Sunday, December 30, 2007

You Heard It Here First

Partially inspired by this piece about television posted by my boss on Reality Sandwich, I would like to make a suggestion, and coin a phrase which I hope will catch on and help inspire others...

We're all extremely familiar with so-called "Reality TV" that genre of entertainment which puts "ordinary" people into semi-controlled but unscripted situations just to see what happens. The genre started out only slightly creepy, but to nobody's surprise quickly became unabashedly crass and exploitative, and ever increasingly divorced from "Reality." Of course, it IS real, in the sense that actual human beings do actually submit to the often outlandish things asked of them, whether it be to suck up to Donald Trump, or choke down a length of horse-rectum (which would YOU find more degrading?).

Well, not only does TV capture/reflect Reality but it also shapes it. People in the TV industry tend to discount the notion that their programming could possibly influence behavior. Yet, we all know that kids ape the "Jackass" guys despite being warned not to try this at home, not to mention the fact that the very existence of commercial TV is predicated on the belief (and the evidence) that the commercials will indeed influence consumer purchasing behavior on a mass scale. If you doubt TV's power to determine what real-life turns into, consider this: there had never been a single instance of a drive-by shooting amongst rural middle-American teens until shortly after MTV started airing gangsta rap videos. As frivolous and dismissible as you may think MTV-fluff is, it reaches greater numbers of impressionable kids than any other single television entity in the world. Would kids in rural Nebraska ever have come up with the "drive-by" on their own? I kinda doubt it.

So, in a sense, all TV is "reality" TV. Commercial TV is a real thing. It has an agenda, which is also real, and while presenting itself as shiny happy and pretty, it is actually unhealthy, anti-human and even anti-common-sense. If left alone, what sort of reality will TV create for us? A world where even a war-mongering chimpanzee can become president. Not my first choice of a world to live in, but here we are.

SO... what I think we need is something else for people to watch. There's plenty of video content that strives for a better way of life, pushes a healthier agenda, but it's still few and far between and there's no general umbrella term to unify it all, lending it greater weight... the strength of being easily identified as part of a genre, or even a movement. There needs to be a name for this good stuff, whether found on the web, or on the fringes of broadcast/cable. I propose calling it: Alternate Reality TV.

Let the phrase sink in. Think of the possibilities. Many people are already making Alternate Reality TV, whether they know it or not. If the phrase catches on, perhaps more people will be motivated to make Alternate Reality TV, with the full understanding of what it's all about. "Oh... I'm not merely trying to sell people on the idea of solar powered transportation. I'm helping to create an Alternate Reality!" And sure, somebody may hear the term and immediately think to take 10 total strangers and put them in a house in the forest together with nothing to eat or drink except for Ayahuasca, and-- wait a minute... I'd watch that show!

Alternate Reality TV: get with the reprogram.

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