Curating Reality: How Reality TV Works

It is hardly a secret that reality TV has captured the attention of audiences across the world. “By definition, reality TV is essentially unscripted programming that doesn’t employ actors and focuses on footage of real life events or situations.” Consequently, such footage becomes more a product of the producers and editors than the work of the individuals on cast.

Today, the shows that fall under the category of reality TV are actually edited exhibits of particular concepts that was originally (in most cases) created by the producer of the show. According to an article online, “the first season of MTV’s ‘The Real World’ was shot over three month period, ostensibly 24 hours a day—this would add up to about 2,610 hours of footage. But only 13 half-hour episodes aired.” In other words, the recordings that are being revealed to the public are highly controlled and serve a purpose relative to the vision of the producer.

Thus, what is exposed to audiences as “reality” is actually a collection of scenes that have been carefully selected by the people working behind the curtains. It is not uncommon for footage that has been captured days apart to appear as one scene or situation. From the placement of cameras to the cutting and pasting of the most “relevant” situations, the ultimate creation becomes a curated reality as seen fit by the creator.

For my final paper I am going to explore this concept of “curating reality” in extensive detail. My surface-level observation in considering shows such as “The Jersey Shore,” “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” and “The Real World” suggest that the producers of these programs use a process of curation to determine a version of reality. However, seeing as reality is ultimately a subjective concept these  “versions of reality” can be detrimental to an individual’s self-developed understanding of the world around them and the position they hold within it.


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