Is reality TV real-life art or dumbed down entertainment?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2007, 12:00am

Benjamin Siu, 17 St Joseph's College

Reality TV is real-life art. It features characters who are not professional actors or actresses. They are people off the streets who go to auditions.

Then they are given a scenario, and act according to their free will. They make decisions on the spot, not mapped out to a script.

If the given scenario relates to our daily lives, ratings would drop fast.

The aim is to create a largely surreal scene: like ambitions to follow the footsteps of Donald Trump, or becoming the top US supermodel.

Far-fetched as that may be, but the gist of reality TV shows is that the characters are real, and the whole event occurred in reality and not in a studio. This injects a dose of reality into fictional drama.

It's outrageous to see reality TV as something confined to the real world. Those shows are called documentaries, and people who expect to find truth in reality TV are looking in the wrong place.

The point of these programmes is to provide a different perspective of the aspects in life for audiences to ponder over.

Reality TV is a new type of visual art in which the performers put their personalities on the line.

If people treat reality as entertainment, it is the critics who are dumbed down.

Jocelyn Heng, 15 Maryknoll Convent School

Dumbed down entertainment. Reality TV shows are neither realistic, nor intellectual.

While some enthusiastic viewers might argue that programmes such as America's Next Top Model and The Apprentice can train successful individuals, this is sadly not the case.

Much of what we see on screen is unrealistic with artificial portrayals, done entirely for the audience. Would you behave differently if you knew that a dozen cameras were following your every move, watching you while you walk, talk and sleep? Reality shows are staged 'genuine' performances.

While we derive amusement from witnessing participants humiliate themselves, it is done at the expense of others.

Standards have declined so much that the general public kills millions of brain cells

watching 'reality' shows, laughing at participants' stupidity.

Reality TV reinforces general stereotypes, as producers manipulate participants to act as a character in their social group. It even leads to age, racial and gender discrimination.

Look at Survivor or The Weakest Link. Pitting Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics and Africans against each other is hardly racial harmony.