When we look back in history at the beginning of the downfall of the United States of America, we will see that it all began with the writers’ strike in Hollywood.
Go ahead and scoff at that statement, but hear me out.
After the writer’s strike of 1988, TV producers began looking at alternatives for producing programing if and when the next strike came along. That alternative came in the form of Survivor and reality TV was born. Now all producers had to do was pull together a group of narcissistic fame seekers and put them on an island, in a house, or in a dating competition, add some contrived drama and BAM! —the viewing public lined up in droves to watch. Who needed a plot when you could watch someone get naked on an island and try to spear fish, or each other? Who needed to cast strong noble characters when you could ask for volunteers to compete in a singing competition and thousands lined up outside coliseums? Who needed a romantic setting when you could fly wooing couples around the world to exotic locations? Why pay for writers to actually write drama when you can put a bunch of housewives together and let the drama unfold? Writers became obsolete.
In 2001 when the next writers’ strike loomed, the Writers Guild had less leverage than in 1988. And the strike of 2007 pushed reality TV to the top of the charts. Our society ate it up. We longed to see the likes of Snooki or the Bachelor. We yearned to enter the world of ice-road truckers, crab fishermen, or doomsday preppers. Now TV is filled with self-absorbed characters looking to extend their fifteen minutes of fame and cash in through some flamboyant act of self-indulgence that attracts the public attention like a two-headed calf, or the Kardashians.
Reality TV was the beginning of the end of the world.
Since writers could not make a living producing actual stories with plot and characters, they began working in reality TV. Producers, directors, and writers all worked together to make “reality” TV more emotional, drama-laden, and bizarre. They encouraged conflict since they didn’t have a plot to thicken. They encouraged brash behavior since they had no characters to develop. They manipulated the dialogue since they weren’t required to produce any. In other words, reality TV isn’t real, but it appears to be, and that has the viewing public conditioned to believe anything they see on TV. The lines between fact and fiction became so blurred that we actually thought two people could fall in love while millions watched.
Fast forward to the election cycle of 2016. What did we get? We got possibly the two worst candidates in US history. Why? Because the public longed for more reality TV and these two candidates provided more material than anything the viewing public had seen to date: clandestine (and illegal) email servers, claims of sexual misconduct, violence at rallies (intentionally promoted and fostered by the way), shouting matches, secret meetings on airplanes, third-grade name calling, secret deaths, political spies, moles, and hidden tax returns. As the campaign unfolded candidates stood on the moral high ground the size of an anthill and hurled disparaging tweets at each other. The viewing public stood on that same moral high ground and snapchatted about the need for a third candidate. It was a reality TV bonanza! Unfortunately, the results of this season’s voting has more serious consequences than a record deal.
Reality TV conditioned us to accept whatever we saw on TV as reality. We no longer have the ability to discern between fact and fiction. We no longer look for a moral deeper than who gets the most votes. We lost our ability to guess the culprit in a mystery, or unravel a tightly woven plot. We have been reduced to spoon-fed entertainment and spoon-fed information. We are no longer capable of eating the solid foods of individual thought or critical thinking. We just want to know what the Kardashians are wearing.
Yes, reality TV made us easy to manipulate and control. When the 2016 election cycle began, we got front-row seats to the biggest reality TV show of them all—the biggest losers—and we voted for them.