Fri. May 17th, 2024

In the opening sequence of the 1977 film, Annie Hall, the protagonist, Max Singer, is confronted with the ideas of conformity and creativity. Singer reflects on his earlier days as a high school outcast who strongly despised the conventions of orthodoxy in every sense of the word. Singer eventually coined the phrase, “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.” The idiom is commonly referenced to our ever-tedious intellectual progression as individuals from high school to college.
Not everyone can be doctors and lawyers, so multiple paths are laid out in order to measure our intelligence. We either become teachers, scholars, or intellectuals who strive for prosperity and stability, or gym teachers: buffoons who are effortless in their studies and careless in regards to their future endeavors. Singer grew outrage from the overall illiteracy that blinded his fellow classmates and dismissed his teachers residing at his home on Coney Island, New York. Infuriated by lack of substantial fruitfulness and vivid imagination, Singer set off to construct his own realistic interpretations of life through stand-up comedy and fine art.
Written and performed by Hollywood’s beloved playwright, Woody Allen, the character of Max Singer is the primary focus of a materialistic world deprived of cultural integrity and social awareness. He firmly believes that negativity and ignorance found in various subcultures of popular culture such as overtly-colorful fashion, compulsive smoking, and materialism has diluted the content of humanity and innovation. Although the film was set in the late 1970s, Allen’s excerpt has stood the test of time. “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym,” can be closely associated to popular culture today. The syndication and marketing of reality television has especially uprooted the tautology of Allen’s bold words.
Television, while not a healthy form of leisure, has gradually become the cornerstone of mass communication. As a visual art, the embodiment of television has made us laugh, cry, upset, happy, and lastly, intrigued. Its occasionally subjective programming has surprisingly balanced entertainment and education formatting to the point where television has become a universal medium. Too much television can turn the mind into pudding and too little removes an individual from the live streaming of current events and imagery.
While some televised compositions such as “Everyone Loves Raymond” and “The Big Bang Theory” are relatively harmless, shows with the basis centered on forced human emotions, pragmatism, and scripted drama have drastically alchemized the mass medium. Programing that should have little to no place in television domain is reality television. From Allen’s excerpt alone, reality television simply can be summed up as the decline of quality home theater. The fact of the matter is, there are qualified television writers and producers who are connoisseurs when it comes to camerawork and compiling teleplays, and then there are corporate television hacks who truly lack proper aesthetics and are willing exploit their subjects to generate enormous amounts of revenue. Reality television is simply a beggar’s perspective of art. It is scripted, unimaginative, and undoubtly inhuman.
There is no question that reality television programs have adulterated human values. In fact, its viewership has corrupted our perspective of our definition of culture. MTV’s “Jersey Shore” for an example has inaccurately and inappropriately portrayed New Jersey inhabitants and Italian Americans as a collection of ill-mannered guidos who sunbathe religiously, bomb their hair with grease, lack proper diction, disregard sexual discretion, and are devoid of any knowledge of Italian culture and customs. As if Francis Ford Cappola’s adaption of “The Godfather” negatively depicted Italians as a collective of sharp mobsters and murder-obsessed crime lords, the Jersey Shore sabotages any astonishing quality or ideology the Italian community has fortified in America.
The sole purpose of reality television is to entertain the masses, but how are programs such as “Jersey Shore” labeled as forms of entertainment when its primary intention consists from the sheer humiliation of its subjects? How can someone lie on the couch and feel overjoyed by the illegitimate pregnancy of a 16-year-old girl who hasn’t even graduated high school, let alone fathom the conventions of maturity and responsibility? How can someone waste an afternoon of their life emulating the rapacious Kardashian family who has never once persevered nor immersed themselves into a day of hard work? And most of all, how on Earth can someone aggrandize the overall lifestyle of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” when the rowdy bunch can’t even afford to rescue themselves as entities from inconceivable financial woes? These are nerve-racking questions that have cemented their gruesome methodologies onto the back of my mind since “Duck Dynasties” originally premiered last autumn.
Now to its credit, there are countless reality television programs that offer its viewing audience constructive, rational and educational entertainment. Programs such as “American Idol”, “Master Chef”, “The X-Factor”, and “America’s Got Talent” are highly distinctive because their astounding ability to recruit young nimble talent is simply remarkable. The judges discover up-and-coming acts that demonstrate their capabilities, challenge them to meet the necessary skillset depending on the event, and if outstanding, introduce the individual or individuals to an array of career opportunities. Even semi-aggressive programs such as “Restaurant Impossible” and “Undercover Boss” are positive representations of reality television because charismatic hosts such as Robert Irvine blend scare tactics and positive enforcement in order to motivate eatery employees and management to correct their failing restaurants. What’s even more amazing are the following programs mentioned aren’t even the most-audited.
When nations follow like sheep spellbindingly drawn to the scandalism, vulgarity, and staged drama provoked by “Jersey Shore” rather than the wholesomeness and the positive inclination of “The X-Factor,” it’s evident that the metaphorical bar has been lowered to the point of no return. Although we are constantly hypnotized by controversy fluent in our world regardless of form, reality television programing has dangerously consumed and brainwashed us in which we perceive illegitimate pregnancy and child beauty pageantry as a desired carefree way of life.
I never had a vendetta with reality programing in the past, but as soon as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “16 and Pregnant” traipsed its way onto national broadcast television, I was disgusted. From a personal and observational standpoint, I felt as if I was stripped of my education after 5 minutes watching an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” or “16 and Pregnant,” especially for a program syndicated by the Learning Channel. I concluded that the format of reality television is customized to transform an “Average Joe” into a national celebrity overnight without developing young actors or participants. Instead of scouting talented actors or participants, reality television producers pluck untalented people from elsewhere, therefore sculpting them into cultural icons undeserving of fame.
What I find most disturbing about the subgenre is that reality television essentially lacks a purpose. There isn’t exactly a moral or principle met towards the climax of an episode of “16 and Pregnant” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Neither a resolution nor a meaningful axiom is included at the very end of the misadventure and the audience is therefore indoctrinated by the final message. Ultimately, reality television doesn’t advocate a clause or a lesson. The controversy and storyline doesn’t allow us to absorb the inequity and impropriety on the surface. We’re enticed to continually watch and support the exploitation of its subjects. If reality television programs such
as “16 and Pregnant” were to raise awareness about the horrors of teen pregnancy within an episode as opposed to glorifying the media darlings, the abundance and appeal of the crisis would steadily decrease.
No matter what suggestions are made, incompetency and ignorance will continue to blind us. Not only do I find reality television sickening, but I find it unforgivable on all angles. It’s heartless, tasteless, repetitive, effortless and by far, malicious. We all make mistakes and we all create drama in our lifetime, but emulating and embracing over exaggerated staged soap operas only confines us to misery and overt-narcissism in actuality and it’s just a matter of time before examined seen through the microscope by future generations.
Drew Mattiola is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at 

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