Reality TV is terribly flawed. Whether it’s the manufactured plot lines, the scripted dialog, or the lack of overall merit, reality TV is a form of cheap entertainment that continues to make big money.
I would be lying if I said I never watched reality TV. I get bored sometimes, and the antics of some of the individuals on these shows are laughable, even if they are completely fake.
One form of reality TV that I thoroughly enjoy are those that are in a competition format. These are the American Idol and Survivor type shows. For a while I thought, “Wow, networks have finally delivered reality TV with some truth and merit.” I was wrong. While these type of programs are generally less scripted, they are still, for lack of a better word, rigged. Sob stories are to thank for this issue.
The dreaded sob story. We all know when they are coming. Sad music might begin, the contestant in question gets silent when they are asked what inspires them or something along those lines, and then suddenly the tears begin to fall as the person in question delves into a story about how life has smacked them in the face. I’m sick of sob stories. I think this clip just about sums up how I feel about them.
Maybe that clip made you laugh, maybe it didn’t. Maybe I sound like an insensitive jerk, but I’ll plead my case.
In recent years, I’ve noticed a pattern. Reality TV judges tend to pick winners who either have the best journey or the best sob story over actual talent or skill. If these contestants don’t win the show, they usually still get pretty far because of how “moving” or “inspiring” they are. This method would work if the show was called America’s Best Sob Story and not America’s Got Talent. In some cases the person with the most talent and best sob story are successful, but I think that’s pretty rare. In most cases the person who wins is about 75% sob story and 25% unbelievable talent.
On Season 14 of Project Runway, Ashley Nell Tipton had struggled with self-image issues and bullying for her entire life. A talented designer, she was one of four contestants to make it to New York Fashion Week. Tipton was inspired by her own background, so she designed a plus size collection. I appreciated her ambition; the fashion world simply does not cater to the plus size demographic and it’s unfair. However, from a fashion stand point alone, not a social one, her collection was relatively pedestrian and borderline cheesy. I mean she glued details on to some of the dresses she made. That isn’t high fashion by any stretch of the imagination. The judges loved her collection, and she went on to win the show. Their decision was, as usual, inconsistent with public opinion. There is no doubt in my mind that Project Runway wanted to appear socially conscious, so they picked Tipton over three better executed final collections. Tipton was a great designer, but not good enough to win it all. In this case, the journey and emotions had won instead of actual skill.
In the 2015 season of MasterChef, much of the same happened. Derrick was a front runner for the entire season. He was a young guy who cooked for recreation and wanted to go somewhere with it. Claudia also loved to cook, but she came in hot with the sob story. She was a single mom who needed to win the $250,000 to support herself and daughter. When the finale rolled around, Derrick was clearly the better cook. Of course, I could only see the food, but the way the judges responded to each contestant’s dishes proved to me that they favored Derrick. Derek was experimental, Claudia played it safe. Of course Claudia mentioned just how much she needed to win frequently, and the judges fell for it. I was utterly shocked when they crowned her as MasterChef. I’m thinking the producers didn’t want to seem like jerks for not letting a single mom win. ( I am in no way discrediting single moms either, it is just that MasterChef is a cooking competition) Again, Claudia was a great cook, but her sob story gave her way too much leverage.
NBC has a new show out called World of Dance. There was one contestant who delivered a great performance. When the judges asked him what the inspiration behind his dance was, he referenced his parents’ divorce and then proceeded to burst into tears. I think the guy would have gone through regardless of his story, but it most definitely inflated his scores, and made the judges go soft.
My parents are divorced, and divorce definitely takes a toll on families, but one things for sure: my parents’ divorce won’t increase my chances of getting into a college. Why should it then, increase someone’s chances of winning a competition?
Which brings me to my next point. A sob story is not worth a million dollars or some other multitude of money. Heck, if it was, we’d all be a million dollars richer. We’ve all have some sort of sob story because life is not kind to anyone. Let’s be real. I’m not discrediting some of the life experiences that people have gone through. I get it-life is hard. However, we do not all have million dollar talent, and that is what these shows are supposed to be measuring.
The use of sob stories is pretty manipulative to be honest. If an act, designer, or cook can’t fully intrigue judges with their skills, they whip out all of the tears and dramatics.
If I didn’t already scare you away with my cynicism, here is some more. I’m not sure how credible some of these stories are in the first place.
In case you’ve never seen this Spongebob episode, it is later revealed that the guy with the “glass bones” is a total scam. In a world of deception across the board, who can we really trust? I’m sure most people wouldn’t lie about their circumstances, because some are truly horrible and tear-inducing, but I’m also sure quite a few would. It’s all food for thought I guess.
It just drives me crazy that anyone should get farther in life due to anything that isn’t based off of merit or hard work. But now that I think of it, that’s all reality TV is isn’t it? It definitely required a lot of blood sweat and tears for the Kardashians to get where they are right? Definitely.
Couturely Sound ❤