Explain the Increase in Popularity of the Genre of Reality Television

The concept of reality television is defined as genre of programming in which the fortunes of everyday individuals, as opposed to actors, or fictional characters are followed (Soong, 2003). Although these programs have always been prevalent within society, it is only within these last two years that reality television has achieved its greatest success with shows such as Survivor, Big Brother, Master Chef, and Fear Factor. Today, reality television encompasses a variety of specialised formats or subgenres, including most prominently the gamedoc, the makeover program, and the dating program.

Mass media, which incorporates reality television, is classified into two different categories, passive or active. This notion is formed from a variety of sociological theories including that of Marx and the Frankfurt School along with other various researchers in the field of literary criticism (Matthewman. et al. 2007). In contemporary society, there are several reasons for the sudden increase in popularity of reality television including money, instant fame and the guilty pleasure phenomenon. As individuals within society, we are inclined to precede reality TV stars and unknowingly make them our role models.

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It is evident that reality shows are seen as significant cultural objects whose production and consumption demonstrate and publicize society’s norms and ideologies of contemporary culture. The prospect in modern society of reality television is to provide gripping “real life” entertainment as well as public service in the form of an elaborate ruse point to some of the overlapping institutional, ethical and cultural developments. (Murray p. g. 3) Approaches to media effects the view the audience as a passive mass of spectators are referred to as “hypodermic needle” or “silver bullet” models (Matthewman. t al. 2007). Predominantly, Frankfurt School, critical theory writers integrated the concept of mass culture; referring to specific media that is designed to be consumed by large audiences through the agencies of technology, into the Marxist view, arguing the modern mass media impeded the proletariat’s ability to create socialist political consciousness. They were concerned with the role of the media in developing a “false consciousness” amongst the working class as audience members.

Researcher went further to detail how television and related entertainments was a channel for capitalist ideology, and how such ideas obscured the underlying reality of class struggle and capitalist exploitation (Matthewman. et al. 2007). Ford, who was the greatest practitioner of scientific management, is famous for his mass production of the Model T car. Lewis Mumford describes this “technic” of mass production as: “the tendency in mass production is to transfer initiative and significance from the worker who was once operated the machine, to the machine that operates the worker” (Mumford cited by Matthewman. t al. 2007). The use of highly specialled machine tools replaced the general-purpose tools that dominated earlier workshops and required highly skilled workers. Hence this generates the argument that with this movement within society, the only class who benefit were those that are earn a high income, meanwhile the lower class receive no advantage and remain as part of the low class within society.

The rapid growth of the reading public and the increasing capitalisation of the book market in the later 18th century, the commercialisation of music culture and the development of a modern art market mark the beginnings of the high/low dichotomy in its specifically modern form. This dichotomy then became politically charged in decisive ways when new class conflicts erupted in the mid-19th century and the quickening pace of the industrial revolution required new cultural orientations for mass populace. (Huyssen p. g. 4) There are several explanations as to why reality television has become popular in society today, including, money, instant fame and the guilty pleasure phenomenon. The first catalyst for the influx of reality television today is money, as shows offer huge sums of money to people who do not necessarily possess the career skills that would make them a productive enough member of society to amass such wealth through honest work. Regardless of truth behind these reality shows, individuals within society thrive in their ability to emanate these TV stars or become more like them in their everyday lives.

However some shows do have a pseudo-intellectual premise, an example being, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Nonetheless, the questions differed from related shows, as they tend to be trivia orientated. Also, the audience gets involved, as well as calling a friend, are factors, which add to the drama aspect of the show. The lighting, music, and editing all were contrived to produce the maximum possible suspense surrounding rather innocuous pop culture subjects one might find in any game.

The promise of money and the vicarious joy at someone winning lots of money, or more commonly spectacularly losing said money, is what draws millions of viewers. Furthermore, the second reason why reality TV has become more popular in contemporary society is instant fame. One of the promises of this genre is that one does not have to be q professional actor or entertainer (Andrejevic, p. g 1-10), Reality television takes ordinary people, sets them up in extraordinary situations on a world stage with other similarly commonplace individuals, and makes them the focus of a nation’s attention.

It is fairly obvious that the majority of the population has no chance of ever being picked as a participant for the show itself, but the concept of vicarious living activates in the individual, and then they fixate on it on a week to week basis. The members of the show are satisfactorily every-day individuals for fans to willfully suspend their disbelief. Finally, the third reason as to why reality television is favored in present day society is guilty pleasure syndrome. Sociology professor Mark Fishman of Brooklyn College has made a study of reality TV. The Germans have a word for it, the appeal of some of these shows,” he says. “It’s called ‘schadenfreude’ (Soong, 2003). This means that, individuals take delight in the misfortunes of others, making it a guilty pleasure. In today’s society, with the massive technological revolution of home computing and the internet, and with the renewed interest in free speech and the protection of the arts, more and more people are finding premises entertaining that 30 years ago would have been considered obscene.

It is therefore evident that with the advancement of technology, and the mass production of various good, making it easier to access these shows, the ratings for reality television have increased tremendously over the last two years. In conclusion, sociological theories including that of Marx and the Frankfurt School along with other various researchers in the field of literary criticism have provided reason to the increase in the genre of reality television. Some of the many reason include, money, instant fame and the phenomenon of guilty pleasure.

Prior to these theories, Marx and other various sociologists developed the concepts of mass consumption and production, which further led to the invention of various appliances that allowed society to keep up to date with the occurrences in society. As individuals within society, we are inclined to precede reality TV stars and unknowingly make them our role models and make them our heroes, becoming more and more like them everyday. Reference List: •Andrejevic. M, Reality TV: the work of being watched 1964 (p. 1-10), Oxford, United Kingdom •Huyssen. A, After the great divide: modernism, mass culture, postmodernism 1986 (p. g, 1-22) , Indiana University Press •Marx and Weber, Economy and Social Structure, (p. g. 5-19), 1969, St. Martin’s Press •Matthewman. et al. , Being Sociological, 2007 •Montemurro. B, Toward a Sociology of Reality Television, 2007, Pennsylvania State University •Murray. S, Ouellette. L, Reality TV: remaking television culture, 2009, New York University Press and London

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