Archive for the ‘big brother’ Category

So what is this fascination with Big Brother – the show that all you Brits are gaga about – if the tabloids can be believed that is? I haven’t actually watched it myself I must admit but I get the general idea that it’s like all those other crap reality shows – people marooned on an island, at the bottom of the sea, on a pirate boat, half-way up Mount Everest, whatever, backbiting and scheming, stabbing each other in the back and generally displaying the very worst of human nature. What is so interesting about that? I can’t see it personally but obviously millions can. Since we in Canada are fed a constant diet of American TV shows we probably get even more purulent programming than you do – for example, shows that put happily bonded couples together on a tropical island with a bunch of ‘beautiful’ people whose only reason for being there is to get off with your significant other and embarrass you mightily while the rest of us take our vicarious pleasure in your distress – a real winner in the most distasteful TV programming of the year contest that one. But of course you have to ask yourself the question – are these shows for real – pun intended? Are the housemates or beach mates or half-way up Kilimanjaro mates as temperamental, greedy, conniving, spoiled, racist, lying, cheating and sexually predatory as they are depicted? Surely not [and don’t call me Shirley] – because if they are then there’s no hope for the human race – on either side of the TV screen. You would have to hope that much cutting and splicing in the editing room is taking place behind the scenes – which leads me to another point.

Documentaries are currently in vogue in North America – I don’t know about Europe. Michael Moore has had great success with productions such as ‘Bowling for Columbine‘ and his latest, ‘Sicko’ which aims to expose the dark underbelly of the American, ‘Pay up or Die’, Health System. [Strange that – America’s health system being so bad that you can literally die in the street if you can’t afford to pay for insurance and yet they have to run an annual lottery for people seeking asylum/citizenship in the United States. And here I thought that all immigrants were only after the free hand-outs, silly me…].

Supersize Me’ has also enjoyed a successful run in main-stream theatres, which is almost unprecedented, given that people don’t normally pay to see anything that does not involve car chases, lots of shootings, gruesome murders or crazy people in hockey masks massacring coeds in dorm rooms. It’s a mystery. All of a sudden ‘reality’ has become fashionable. It must appeal to the ‘peeping tom’ complex in many of us – that nasty little urge to spy behind the curtains, to eavesdrop on the neighbours, to read all about the escapades of Paris Hilton and Britney in the rags, or of course to hound people like Princess Di to death in order to get a good story.

Is there something in us that takes pleasure in the pain of others [see previous post: Schadenfreude]? We don’t root for the good guys anymore it seems – we root for the most devious, the meanest, the one with the loudest mouth, all the while pretending to be outraged at their antics. Mind you a good villain – in a fictional creation – is hard to beat. Joachim Phoenix as Commodus for example in the movie ‘Gladiator’ was so brilliantly awful and slimy and downright evil that it was a real tragedy that he didn’t get the Oscar for his work. I thought he was absolutely wonderful! But I’m not talking about fiction I’m talking about reality. And of course is there really anything that is real/truthful in these reality shows or these documentaries at all? All documentaries, like all ‘reality’ shows, must be heavily edited otherwise they would have to run on for about a thousand hours of nothing happening except someone scratching his/her butt or gazing in the mirror.

The minute you take the editing splice to the scene you lose the ‘truth’, whatever that might be, and let’s not get into a long and tedious debate on the nature of truth – we’ll leave that for descendants of Descartes. But the truth is – lol – that as soon as you cut the film, I would say that your documentary or reality show or whatever it is, has become fiction [with me so far class?]. Even Nanook of the North, the benchmark documentary studied endlessly in film classes, contained contrived scenes and ‘actors’ made to rehearse their onscreen activities in order to depict a way of life that was not extant at the time; certainly not in 1922 when Flaherty released it. ‘Real’ Eskimos just did not exist anymore, in the sense that they were a totally independent people isolated and immune to the ‘White Man’s’ influence – or the Hudson Bay Company, which is the same thing.

These are weighty questions – great for a good ponder when you haven’t got anything better to do. In my opinion the only ‘real’ reality show would be – perhaps, maybe – the unedited footage from a CCTV camera. BUT – even then it would depend where you placed the camera because the very fact that you placed it where you did constitutes editing does it not? Damn – and I thought I was just going to rant about Big Brother. I’ve got to stop listening to those voices in my head. Argument on existentialism anyone? Fee is five bucks and the first one to prove the existence of the other one wins.


Jean-Paul Sartre’s answering machine: “I don’t exist, you don’t exist, there is no beep, do not leave a message”.


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