chapter  10
20 Pages

TELEVISING/REALITY

Reality television (TV) tended to turn its characters' vices into virtues, so that people who displayed ignorance, dishonesty, or some kind of depravity became praiseworthy. Interactive television, instant text-messaging and the internet made it possible for consumers to decide on whom they wanted and whom they did not want to remain on the show. A combination of relatively low production values and high viewing figures alerted the television networks to the possibilities of democratizing fame. Two shows, An American Family and The Family carried the virus for contemporary reality TV. Twenty-four subjects were randomly split into two groups, "prisoners" and "guards" and instructed to act out role appropriate behavior in a specially constructed prison at Stanford University. Those playing guards were given suitable uniforms and accessories, while the prisoners were assigned numbers and made to wear muslin smocks. One layer holds more fascination than the other.