Reality Television’s Human Zoos

barbed wire

A long apprenticeship is the most logical way to success. The only alternative is overnight stardom, but I can’t give you a formula for that.

Chet Atkins

People will do anything to stay alive. History is littered with thousands of accounts where this is so.  Despite having the hot hand of Lucifer firmly grasping one’s leg and desperately trying to pull it into his subterranean fiery abyss or the hand of St Peter offering his saintly assistance into the kingdom of heaven, plucky individuals have managed to cling firmly to life, thwart dame fortune’s plans and keep their feet very firmly rooted on terra. We, as a species, have survived all manner of extreme disasters against the remotest of odds. We covet longevity of our existence to the point where we allow ourselves to suffer in hideous agony rather than capitulate to afterlife.   

Alternatively the other thing that people will do anything for is to appear on television. However these sorts of people differ from the former in the respect that they’re shallow, vacuous, needy wannabes and not admirable, plucky, outstanding human beings. The people who foist themselves on to these shows have no real discernible talent. They lay bare their pointless lack of talent in view of millions of people in the hope that they will succeed at being the final resident in whatever televisual zoo they elected to sell their soul for. This is the Holy Grail for the talentless. The resultant winning status allows them to covet what they most desire. Celebrity status. This of course is an ambiguous title. This isa fake Rolex of a title. This is ‘knock off’ clothing in the market title. This title has no depth only a gossamer celebrity skin stretched taut across a talentless vacuum. Celebrity, once upon a time, used to imply renown. Aspiring individuals would, and still do, study for their chosen field for many years and struggle fruitlessly while following their chosen path. Now this once respected title has been diluted and cheapened. It’s been ambiguously used to include any one who has made a public appearance, irrespective of the effect this has on the consuming public. Sadly they have contributed nothing valuable to our lives. The only tenuously awarded celebrity comes from the unimaginative audience who, starved of anything to stimulate their intellect, sit glued to their sets and, although acknowledging of how utterly tedious and talentless the guests really are, seem to be unable to stop themselves from watching them.

Of course the programmes are cleverly manipulated. Unscrupulous producers know that the contestants vacuous personalities could only hold anyone’s attention at best for an hour at best so they prey on the weaker and more needy facets of  their psyches. They pitch guest against guest making them carry out ridiculous tasks designed to create humiliation and tension between each other. This, the producers hope, will lend a gladiatorial effect to the proceedings until the spectators at home are eventually called to dispense the modern alternative to the thumbs down; voting by phone. No longer are the losers fed to the lions they are ejected to hordes of vicious press hacks who strip whatever shreds of self-respect that still remain. Their lack of talent is only superseded by their lack of shame about parading it. The ultimate in cheap television and unimaginative production.

So are we right to blight these seemingly inadequate wannabes? Doesn’t a certain responsibility rest in the hands of the production companies and their never-ending quest to produce cheaper and cheaper television? Or is it the apathy of the viewing public? Initially we had a choice. The novelty factor held fascination for the voyeur people watchers looking for a break from soaps and crime dramas. This stale period in British prime time entertainment survived through this unique and seemingly new concept but the sneaky producers started to drip feed more and more tawdry offerings onto our screen. Celebrity versions of these high-tech goldfish bowls started to materialise on our screens as the audiences grew weary of watching him the machinations of ordinary people. Again this was slight of hand television as the public were once again duped. These ‘celebrities’ turned out to anything but. Has-beens long out of work desperate to re-energize a flailing career and contestants from other reality shows were foisted upon the viewers by cheapskate producers hoping for fresh blood in the water and more cash down the phone lines.

If we had a definitive appointment with the reaper on which our life would end, a date which you were given when you were born which stated emphatically the time, day and date of your demise, how would you live your life? Most people would meticulously plan to maximise their time. They would take more risks, not fearing an unpredictable death only injury. They would cram in lots of experiences not wanting to miss out on all the fantastic things life can provide. They would covet love, excitement, thrills and beauty and generally bombard themselves with all manner of superlative sensory recreations and indulgences. However existence in this life, although finite, is stitched together with uncertainty. By rights this should amplify the effects of the former scenario, uncertainty lending wind to our sails of fulfilment. Strangely enough the reverse seems to be the case. With the hooded collector of souls randomly cutting a swath through mankind we choose to gamble. Within our unspecified allocation of time we are forced reluctantly to fritter time away on inane, but to a certain extent necessary, proclivities. We undertake all manner of uninteresting tasks during our daily routines most of which have an element of necessity about them such as sitting in traffic, unfulfilling employment, shopping for food etc. What, I wonder, is the possible purpose of squandering the limited amount of free time we have left at our disposal on pointless inanities such as watching rooms or islands stocked with nobodies being board, going stir crazy and sniping about each other. Do we have so low a regard for our time on earth that we can squander what freedom we have, glued to this hypnotic square box that seems to occupy the focal point in our living rooms. Is it that we lack the imagination and intelligence to fully conceive of all the amazing experiences that lay beyond our comfort zones or is it simply that the majority of people are lethargic. Happy to shut the world out, climb into a comfy chair and watch the world pass by via a handheld remote control when they should be maximising the gift of life they have been given.

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