Monday, March 19, 2012

The Emotion Work of Reality Television

Television producers of reality shows are responsible for guaranteeing that over the course of filming there will be dramatic and emotional encounters to become the core of an on-screen story. Grindstaff says that the normal route of manipulated situations to create a more stressful interaction is problematic because there are limits as to what contestants would be willing to do and they always have the ability to quit during production. Instead, producers must create an emotional connection and build a relationship with each guest or contestant on their show.

 Grindstaff explains that, in general, most females and men in lower economic classes use ‘emotion work’ – meaning they use emotions to not only build relationships but also provoke desired reactions from their peers. These slight manipulations are often used to maintain normalcy, but can be used by producers to inspire more emotionally charged reactions from individuals on reality or talk shows.

Personally, I am unsure how necessary this tool of emotional manipulation is. I believe it is important for producers to build good relationships with the contestants so that everyone feels comfortable during the filming process, but I do believe that the situations themselves create high levels of stress and therefore heated reactions from the contestants. However, in a talk show or a confessional situation, it is important for the producers to know how to bring down emotional walls. By this point, the participants will have emotional guards in place about what is being discussed and producers have to build a trusting relationship to break through.

While I do believe these types of relationships are useful in creating dramatic reality television, I wonder how ethical they are. Contestants know to question the tasks they are assigned and their fellow competitors when they agree to appear on a reality how. However, most do not think to question the production staff of the show – the producers are supposed to be on their side. While I do feel somewhat uneasy about the imbalanced relationship if contestants are aware of their situation and lack of power, and producers do not overly abuse it these emotional connections help create good reality television.

-How do producers approach the participants of a reality-competition show differently than an average reality show?

-Is the main goal in creating a show always to create the most dramatic story or is there a benefit to creating a simpler and more realistic plot line?

-How much do contestants personalities versus talent influence their ability to join or remain on a reality-competition show?

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