Dengler Domain: Reality Television
Modern day reality television has only been around for the last 30 years or so, but it feels like it has taken over society in this time span. Survivor was the first modern day hit with people dropped into a remote land while figuring out how to survive and win the competition. While it evolved over the years to involve more strategic gameplay, the reality part of the show never left.
Survivor and Big Brother are other reality shows that still use the competition element, but most reality shows are what they say they are – reality or some version of reality. The Real Housewives franchise and others of their ilk show individuals’ lives and what is going on between the “stars” of the show. The drama flames are stoked to reach the highest heights whether it is more of a show put on by the cast or helped pushed along by the producers. At the end of the day, conflict matters. Conflict gets eyeballs.
Like reality television, soap operas and professional wrestling operate in the same vein. Soap operas were the original reality television without the “reality.” While the drama in soap operas feels like it moves at a sloth pace compared to reality television’s breakneck pace, the drama is the hook. Professional wrestling is similar as there is always a face (good) wrestler fighting a heel (bad) wrestler. The best rivalries happen when the conflict is at its all-time highest.
Unfortunately, this need for conflict does not stay on screen or in the ring. Whether it is social media, politics, or other mediums, conflict intrigues humans. People use it to their advantage while lowering the standards of acceptable discourse. When everything is reduced to the lowest common denominator, it results in political debates not debated on ideas but on what conflict or meme potential clip will be made.
When real-life conflicts are reduced to simplistic human emotions like on screen or in the ring, it is a detriment to society. Life is more gray than black and white, and falling into this trap should be avoided, especially not by those in power or trying to get into power who make this argument. Everyone is complicated, and falling into the trap of good versus evil leads to people being taken advantage of. Cooler heads should prevail. At the end of the day, life should be about working together and not trying to win the conflict.
Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.