Reality TV -- Gladiatorial Spectator Sport

by Trish Overby

Big Brother, Pop Idol, and Survivor Lost are a few TV shows we watch regularly. One of the reasons we like to watch these shows is that we can be like a `fly on the wall' observing people interact. That is, watching people coping with new environments, daring feats or difficult contestants. The game show aspect of these programs is the `trials' each participant is given and how they achieve it. The show also encourages audience participation by voting for the `contestant' whom we like or think will achieve the goal. What do these TV shows tell us about ourselves?

Fly on the Wall

The `fly on the wall' aspect is nothing new. In a way, most of us have wanted to know what our neighbour is doing behind his or her front door. Call it being `nosy neighbours' or trying to keep up with the Jones'. But in these TV programs, we see some pretty unusual tasks being required of the contestants. These challenges are not the normal game show feats. It seems the more outrageous or shocking the better. And how the contestants react is really what we want to see. Do we really enjoy watching a person getting buried in a tank full of worms or insects? We probably sympathise with the person in the tank. More likely, we are thankful that it is not us in the tank! But is there a part of our personalities that makes us enjoy watching other people suffer (probably more in humiliation than anything else)? Most of us would be cheering on the under achiever but seeing him suffer such humiliation at times is a bit sadistic. At the very least, it's probably sadism by proxy.

The Survivor

Some shows take this sadism or control over others even further with regards to audience participation. What about the new `pop idols' who weekly give a musical performance for the audience to vote on? The presenters flash back to the week of preparation each contestant goes through and then the end result is the final performance. This performance is what all TV-dom must vote on. Does anyone really enjoy watching a singer learning how to sing better? The creators of these TV shows need viewers to participate. We vote for the `best' or most popular contestant and through this process of powerful manipulation we choose our `Pop Idol'. Or we choose who survives.

The producers of these TV shows have given great power into the viewers' hands. By a simple phone call, email or text message, we decide on the fate of certain contestants. This audience participation reminds me of the Roman Coliseum where the emperor and audience would decide the fate of the gladiators. For the Romans, it was a "thumbs up and you lived" or a "thumbs down and you died". But that was in Roman times and seemed barbaric, right? Well, really, is it any different now?

Take Control

In Reality TV we have an opportunity to determine the course of another person's life. It is a very powerful position to be in. This ability to control another person consists of us determining the outcome of the contest or game between the TV show contestants-just as the Roman Coliseum audience and emperor did some 2000 years ago. But could it be that our own lives aren't living up to our expectations? Or maybe we feel we don't have the same power in our own lives to decide our own fates?

I wouldn't even presume to answer these questions for anyone but myself. Some of us might feel changing is too much effort. So, instead we stick with the `second best' in our lives. We might not like our jobs or enjoy our friends but we are really frightened to change. However, to be unemployed and friendless are really only temporary situations. We can take control of our lives and go out and find a new job or new friends. It does take intellectual effort and emotional risk but it is much better than accepting the lesser option.

No one wants to be unfulfilled because they aren't living life to the fullest. No one wants to settle for `second best'. We would all want to `fight the good fight' by being the person we were meant to be. But who knows what we were meant to be? Who has this `idea' of a unique individual, like yourself, living on this earth? Well, naturally, our Creator Father does. He has had a plan and purpose for our lives since before we were born. He has wanted us to listen to Him so He could let us know what that image of ourselves is. No, He isn't demanding that we follow this plan He has. He is asking us if we want to choose (using our will) to live the life He has for us. To choose to live a life that we were meant to live. This sounds much better than any reality TV show or game, doesn't it?

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