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[Op-Ed] Reality TV Shows

Posted June. 03, 2009 07:37,   


Actor Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank in the movie “The Truman Show,” an office worker who is unaware that his life is broadcast live around the clock as a reality show. Viewers around the world watch his every move from birth to adulthood. Burbank is the only one unaware that he lives in a constructed reality film. The movie ends when he escapes the artificial world full of cameras and asks the important question “Can a show be made out of a person’s life?”

The NBC reality TV show “The Apprentice,” which has aired since 2004, has host and real estate billionaire Donald Trump saying, “You’re fired!” to underperforming contestants without hesitation. The winner among the 16 competitors is offered a job with the Trump Organization for 250,000 U.S. dollars a year. Other popular U.S. reality shows include “The Bachelor” and “Temptation Island,” which unabashedly exploit matchmaking practices. Contestants on both shows do everything they can to seduce their targets.

Korean entertainment producers never miss the opportunity to replicate the U.S. reality TV show format that is so loved by viewers. Unfortunately, many “reality” shows such as “Family Outing” and “A Night and Two Days” have many scenes apparently orchestrated beforehand. Korean reality shows that are true to the sense of the term are usually aired on cable. Programs such as “Seo In-young’s KAIST” and “Raising My Boyfriend as a Pet” were a huge success. “Project Runway Korea,” the domestic version of the U.S. hit reality show, received a viewer rating in the two percent range, relatively high for a cable TV show.

Susan Boyle, the 48-year-old single woman who jumped to stardom after appearing on the reality show “Britain’s Got Talent,” has been hospitalized after an emotional breakdown from her loss in the final round. Reality show employs a strategy of “winner takes all” whether the reward is money, love or popularity. It is difficult for an ordinary contestant to reach the final of such a fierce competition in the presence of cameras that show every detail of their challenge. It is worth considering whether viewers should continue to watch reality TV shows, which excessively expose the lives of their contestants and cause emotional agony all in the name of entertainment.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)