A Critical Analysis of An Article
Why Reality TV is Good for Us
The article Why Reality TV is Good for Us by James Poniewozik, Amy Lennard Goehner (New York); Jeanne McDowell (Los Angeles); and Adam Pitluk (Dallas), was published in Time magazine in its 17 February 2003 issue. In the said article, the authors claim that despite the criticisms and negative feedbacks of many about reality TV, it still is one of the best innovations that TV has created, providing good entertainment to the already bored TV audience.
The authors maintain that reality shows on television have become popular among all types of audience not only in America, but also in Europe and in other parts of the world. The shows started as experimental and exploratory, with the producers pouring in a lot of the necessary funding and support to stage them, and which eventually have become phenomenal hit, outranking most sitcoms and soaps.
As the authors point out, there have been different opinions from different perspectives, including popular critiques’ and analysts’ comments that reality shows are nothing but misanthropy, ridiculous and pernicious highlighting cruelty to entertain people who in turn feel tawdry, dirty and cheap. The main theme of ridiculing the human weaknesses and imperfections, which The American Idol has been known for, has raised questions after questions of the morality of putting into public humiliation people who think they have talent but who turn out to be only subjects for public ridicule. Critiques emphasize that these reality shows capitalize on making public things which should rather be kept in the privacy of the individuals’ homes and private lives. On the other hand, supporters of reality television have argued that reality shows have created new interest in television viewing among people, injecting novelty fun where sitcoms and other shows have failed and have become boring through the years. The mere idea of watching real people while they are living out their dreams, has created within the audience sense of triumph over the odds of life. The clear message of the television reality shows is that, even if one has to go through public humiliation and ridicule, if it is the way to achieving one’s dream, then by all means, one has to go through it because through all those sleepless nights and heart pounding moments, in the end, one gets the fulfillment of taking that giant leap towards his or her dream. And this is why so many reality shows have succeeded and the creation of new ones continue.
The authors of the article have cited several reality shows to support their claims. To support the negative side of it, the authors have cited the show Joe Millionaire which is basically all about one guy, who allegedly is a millionaire bachelor, who has the luxury of dating and choosing among twenty pre-screened beautiful women. The morally – incorrect twist to this is that the supposed millionaire named Joe is actually an ordinary construction worker whom the show’s producers paid to pretend as a millionaire for the show, deceiving the girls among others.
On the other hand, to prove their point that reality shows, despite and in spite their flaws and controversial nature, are indeed good for the people, the authors used an episode of The American Idol as an example. In the episode, a single mom, Lady Tiger, whose primary objective is to earn good money from what she believes to be her talent in singing, is interviewed after a performance which she failed to pass. Lady Tiger’s responses during the interview are a mixture of sadness, of pessimism and some pain for not being able to make it. However, within that same interview, Lady Tiger inspires the entire audience for the optimism that prevails, and the determination she shows by positively looking forward to still making it to the music industry, someday, somehow.
Given the dramas and stories behind each contestant, The American Idol, like all the other reality shows on television, doesn’t fail to move people. In the case of lady Tiger, introduced as a single mom who had previously taken odd jobs to enable her to feed her child, and is even a boxing athlete known as Lady Tiger for the same compelling reason, her story just moves the audience until the time she says goodbye from the show.
The article was written in 2003, when reality shows were already picking up, creating waves and awakening the curious minds among television viewers worldwide. The authors’ real objective is to emphasize the benefits or the goodness of reality shows on television, amidst a growing opposition to the genre’s proliferation, slowing down or cutting off some sitcoms and shows that had been there way ahead of the reality shows. The authors’ approach to tackling the issue and driving home their point is slightly ironical and satirical, and evades subtly the tendency to tackle the issue from a business perspective.
The article clearly provides two contrasting points of view, the pros and the cons, which lends credibility to it. This technique also reduces the ill feelings or possible resentments from individuals or groups who may be opposed to the authors’ opinions. In other words, the argument is subtly presented but still put in a strong and succinct manner, so as not to mislead the readers also.
The main point that the critiques’ or opponents’ morality-based arguments against reality TV is actually debatably shallow and subjective, is woven within the whole article from beginning to end. It is done in a subtle unabrasive way, which allows for readers to think deeply about their convictions regarding the issue.
The question of whether reality TV is good or bad will continue to be debated upon, especially because it is hinged on heavily subjective concepts of morality, of good and evil/bad. However, as far as the way things are presented in this article, it can be said that reality TV, whether morally correct or incorrect, has changed the way people watch television, and has significantly changed people’s outlook in life – more hopeful and more forgiving of their failings as imperfect human beings.
Not unlike all the other shows on television, reality shows have strong impact on young people, who are still very vulnerable and easily adaptable to new concepts and ideas. Like any other influences also, reality shows may be taken by different young people in different perspectives, thus the possibility of good and bad influences to this vulnerable group.
Reality shows highlight nothing but realities – that which these young people may have been aware about anyway even without the reality shows. It is therefore inconclusive that reality shows will either positively or negatively affect young audiences. However, what is conclusive is that young audiences will be influenced by these shows, reality or otherwise. It is therefore essential for adults to stay close and provide guidance as much as possible.