Sunday, 31/03/2024 09:31

When drama overshadows the essence of reality TV

By An Phương

Reality TV shows have long thrived on the emotional roller coaster of participants' personal stories, using their struggles and triumphs as fodder for captivating audiences. But it is worth it?

Recently, the tale of a beloved young unmarried couple, who have a child and live together, became the talk of the town on social media, all sparked by a clip devoid of context.

The viral snippet showcased the girlfriend tearfully baring her heart about their cohabitation, revealing her confusion and insecurities in the relationship.

It quickly amassed millions of views and spurred countless discussions across various social media platforms, especially on TikTok.

My friend Thảo Nhi, 28, shared with Việt Nam News her disappointment with the boyfriend following the unfolding drama.

"He should have known better!" Nhi exclaimed, highlighting the unfairness of the situation and commending the girlfriend's resilience.

Illustration by Trịnh Lập

I, too, found myself drawn into the spectacle, particularly given the boyfriend's checkered past.

However, upon realising that the video was merely a teaser for a new reality show about family and poignant mother-child relationships, I couldn't help but feel a tad misled.

After the clip stirred up a viral storm and saturated all media channels, the producers swiftly replaced it with "damage control" videos, yet failed to douse the flames they had ignited earlier.

"I completely lost sight of the show's original message," Nhi lamented.

"Why create such drama for the characters, only to attempt to patch it up with something lacklustre?" Nhi pondered.

Surely the programme producers were aware that the girlfriend had experienced a crisis and emotional instability after childbirth, as she openly shared in interviews.

Yet, the producers opted to skip over the characters' psychological backgrounds, diving directly into the most intense moments and grabbing headlines with: "The girlfriend dreams of a fairytale wedding, but the boyfriend remains silent".

From my perspective, reality TV saturation has made controversy and drama a go-to, cost-effective method to secure attention and ratings.

But if every show can garner attention with just this formula, why splurge on extravagant settings? All it seems to require is a simple backdrop, a few probing questions, and the characters will spill their life stories. Why bother with elaborate scripts when the everyday lives of the characters serve as a rich tapestry, waiting to be trimmed and dramatised for the programme?

My friend Anh Việt, 35, said that people's love for watching drama through reality TV is evident in the popularity and appeal of the formula.

Reality TV shows provide entertainment through conflict, drama, and unpredictable outcomes. And as a media consumer, he often looks forward to the presence of drama; otherwise, the show is considered lukewarm and lacks attention-grabbing appeal.

“I no longer watch reality TV shows for their content, except for music shows. Honestly, I've stopped expecting much from locally produced shows and now only follow them for their entertainment value, which isn't positive all the time,” Việt said.

I completely agree with Việt that the frequent exaggeration of dramas has changed viewers' expectations of how a reality TV show should be produced. In fact, I can't help but feel regretful that things don't need to be this way.

“With the rise of short-video platforms like TikTok and the potential for any content to go viral within seconds, it's clear that reality TV show producers, now more than ever, will utilise these platforms to ensure engagement for their productions,” Việt said.

It is crucial to mention that it has become relatively difficult to find the entire context of a video clip, considering how content is divided and often duplicated by other accounts on TikTok.

The new social media platforms allow users to quickly grasp the gist of almost every piece of content. However, this often removes their motivation to search for meaningful insights, as their entertainment needs are easily satisfied.

“Of course, reality TV shows wouldn’t be as entertaining without controversy. We can't expect producers to make everything 'clean' when deep down, we subconsciously crave drama,” Nhi said, which I totally agreed with.

That being said, the show's original message should never get lost in unnecessary drama, especially when producers attempt to exploit participants' wounds for views.

“I don’t think anyone would want to share about themselves when receiving an invitation to appear on the show, fearing they might become 'pawns' for the producers to gain views, with their loved ones potentially attacked in the process,” Nhi said.

She added that the meagre compensation would never be worth the emotional toll.

Besides, will anyone still focus on the programme’s main content? Or have those initially interested now shifted their focus to "finding faults", scrutinising to see if the girlfriend and the other characters are as happy and "perfect" as portrayed online?

What drama awaits to be "uncovered" next, if any, after all that has transpired?  VNS

Comments (0)

Related content