Reality shows. Pointless, meaningless, useless rubbish. Full of drama and wannabe movie stars. That’s what I thought.
But, if you look closely, perhaps there is some sort of usefulness….?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the U.S version of Survivor, it is essentially Big Brother, but instead of a house there’s a deserted beach with no shelter, no food and usually an insect infested jungle.
It makes for great entertainment, even having been run for successful 26 seasons. But why is it still so popular? Obviously some element of its formula is resonating in the public sphere (where people debate common concerns). The game is, as its motto states, about outwitting, outplaying and outlasting. The way this should be done though, is a matter of great contestation.
CASE IN STUDY: Russell Hantz
In a Heroes vs. Villains season, Russell, as a villain, played like a tactical genius. He manipulated, lied, and even managed to persuade one of the ‘heroes’ to give him an immunity idol (if you’re curious watch this YouTube excerpt). However, he trod on a great many toes, as is shown when the jury condemns his actions.
Russell played the game outstandingly, but didn’t win because his fellow castaways, who he helped vote off, didn’t like his lack of loyalty or sportsmanship. The controversy over what makes a good person, a bad person, and what especially makes a good player, was showcased in this Heroes vs. Villains season. The concept of a deciding jury invites us to make a judgement upon these people and debate how certain qualities should be rewarded or punished
So, it seems Survivor is not a load of rubbish, but has actually become an instigator for debate in the public sphere on morals, ethics, loyalty, sportsmanship…the list goes on.
Believe it or not, reality TV has social value!