Friday, March 9, 2012

Controlling Emotions is Helping Reality Television Control Air Time

First, a producer guarantees good reality television by selecting an "ordinary” person” who has an issue, is experiencing a problem, or is stuck in a crisis.  Their problem should be compelling, have conflicts or be likely to create conflicts, and maximize the probability of emotional expressiveness.  The second step is for the producer to participate in emotional labor.  Emotional labor is where the producer influences and controls the feelings and emotions of the “ordinary” person, convincing that person that social guidelines tell them they should be emotionally responding in a certain way to their situation.  They do this for multiple reasons.  First, in a conflict with a high probability of intense emotion and the stressful schedule of reality television, emotional labor must be used to keep the “ordinary” person dedicated to continued participation.  They must secure the cooperation of the “ordinary person.”  Second, the producer must alter their emotions in a way that is favorable to creating drama, which leads to good television.  Grindstaff uses a pornography shoot as a metaphor for this transaction.  The producer “fluffs” the “ordinary” person, in order for them to “show wood” to the audience, and then after delivers a “money shot,” which could be “soft-core” or “hard-core”.  In this metaphor, “fluffing” is where the producer plays with the emotions of the “ordinary” person,” leading them to develop certain emotions that are desirable to the producer and make them easily visible, “showing wood,” and the money shot is where the “ordinary person” takes action based upon these emotions that the producer instilled in them.  This action, if the producer instilled the correct emotion, will guarantee drama and a good reality TV episode.
My take on this is that is incredibly manipulative.  This causes individuals who don’t have experience with the television industry on air, with millions of people watching, to act in ways that they never would if the producer, or an expert at emotional labor, wasn’t manipulating and amplifying their emotions.  However, due to the cheap production, great success of emotional labor, and the incredibly popularity of reality television it will remain a very popular form of television for years to come.

Three Questions
1) Does being the producer for "reality" shows require lots of the same skills as producing television for "scripted" shows (such as emotional labor)?
2) Have participants on reality shows ever complained to you or someone for your company about how they felt misrepresented by the final product, with the editing and presentation of the final show?
3) Reality television seems to spread across a ton of topics and genres, from love shows, to game shows, to extreme stuff.  What do you suspect the future of reality television to look like and why?

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