Fantasy and Reality on TV : LUSENET : Aeon Flux : One Thread

Here I am, half-assedly watching "Big Brother" (partly as background noise while I draw. It's a habit of mine.) and it occurs to me that television, currently riding the reality-based programming bandwagon, is starting to be converted from a quasi-filmic medium to something more like a nationwide surveillance system. No, I'm not really paranoid or anything like that. It's just a funny thought that occured to me suddenly. The fact that the internet is involved only serves to make it more of a voyeuristic experience. I suspect that in a few years, or less (unless the networds find a new wave to ride), there will be a plethora of reality-based programs, with internet chatroom/messageboard commentary (which the current shows already have), all centered on, oddly enough, everyday life, or something like it at least. Here we are, viewing close-up every little personality conflict, etc. of these people, viewing everyday reactions that we can see anywhere, anytime. As I watch, they've recieved a dog to take care of - another example of what I'm talking about. Taking care of house pets: is this what TV is evolving into as a medium? And now they bring out the psychologist to provide commentary...

I think this is all rather sad. Beyond providing worldwide communication, shouldn't television be a source of things we can't normally see? Imaginary things that give us deeper insight into ourselves without just spitting out our own world back at us? I'm reminded of Trevor in "Utopia or Deuteronopia", holding the future of his nation in his hands. I fear the era of things like "Aeon Flux" and "Twin Peaks" on TV could be coming to an end. I hope I'm wrong.

And, as I write, I think of a sort of perverse metaphor: these days we push humanity to the limits through gameshows that force people to compete against each other for million dollar prizes, simulating life-or-death situations for a sort of voyeuristic pleasure that they can't even participate in themselves (In case you haven't figured it out, I'm talking about "Survivor"). I've long had a theory that daytime talkshows like "Maury" and "Jerry Springer" are modern-day coliseums, where we don't actually care about the real people involved in the stories presented, rather we watch their suffering with laughter and pleasure. We even hope for more disastrous and embarrasing situations, just so that we could get more pleasure out of it all at the cost of their suffering (I must admit my guilt - I've done this myself and felt conflicted about doing so). But now, it seems to me that, in a way, shows like "Survivor" are a way of continuing cruel human experimentation. Instead of dissecting and inhumanely testing the limits of the human body using undesirable groups, we make it morally acceptable by filling their shoes with people we can identify with and setting it in a gameshow atmosphere - while all the while, the emotions may be just as real. Not life or death, of course, but a simulation of it. We're still testing the limits of humanity, only the psychology of it now instead of the physical side of it.

I don't know. I'm looking back on this post and it seems like a bit of a stretch. It must be the mood I'm in. But I do think it's rather interesting. It's just a thought I had.

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 09, 2000


Good points about reality-based TV, Matt. I share a lot of your apprehensions, but haven't been able to articulate them as well as you. For me, the most disturbing reality shows are the "hip" ones, on MTV, in particular "Loveline" (where sex therapist/TV personalities berate masochistic callers), & "12 Angry Viewers" (where viewers are thrown off, should they become too angry, ie: vote the wrong way). Why reality TV? Well, fantasy requires a certain amount of thought. It's so much easier to just "point and shoot".

-- Paul (, August 10, 2000.

And, when there is fiction on TV, it tends not to be interesting, or some kind of reiteration of reality, which I think defeats the whole purpose. It's one thing to set a story in modern times in familiar situations, but I think a good show can do that only if it delves beyond that reality barrier to explore something much more deep and vauge than just everyday events. I don't like shows like "ER" and all of those courtroom dramas, because in a way they're the exact same thing as "Survivor" or "The Real World", only instead of finding real situations to dwell on, they create equally unimportant situations based on reality. So which is better, the thematically vanilla airing of "real life", or a bad recreation of it?

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 10, 2000.

I don't think TV fiction has to stray that far from reality to be interesting, look at "Law & Order". The problem is all the poorly-written, stereotypical fantasy shows out there, that pass themselves off as realistic. I shudder to think of how many young women look up to Ally Mcbeal...

-- Paul (, August 11, 2000.

While reading a review for Princess Mononoke (Which I plan to see. Soon.) I found one which said, more or less "Animation does not imitate reality, it creates a new reality which is similar to our own but different and fantastical enough that events can happen which would never work in live action." Interesting.

-- Frostbite (, August 12, 2000.

Yeah, agree with you totally. I really liked the show, Xena, but I'm sorry, her jumping around like that just doesn't work for me, yet when Aeon does it, it works well.

-- Barb e. (, August 12, 2000.

I agree, animation is a potentially more appropriate medium for unrealistic depictions in film. In a way, I think animation in some form or another is permeating the film world. Purely live-action films will probably always exist, but films with money backing them are incorporating realistic computer animation as the technology becomes cheaper, and in this way, animation is omnipresent. Yet, people don't think of these movies as "animated" typically.

Heh, Xena is more a comedy show for me. I watch it sometimes just to get a silly thrill out of her tonguey battle cries. Ever see the one where she was flying around in a forest, kicking her opponent in mid- air? That was a riot. :D

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 12, 2000.

Oh yes. I figure Lucy Lawless must get paid a pretty penny when I see scenes like that.

-- Barb e. (, August 13, 2000.

If you ever get a chance to see it, watch "I Claudius", this is a good example of tv done well. It was done a few years back for educ tv, but it was a series about the golden age of the Roman Empire. Really well done.

-- Barb e. (, August 13, 2000.

I do enjoy TV more than my post seems to let on, unfortunately it tends to be that diversionary pleasure more often than not.

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 13, 2000.

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