Stooping to a new low, I’m about to discuss the merits of “Reality TV.” I wouldn’t even be discussing the matter if it were not for Cheryl’s brush with pseudo-celebrity by proxy (re: Cheryl’s cousin Bill on a Fox “Reality TV” series: “Playing it Straight”).
First, I feel compelled to rehash the “Reality TV” label discussion. Put someone in a situation that they would not normally live in (aka a fantasy, a la Survivor), tell them to pretend that they are something that they are not (aka acting, a la Joe Millionaire or Playing it Straight), and tell me how this is different than “Fiction TV?” Oh, but these are “real” people you say? Unlike all of those fake people on the sitcoms? Call it “Unscripted TV” if you must, at least that would be accurate. Then again, I’ll never be confused with a “Marketing Guy”. There’s just so little that is “real” about “Reality TV”… I’m instantly put off. Yeah, I know I’ve said it all before, I just had to get it out of my system before I moved on.
Due to Cheryl’s interest in this latest show, I’ve been a little more attentive to the various discussions in the media about this particular show. Most have not been particularly positive. They have talked at length about the portrayal of Gays and Lesbians on TV. One common thread has been that the show awkwardly puts gay men “back in the closet” in the interest of “entertainment”. Folks in the media wonder how this furthers the cause of acceptance, the implication being that the premise of the show reinforces the idea that being gay is bad – something that should be hidden or overcome. I guess I can see that argument, but I feel compelled to add a few things. First, why single out this particular “Reality” show. I find it no worse than any of the other “reality” shows. Most of them put people in demeaning positions, making it seem O.K. to lie, trick or otherwise deceive. Second, well… I hate to bring it up because I am loathe to find anything socially redeeming about anything ‘ole Rupert has his hands in, but here goes. The one interesting thing I see in the show is the direct challenge to stereotypes about straight and gay men. While the gay men supposedly are doing their darn tootin best to “play it straight”, the producers also seem to have picked a pool of straight men with qualities similar to stereotypical gay men. If you believe the premise of the show, and you believe that the men are honest when they are kicked off the show (by the woman who is trying to guess who is gay and eliminate them from the contest), you see an interesting trend – more straight men are being wrongly identified as “gay” than actual gay men (so far). Doesn’t that say something, however little, about stereotypes? Sure, the gay men are “playing it straight”, but the straight men know the rules too – so one would assume they are too. One would assume that it would be easier to actually be straight than to pretend.
Stereotypes lead to unfair prejudgement. We tend to assume that which we should not because of stereotypes. If something comes along that challenges those stereotypes, can it be all that bad?