Minnesota Liberal

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Media: A Reflection of Reality Television

"You're Fired!", the Donald pointedly informed Stacy J on The Apprentice.

This is what I had to entertain myself with at 8:00pm last night on network television. The television entertainment equivilant of todays political media coverage.

Television line-ups today are dominated by reality shows; including Survivor, Big Brother, Trading Spouses, Who Wants To Marry My Dad, The Next Great Champ, etc. These shows hardly challenge the imagination. Often... they leave you wondering where in the hell they find their participants. Whether they are competing for monetary prizes or attractive mates- they are quite often willing to do anything while the camera is watching. These couldn't possibly be people I would find in my neighborhood, right? Sadly... wrong.

The shows are advertised as "dramatic." Flash to Fear Factor contestants devouring some type of intestine. Or "surprise filled." Flash to Fear Factor contestants devouring some type of intestine.

But what are we really getting from these? No more than we are getting from the media on politics.

There are several areas in which reality tv and political media are similar.

They edit everything down to black and white statements in order to create drama between characters (oops, I mean participants). For example, they show one line from Kerry's latest speech, then one from Bush's.

And don't forget about commentary! What would two talking heads be without two more. David Brooks chimes in on Kerry. First he half-heartedly praises the Senator and slightly chuckles before slipping into some diatribe about how Kerry is so out of touch with "mainstream america." Then E.J. Dionne responds by saying that he "respectfully disagrees" with Brooks. He spends nearly his entire appearence trying to refute what Brooks said, without ever really being able to control the discussion. Often it will be Tim Russert and a conservative guest (think Dick Cheney). They exchange questions and answers and you wonder if the guest just recently hired Timmy as their press secretary.

They also create roles for their characters (sorry, participants). In every reality tv show their must be an Angry (read Bitchy) woman. The media gives us Teresa Heinz Kerry, Condoleeza Rice, or Hillary Clinton. Don't forget your ditzy blonde girls- Jenna Bush/Ann Coulter. There has to be some kind of host (whose job it is to ensure as little intellectual discussion as possible). Enter Katie Couric or Matt Lauer.

I just keep finding myself hoping that, come November... the sweeps weeks for both television and the White House will result in serious change.