Tuesday, 4 October 2011

the new colosseum

i should have known better, but i tried to watch a bit of "the x-factor" a couple of weeks ago. i think i lasted about half an hour, though i can't say i was paying full attention even during that time. i know that these kinds of shows are really popular & there are lot of people who really enjoy them. if you are one of those, then i'd ask you to go and find something else to read just now.

i can't help it, i just felt so sickened and appalled at what i saw. to me, it seemed like one of the worst kinds of exploitation. here were people, some of whom are in pretty difficult situations as regards poverty. some of whom desperately want to find something missing in their lives, and think they can find it through fame and fortune. people with dreams, perhaps unrealistic dreams, but heartfelt and genuine dreams nonetheless.

all of these things were used by the producers of this show to put these people in a situation where they would be laughed at and humiliated. it's not spontaneous. the show is highly managed; all of the performers had gone through some kind of screening process before they were allowed to perform in front of the judges and audience. during that screening process, it would have been blatantly obvious which performers didn't have a chance, and would therefore receive that special brand of nastiness that is simon cowell. with the added icing of boos and jeers from the audience.

those performers could easily have been weeded out. there is absolutely no need to put them through a situation that was clearly traumatic - at least for the ones that i saw. it's bad enough to be told that you aren't going to make it through to the next round, but that's part of any normal competition & i don't have a problem with it. but to be told in a way that is insulting and mocking, and which encourages others to do the same? it's awful.

i don't care that these people consented to go on the show. i don't care that they would have signed some kind of contract allowing their performance and the judges & audiences reactions to be broadcast to millions of people around the world. i've said it in a different context, that of using surrogates from developing countries, but it holds true just as much in this instance: just because people consent to their own exploitation or humiliation doesn't mean that we should go ahead and exploit or humiliate them. people will do anything when they're desperate - and desperation takes many forms and may have many causes. it's not ok to use that desperation to make sh*tloads of money off their public humiliation.

i know that evolution is a thing, and i know it takes millions of years to work. but it really saddens me that humanity has not changed much at all over thousands of years. that we're still happy to make public entertaiment for many out of the pain of a few says nothing good about our species. nothing good at all.


ms p said...

I have completely the same reaction, stargazer. I insist the channel is changed when they have the opening episodes of these reality shows which are all about humiliating people. There was one chap I saw on American Idol that still haunts me. He clearly had a disability that made it difficult for him to read people's reactions which was completely taken advantage of so the judges could crack up laughing at his singing. Sickening.

Brett Dale said...

Ricky Gervais got it right in Extras, when he was ripping into reality shows and he said "The Victorian Freak show never went away,it's now called American Idol, Where we send the bewildered up, to be laughed at by multimillionaires"

Reality shows are the worst form of entertainment, even ones without a panel of judges in front of an audience, take Hell's Kitchen, chefs are kept on who can't win, just because they are good for ratings.

As for the shocking treatment on the Apprentice of Brent Buckman, well that was on a whole different level.

As long as these shows have viewers, they will still make them, I just find them to be mean

A Nonny Moose said...

Have you ever read Ben Elton's "Stark"? It's satire on the whole American Idol/X Factor phenom, but I don't think Elton took it far enough. He built the story as if the end was going to have a massive bitch about the reality show industry, and then he copped out with an innocuous ending. It sometimes makes me wonder if he chickened out from going full throttle against the industry because of certain peoples influence.

Nevertheless, certain characters in this book are direct correlations to what happened, and still happens, on these shows, and it's painful viewers still buy in to the fairytale, rags to riches bullshit. It's destroyed more people than it's made.

notafeminist said...

From a singing teacher's perspective, a lot of these types of shows feed into totally the wrong idea about singing and the hard work involved. The expectation amongst audiences is that great singers are born that way - and if you've taken singing lessons or worked really hard to get where you are you've pretty much cheated. None of this show is about diligence and perseverance, it's all instant gratification. When someone gets up on stage and isn't perfect, they are told that they cannot sing - but the truth is that if you give them training and a year or two, they could be better than the winners. These shows encourage people to be uneducated critics, instead of informed listeners.

That doesn't make good television though, does it.