonal relationships, health, guilt, and atonement are reminiscent of established master plots of feature films or fictional series. Coaching formats, in turn, can be assigned to the traditional line of advice programs or magazines. Talk shows of the 1990s are considered to be important precursors to the television presence of non-prominent people.

A pact between viewers and producers

The viewers enter into an implicit pact with the producers to accept the story shown as real for the duration of its broadcast. This also gives them the opportunity to make a social comparison, for example, with the lives of Hartz IV recipients or millionaires in “Suddenly Rich, Suddenly Poor – The Exchange Experiment” (Sat 1). The pact increases the information and experience value of what is shown.

Using formats such as “Next Top Model”, it can be shown that social ideologies such as neoliberalism are packaged in jury decisions (“You must not question the instructions of your client”) and thus implicitly conveyed to the audience. The format suggests that everything depends on the individual’s willingness to perform. Reality TV formats also contain the implicit potential to generate acceptance of surveillance technologies and related power constellations through the media representation of everyday life.

Reality TV is also an intermediary between traditional television and new video offerings on the Internet. The diverse staging of privacy on reality TV can be assessed on the one hand as a preparation for self-presentation practices on online media, and on the other hand as a competitive strategy against platforms such as YouTube, and other forms of social web offerings.

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