“Reality Television” creates escapism TV by exploiting stereotypes, creating “characters” and presenting them as real-life documentaries.
We've seen Little People; “A-List” gay men; millionaire matchmakers; Jersey housewives, Jerseylicious hair stylists, and hoodlums at the Jersey Shore parade their lives in front of TV cameras for our enjoyment. And then there is the Kardashian family reality-show franchise, Joan and Melissa, and Tory and Dean, all pretending to show their "real life" in front of TV cameras in exchange for money and fame.
Of course, none of these are accurate depictions of these people’s lives. They are semi-scripted, highly edited, “characters” attempting to entertain an audience bored by decades of sit-coms and Law & Order spin offs.
Let's face it, if cameras followed “real housewives” in their "real life," without blown out of proportion drama, no one would watch. Would anyone have cared about "Bethanny Getting Married" if she hadn’t squeezed into a wedding gown, 8 months pregnant, and been “caught” by the cameras peeing into a champagne bucket two minutes before she walked down the aisle at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City?
If you needed help, the answer is, “no.”
The reality is, all of these reality television shows are cast specifically to create characters—the mean girl, the gay best friend, the aggressive bitch, the humble rich guy, etc. etc. etc. and designed solely to entertain.
And, for every edit-room generated stereotype, there are those "real people" who take offense at the social, racial, or gender “types” represented on national TV. Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Gays and Lesbians, Housewives and socialites, all scream “stereotypical exploitation!” and believe the shows will reflect poorly on their people and culture, each time a new series premieres on MTV, LOGO, TLC or Bravo.
The latest example is the gaggle of characters and stereotypes from the Persian-American enclave of Beverly Hills. Bravo TV's "Shahs of Sunset" follows the lives of a small handful of the estimated 463,000 Persian Americans in the United States, just under half of whom live in California. And, of course, there’s a gay Persian (in photo above) who’s mother offers $500,000 to him if he marries a girl, as well a dearth of high-spending, champagne swilling spoiled little rich kids being caught cavorting through life (and Rodeo Drive) in front of the cameras.
The LA Times highlights one of the many characters on the show: “The 30-year-old self-proclaimed Persian princess, who doesn't shy away from confrontation or dropping expletives, explains her simple tastes. ‘There are two things I don't like. I don't like ants, and I don't like ugly people.’”
As expected (and probably baked into the promotional plan for the show) other Persians, fearing a backlash against the negative stereotypes being laid bare on cable TV, are up in arms.
As they should be.
Although, I don’t remember white guys protesting the bigoted, ignorant and stereotypical character of “Archie Bunker” in the 70’s. That was “escapism” TV, and so is "Shahs of Sunset."