Thursday, November 5, 2009

Reality shows rot your brain.

As if sitting and letting someone else fill your brain with sludge was not bad enough, they invented "Reality Shows".

First of all, you have to realize what TV really is. There are rooms full of people right now, hooked up to machines like polygraphs, which sense every change in a person's emotional state, and they're just sitting there watching TV. The experimenters note every slight change in breathing, pupil dilation, heartbeat and compare it to what they are showing on the screen.

The goal is to show things in a way that keeps the person satisfied to just sit there.

It's not some big mind control conspiracy, it's just simple profit. They want to be able to show advertisers that their product will be shown to people who are happy to sit there and look at it. But to do so, they have to change the way you look at TV. They have to connect with your emotionally and physically.

To connect with your physically they do things like switch frames in a randomized (but within specific medically determined limits) schedule. Never more than so many seconds of a still shot, never too much of one person, switch away from some shots and give multiple views of this other shot. The goal is to draw your attention, keep it, and make you sit down and watch.

It's bad enough when it's just a simple entertainment show, cowboys or spaceships or spies. But when they started the Reality shows it moved to a whole new level. Now it wasn't about watching, they were going for a sense of participation. You were invited to identify with the characters, manipulated into feeling as if they were just like you, not an actor, not a character, but someone you might know.. Or, if they did their job right, someone who could have been you.

Now we no longer just watched, we were part of the show. This allowed us to feel like we had actually done something while just sitting there watching TV. I noticed this in myself after the first few days of "Survivor". When my favorite contestant won, I felt like I had won. It was at this point I stopped watching it. Because I knew I had not won, instead I had watched TV when I could have been doing something else.

But if I had watched it more, why would I need to do anything? I was accomplishing so much on TV! I swung from ropes, I built shelters, I related with and antagonized other people. My innate desire to do something of significance was completely fulfilled.

Then came "The Biggest Loser". A reality show about losing weight! Each week we were to be invited to feel as if we had changed our diet, as if we had done rigorous exercises with skilled trainers, as if we had actually lost some weight. We could cheer with the winners and cry with the failures (can't say "losers" here).

Why, then, would we need to experience our own successes? So we could sit there, watching TV, eating chips, and dreaming that we were making vital health changes just like those folks on TV. Even knowing that their efforts were not healthy, that they were cheating, that the losses in many cases would not be sustained, we felt like we were doing the things we were supposed to do to gain a life we didn't have.

And all so some company can earn a little more money on ad placement.

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