Column Road

Back to life, back to reality TV

By Indigo Jones

Reality television and TV talent shows are amongst the most common types of programmes broadcasted around the UK.  On a larger scale, it has taken over a large part of the world with the likes of Big Brother in India and America’s Got Talent taking the USA by storm. These shows are often classed as “Trash TV” and are looked down upon in comparison to other forms of programmes due to their dramatic and often staged nature. This genre even allows people at home to watch other people watching TV on their own TV because of shows like Gogglebox; but who decides what “Trash TV” is and what isn’t? Throughout this column I will discuss the perks of watching such shows and how they shouldn’t be disregarded based on the assumption that they are not necessarily a challenging watch.

TV talent shows have been around since the 1970s , although their increase in popularity grew in the early 2000s with shows such as Pop Idol, Popstars and following them the never-ending X Factor franchise. These TV talent shows enable regular members of the British public to showcase their talents and to put their name out there in the field that they would like to pursue. It allows its viewers to appreciate different musical abilities and styles, educating them as a result.

“Trash TV” can be seen as a sort of escapism for some, as perhaps they binge watch these easy-watching shows to distract from the stresses of everyday life. If you are a struggling with deadlines or are feeling a bit down, glancing at the lives of strangers or celebrities can be relaxing. The likes of Big Brotherand the celebrity equivalent allowed their audiences to view drama that maybe lighten the weight of their own worries. Another example of this so-called “Trash TV” which involves audiences watching celebrities roam around is I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, although this is set in the Australian jungle, so has a unique appeal to its viewers.  

In comparison to X Factor and other competition based shows, the likes of The Great British Bake Offand Masterchefare seen as programmes to be celebrated although, at the crux of it  they are incredibly similar.  All of these examples see contestants showcasing their passions and demonstrating their talents. These cooking competitions represent another cultural element of reality TV, as they present different dishes and different styles of cooking inspired by various cultures around the globe, thus educating the British public in the process. Personally, without Bake Off I would have no idea what a croquembouche was and I would have completely misunderstood how to blind bake.

This idea of educating the public through easy watching can be seen through the viewing of Strictly Come Dancing, as it offers those who aren’t usually interested in the arts insight into the world of dance. It enables it audiences to separate the Paso doble and the Argentinean tango, and they can see the differences between the cha cha cha and the rumba; perhaps they are even inspired to give the Charleston a go themselves. It’s arguable that due to the large following of these shows, they maybe verge more towards culturally educating than traditional shows.

Although, reality TV can be seen as negative to some viewers as a result of the likes of Love Island, where the perfect hair and the perfect body is thrust upon its audience in the shape of their contestants. According to YouGovone in four people (24%) aged 18-24 say reality TV makes them worry about their body image. Although the show is entertaining perhaps it does more harm than good, as it increases image issues in its viewers. Perhaps you could argue that the male bravado leads to further toxic masculinity also, both things that negatively impact their young audiences.

Another example of a reality TV competition would be the popular American show RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has recently come to the UK. This series allows Drag Queens from around America and the UK to compete to win the title of “next drag superstar”. In contrast to the image issues that Love Islandcauses, Drag Raceendorses self-love with RuPaul chanting “If you can’t love yourself, then how the hell can you love somebody else”. Not only that but this show provides a platform for the LGBTQ+ community and allows them to be correctly represented in the media. This form of reality shouldn’t be frowned upon for being easy watching, due to the educational and personal content that can be viewed from the show. The queens discuss their backgrounds and experiences with their sexualities and as a result can be valuable for those going through a similar time to view. Perhaps as a result RuPaul’s Drag Racewill also raise awareness of the issues within the LGBTQ+ community and deter future homophobic abuse.

The most recent reality show craze is the Channel 4 show The Circle, a show where those who participate have no physical contact with each other and communicate through a social media network. This show invites a new dystopian genre of reality show as it draws on the type of things we see in Black Mirrorand draws upon perhaps the reality of the future of technology and life behind screens. Less of a reality show and more of a social experiment, perhaps as result educating the audience on the dangers of technology and social media, whilst simultaneously being entertaining. This was the original effect of Big Brotheras it was modelled on the Orwellian idea from the novel1984, and this idea of someone monitoring and watching over us was a terrifying idea, but to know that this could be happening through social media, a programme like The Circleis necessary.

With reality TV such as Love IslandBake Offand I’m a Celebritytopping the BARB’s online viewing records in 2017, and their viewers growing annually, there is a need to destroy the stigma surrounding “Trash TV”. Perhaps as a result this would decrease the amount of people hate watching shows, and also allow those to watch these programmes to destress in peace.

China as a country is full of beautiful culture, innovative technology and flavourful food; but in a country without traditional social media how can they possibly share pictures of their food or locations?

In reference to the ‘Great Firewall of China’ the Los Angeles times stated that, “Censorship has long been a fact of life in China, where comments conveying dissent, activism or criticism of authorities are removed post haste from the internet”.As a result, the Chinese government have banned the use of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp. The use of You Tube, Netflix and even Google are also banned and therefore it makes it incredibly difficult to use various forms of media to communicate.  Although, as a result of this censorship brought upon China it made it nearly impossible for them to discuss the recent Hong Kong protests online.

Perhaps, the Chinese government are correct to ban such sites. With the age we live in, and the amount of information we share publicly on social networks, we allow everyone to see our day to day lives. The privacy that comes with the banning of social media sites would improve the lives of many and would destroy the negative impact of social media, for example cyber bullying.

Albeit, there are ways around the Social media ban that coincide with China’s privacy policies. There are communication apps such as Wechat, Weibo and QQ to name a few of the ways that people communicate online in China. These apps replace the famous social media networks we traditionally use in the West and enable the Chinese to overcome the usual banning of social media.

Another way around the ban would to be to invest in a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in order to use the sites, although some of these codes are illegal and there was talk last year of the Chinese government banning VPNs in China as a whole.

As stated earlier, my own trip to China was eye-opening. The realisation of my own unhealthy obsession with using my phone and social media became especially apparent through experiencing the culture shock of travelling to the beautiful country. Within the first couple of hours let alone the two weeks I was there I realised my constant necessity to scroll through twitter or post a snapchat story. Even little things became increasingly difficult; like not being able to use google to search questions, or maps to figure out where to go and even Gmail to check my mail emails. This became thoroughly evident through my inability to go even 10 minutes after landing in Frankfurt (before my connecting flight to London) to log back in to all my accounts. This when the control my phone had over me became increasingly apparent.

This ‘social media cleanse’ although short, was eye-opening due to the fact that since I was thirteen, I had spent several hours a day on social media, with my usage increasing annually. According to my phone’s screen time, in the last week I have spent 29 hours on social networking out of 49 hours in general on my phone. These figures from my own habits are surprising, but they don’t come as a total shock due to my persistent use of these networking apps and my relentless need to refresh timelines.

Although, it doesn’t seem like I am the only one with this issue, as according to OPS in comparison to other EU countries the UK was ranked third of countries with most internet usage. This statistic comes as a bigger shock when they also state that “The UK was 10 percentage points above the EU average of 85%”.

These figures demonstrate the issue that the UK as a whole in regards to Social media and begs the question, how would we as a country react to the banning of social networks?

The Western world’s tendency to binge online streaming services such as Netflix, and the popularity of such sites, demonstrates only one of the things we would struggle with if they were banned. Although the banning of such s

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