The following originally appeared on 6/1/09 at Exit 51.
It really should come as no surprise that television takes a few liberties with reality. If you hit pause on your dvr at the end of most any game show or “reality” competition, you will see the fine print that says portions have been edited. Well duh. But that distortion of reality is a double edged sword.
One the one hand, who would sit through the unedited hours and hours of footage that it takes to produce a single episode of Survivor or The Amazing Race? Not me. But on the other hand, how can we know what happens in the moments that we don’t see? There’s the rub. We are given a highly processed view of “reality” that may be skewed in order to shape our perceptions and attitudes. There’s another word for that – propaganda. I doubt that the television producers have a sinister masterplan to take over the world via the current season of The Bachelor. But they definitely are trying to manipulate our opinions to make “better” television.
No genre of television program is immune to the edit. Not even something as supposedly straight forward as a cooking show. Think about it, how often do you see Paula Deen or Rachel Ray commit a kitchen foul? Take a few moments to ponder that? The Minimalist has an interesting piece about that topic here.
Is it that their skills are so keen that they don’t make mistakes? Are they the “Heroes” of the kitchen world? Or is it that their reputations are built upon the assumption that we suspend our disbelief that they are anything but flawless? If we don’t see any mistakes, then they never happened, right?
Interestingly enough, cooking programs excel in showing us the other side of that picture. If you stick around to watch to watch the “Who Wants To Be…” type shows, you see another kind of reality. You see the kind of reality that you can not only understand, but can relate to. Challenge after challenge, something goes wrong. Meat gets burned, dishes are undercooked, or overcooked, jars break, people cut themselves. Some mistakes you can bounce back from. Other send you home. Unfortunately, these realities are edited to make us think the contestants are not capable. When really, they are just human.
So what should we take away from this idea of RealiTV? At a minimum, we shouldn’t take it too seriously. Take it as inspiration for what you love to do. So if you love diy projects, watch the shows to get ideas. But don’t think that because Ty and his crew can build a McMansion in seven days that you are somehow deficient if it takes you a month to tile your backsplash. And if your love is cooking, watch the shows for the recipes. Just don’t assume that your plate of deep fried butter is going to look exactly like Paula’s. Remember, she’s got a producer, and editor, professional lighting and fancy food stylists. You’ve got reality and I think that tastes better any day.