For him Culture Industry is the “entertainment business” that deceives the audience into thinking that it represents everyday life and promises an escape from every day troubles. Reality television is a new form of culture industry. It is an entertainment program, that attracts millions of people and it is as popular as ever. It’s Friday night and I’m watching the finale of Teen Big Brother. It’s an emotional experience. The participants explain why they should win. They go around the group, each one speaking with tightness in their throat.
Everyone says the same thing: “I should win because I’ve been myself – what you see is what you get”. The competitor cries. Everyone cries. Everyone votes. This citation exemplifies the concept what do people think when they hear the name: reality show. However, the history of the reality TV begins with Allen Funt’s show called Candid Camera, which aired in 1948. When the show appeared, television was in its infancy, many believed that small screen with its poor image quality was best for live events. The show was about broadcasting reactions of ordinary people to unsuspected pranks.Order now
The show had 5 basic categories: pure observation of the ordinary people, wish of fulfilment, human frailties, the expose of tricks of the trade and the small crisis. There were many different reactions during these experiments, some would hide their faces, some would laugh, some would hug Funt and some would show some aggression. The basic principle of the show was to make viewer laugh, it was known as a comedy program for all the family. By that time there were no thoughts that any of reality shows would ever be associated with narcissism or it would be the key to open the doors to fame.
Entertainment nowadays isn’t understood in the same way as it was understood as well as the concept of reality show has changed dramatically and most of the people associate it with mindless entertainment. Nowadays, the reality television is associated with anything and everything, from birth to death, from people to pets. The success of a reality show depends on originality or innovativeness. More peculiar, edgier the subject matter is, more audience and more feedback the show will receive. Pushing the boundaries and creating a character that does that, without doubt shows a large cultural acceptance.
Many things singly happen for no reason, but for any social phenomenon like reality television, it must be and it is caused by numerous results of historical, political and economical reasons. Many of these changes of humanity are known as postmodernism. We live in a century, where we can do whatever we want, there are no restrictions or limits. The post-modern television differs from modern television, which is less moralizing, more ironic, more freeform and more real. People more and more try to break all types of rules and try to find a way to reflect themselves.
Our contemporary society creates the products (reality shows), because they are a reflection of the social needs. The viewers do not watch the reality TV because they want to discuss it with their friends, nor it is true that they are less intelligent or less educated than the ones who do watch it. Most of them watch it because of a simple human curiosity. In a negative way of thinking, television culture is getting more and more superficial, with the proof that more and more people watch reality television, which means that the society and the values are radically changing.
The Real World – the show that opened the doors for the viewers to see real life dramas. It appeared in 1992 on MTV and is the longest-running program in MTV’s history and one of the longest-running reality series in television. When the show appeared, it wasn’t clear will it be successful or not, but it was apparent that the audience (17-25yrs. ) was hungry to see their generation portrayed as they saw themselves. Many of the participants, were nothing more just kids and soon as the show began they became well known as well as well-paid celebrities.
What exactly they did, no one really understood, but their behaviour was seen as the reflection of the culture of young adults. The behaviour is one of the main focuses in this work and it can’t be dismissed, because compared to previous society values it can be seen as harmful and intolerable. This behaviour is so dysfunctional, but it is being accepted as fascinating and even desirable. In spite of what many viewers and participants think about the behaviour and the personas in the reality shows, this behaviour will be identified as narcissism.
Probably most of the people know the myth of Narcissus and about the dangers of falling in love with you. Narcissism commonly is used as a synonym of egotisms and excessive self-importance. In physiological terms egotism and narcissism can be different things, and narcissism springs from an opposite relationship with the self: not self-involvement, but disconnection with oneself. In other words, the key to understand the myth of Narcissus is not that he fell in love him himself, but that he failed to recognize himself in his own reflection.
The world of a narcissist is a mirror; he/she spends the life trying to reach the ideal-self, the beautiful image that hides the true feelings of loneliness and internal emptiness. The modern narcissist seeks those reflections in television, Internet, magazines etc. Television and some of the reality shows give an image of idyllic participant, beautiful, charming, powerful and free to do whatever he/she wants. Nowadays, narcissistic behaviour is so obvious that we see it everywhere in our culture.
It is even alarming that we live in an age where narcissistic behaviour is so evident. Ironically, one of the best ways for a narcissist to show himself/herself at the moment is – reality TV and we (society) initially like narcissists more because of their exploitative behaviour. Reality shows are perfect for them, because of their arrogant behaviour, self-confident and showy personalities. In 2000 the reality programming shows exploded and many TV channels as well as mainstream networks created a shows like Big Brother, The Simple Life, Survivor and much more.
There are many other different types of shows and mostly all of them share one characteristic: they exploit narcissistic behaviour for dramatic effect. In a competition type of shows like The X Factor, American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen, The Apprentice, Top Model, etc. the participants do everything for supremacy and financial awards. It is debatable if their talent has much to do with their win, but it is certain that they get a reward for being ruthless, exploitative, authoritarian, and self-sufficient.
It is almost impossible to imagine anyone without a heavy reserve of narcissism carrying on after a dressing-down from one of his or her acerbic judges. Show like Top Model focus on body image, following the contestants as they struggle over and over with their weight and appearance. Since of so much “stress” the participants usually give the audience bad behaviour, when they break down or on the contrary scheme conspire to grab every advantage of it. It is known that almost none of the scenes of the show are filmed when nothing is happening; the camera usually appears when there is a drama.
These shows invite the audience to indulge it’s own narcissistic feelings of superiority, whether by jeering at the TV screen or by posting a commentary on the shows’ websites. Dating competition shows like The Bachelor or Joe Millionaire combine all of the previous shows qualities with more emphasis of duplicity. The prize of this show is a Man, who is known to be very attractive, fascinating, and sometimes even vulnerable. On the television those types of figures become idealized even if in real life they are unsuccessful or egotistical, in other words full of narcissistic characteristics.
The shows like The Simple Life, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica or Hogan Knows Best invite the audience to enter and to understand every day life of celebrities. The aim of these shows is to display celebrities being themselves, in other words, to document how narcissistic personalities cope with every day life. The viewers become grateful and don’t even pay the attention what is really happening in the show, because the “IT” celebrity gave an opportunity and flattered the viewers by letting them into their world. The biggest problem with this type of show is that the young viewers get confused with what is normal and what is not.
In one of the episodes in the show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, Jessica asked a question: “Is this chicken what I have or is it fish? I know its tuna, but why than it says chicken? (Chicken of The Sea is a brand)”. The episode and the question received hundreds of comments, public and media attention, not because it was an unintelligent question, but because the audience felt a connection with the protagonist. Since it received so many feedback Jessica made a public statement saying that she’s just a normal human who sometimes makes mistakes.
The audience “went wild” because they felt that she’s just like them and by that time it didn’t matter that she is multimillionaire recording artist. According to that, the message that is told to the society seems to be one: don’t be ashamed of you are. The phrase that always is an answer to all misunderstandings. Most of the narcissistic qualities: extreme arrogance, sense of specialness, vanity, jealousy, and entitlement, appear in “diva shows” like My Super Sweet 16, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
The shows about the celebrities (who in reality are known for being famous just for being famous) let and show all the viewers, who ever dreamed of fame or wealth that it could be theirs simply by demanding it. The participants are known as narcissists, which just let the viewers to become ones as well. The people who succeed on these shows appear to have little knowledge of education or hard work. Instead, they manipulate, act out while living their known fabulous lives. The show Dr. 90210, The Swan or I Want a Famous Face, glorify the “improvement” of the body, by any means necessary.