The show is based on total twenty-four hour surveillance of contestants in one house.
Every week contestants are given tasks to complete and later nominate each other anonymously for eviction. The two contestants with the most votes go up for public eviction, where one will be voted out of the house. The shows appeal is again based on the behavior of those being watched. Everyday an hour long edited program is broadcasted selecting the previous days most entertaining moments. In this way it functions much like a soap opera, we see arguments, romantic liaisons, two-faced characters, shocking behavior and more.We are entertained in the same way as a soap opera, except that Big Brother claims to be real. Of course, this is not the only factor in reality TV’s popularity. Another reason is the role the audience plays and the general level of interactivity available (Jones 2001: Hill 2002).
This is a clear unique selling point that program makers take full advantage of. They coin together catch phrases such as Big Brother’s “Who Goes? You Decide! ” and Pop Idol’s ” But this time..
. You Choose…
” (Holmes, 2004).The consumer has the power of judgment and becomes the critic. This gives the viewer a sense of control over their viewing that no other type of show can give them and by participating they become part of something on a much larger scale than just TV. They could be the reason why someone gets a record deal, or wins i?? 75,000. Furthermore, we can begin to see that this interactivity and appeal expands into social grounds. It becomes a shared viewing experience between a whole nation, much like football and other national events.It is further supported by coverage across a range of mediums and often shows like ‘Big Brother’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity.
.. Get Me Out Of Here! ‘ get front-page headlines. This makes Reality TV as common a topic of discussion as the week’s current affairs (Bratich, 2006). And this kind of need to know mindless popular culture for the sake of being socially ‘in the know’ is part of why Adorno and Horkheimer were so critical.
For the second half of this essay I shall look at what Adorno ; Horkheimer believed and explain how this and their statement relates to Reality TV.They formulated their theory in the 1920s/30s, when they already began to see the tastes and interests of the individual become minimized to appeal to a mass audience. The basis for what Adorno ; Horkheimer claim is that a mass-produced culture is fed to the nation and the nation is manipulated into desiring what it produces. Thus, we have a need for commodities to make us instantaneously happy. With regard to this concept, we find Reality TV as yet another example of mass- produced entertainment.
It works as a form of standardization of needs, which can be easily catered for if we choose to passively adhere to capitalism. This is because regardless of our financial situation we all are content as consumers through consumption, whether it’s voting for someone on Pop Idol or buying the latest edition of Heat magazine to find out about Big Brother contestants past lives. This standardization has brought about a type of ‘celebrity culture’, which Adorno & Horkheimer talk about as being a “shallow cult of personalities” that have replaced what used to be respect.This idea is clearest in the creation of the attributed celebrity or celetoid. Very much the opposite of the achieved celebrity that is famous for a skill or achievement. Instead, the celetoid is generally famous for nothing other than appearing on television in a reality TV show (Humphreys, 2004) Although, this fame is short lived the effect it is having on the public’s pursuits is worrying.
“It fosters a set of values that are utterly shallow and kills real ambition in the most impressionable” (Humphreys, 2004).Moreover, the cheap and docile pleasures we get from the consumption of Reality TV all play a part in the desensitization of the moral standards of the individual. When everyone is accepting it as normal to be entertained by other people’s fear, anger, sorrow and private issues the personal standard also begins to drop. “These are the moments when allegedly authentic displays of emotion emerge, confirmed by tears or other bodily signs of true feelings and when emotive confessions become commodified, working to entertain and attract ratings” (Aslama, 2006).Another ethical consideration one should be aware of with the rise of Reality TV is the voyeuristic qualities that are present in 24-hour surveillance programs. Critics of the genre accuse these shows of promoting the sexually deviant idea of being able to watch a person’s every move. It has been argued that this is because voyeurism places power in the hands of the viewers by offering an almost omniscient view of the situation.
Enabling them to watch other people’s most intimate moments and gain delight in the illusion of being able to pronounce judgment on other people’s lives (Gabler, 2000).This invites the ethical questions, how acceptable would this have been if there was no cheap entertainment in it and could we handle it if our private sphere became completely public? The reason I ask this last question is due to another theory on the desensitization of Reality TV. This is the concern that there is general acceptance of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in our society as the norm. It is believed that the popularity of Big Brother has lead to an acceptance of CCTV in everyday life (Palmer, 2002).Part of the concern with this is that just like participants in Big Brother have no control over how they are judged, similarly particular groups may face issues of discrimination and an infringement on their civil liberties in situations where authorities are alerted over prejudice (Palmer, 2002). By making the culture industry and those consuming it numb to these ethical issues the individual becomes completely destroyed with regards to Reality TV. However, it could be argued that the viewer has more power than Adorno ; Horkheimer have taken into account.
One example that demonstrates this is in Celebrity Big Brother 2007.A racist remark was made which caused 30,000 complaints. People became disgusted with the show for making entertainment out of racism.
I would argue that this only proves Adorno and Horkheimer in their statement further. This is because it took something so extreme to make people think about the nature behind the show. Never mind all the emotional trauma, arguments and bullying that took place on TV before. What we see is a culture industry that is hypocritical in its very essence. All people will claim a belief in freedom, justice and equality. The culture industry numbs this sense but at the same time will claim to promote it.So when people think they are being critical of what the industry produces, they are really only criticizing through the industry’s guidelines of what they should be critical about. In respect to civil liberties, it seems that the nation moves as one passive body that takes an earthquake to wake up.
With all this in mind I feel that Adorno & Horkheimer’s statement on criticism becoming a ‘mechanical expertise’ within the culture industry is supported fairly well by Reality TV. This is because the genre acts as a method of desensitization to critical values that one might hold.In doing so, it increases the likelihood of the occurrence of ‘popular culture criticism’. In conclusion it can be said that Adorno and Horkheimer’s statement is generally supported on the whole by the rise of Reality TV through hidden ethical considerations that lead to a lack in analysis.
Reality TV appears to have eroded the distinction between private and public spheres and it seems that we may be at a crucial pivot where our own integrity and freedom is being threatened as the concept of the culture industry can now act as an insight into the behavior of the mass audience and the reality of globalization.After all, to me we now seem like an audience that has been de-sensitized because the freak show has been rediscovered (Humphrey’s, 2004)List Of References Aslama. M ; Pantti. M. (2006) Taking alone: Reality TV, “Emotions and Authenticity”, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 9:167. Bratich, J Z.
(2006) “Nothing Is Left Alone for Too Long”: Reality Programming and Control Society Subjects. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 30 Gabler. N, (2000) “Behind the Curtain of TV Voyeurism”, 2000, Looking at US 12 February 2001.
Hill.A (2002), “Big Brother: The Real Audience”, Television New Media, 3:323. Holmes, S. (2004) “Reality Goes Pop! : Reality TV”, Popular Music and Narratives of Stardom in Pop Idol. Television New Media, 5, 147 Humphrys. J, (2004).
Mac Taggart Lecture Palmer, G. (2002) “Big Brother: An Experiment in Governance”, Television New Media, 3:295 Turner, G (2006) The mass production of celebrity ‘Celetoids’, “Reality TV and the ‘Demotic Turn'”. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9 (2) 153-165