Sunday, March 7, 2010

Act Natural, The Cameras Are On

It occurred to me while watching commercials intended to convince me to watch the reality shows on the various networks (they were unsuccessful) that during filming of these mostly unimaginative bits of natural fertilizer, there must be someone standing just off camera saying, "OK, we're going to turn the camera on, act natural." How many of us could fulfill this ridiculous and impossible request if it were asked of us? 

And yet there seems to be a growing number these days who spend their time seeking public attention in one way or the other and finding new and increasingly pathetic ways to place themselves in front of a recording device for later public consumption, in a rather sad form of a game that I like to call: 'Look at me!' We see it in the characters and caricatures that have taken over our television screens on 'reality shows', in contestants attempting to become a star on 'American Idol' or its knock-off counterparts, and in those simply seeking their 15 seconds of fame by leaning into a camera shot while a news crew films a tragedy unfolding. 

And when we are not hypnotized by the antics of these desperate cries for attention by those filming 'human pet tricks' on You Tube, we are dealing with with one of today's media darlings similarly attempting to mesmerize us by convincing us to form the audience of a radio and/or TV show, sign up for a newsletter, and pay them for 'insider' access to their every move; while simultaneously encouraging us to buy books, movie tickets, and T-shirts. Those still attempting to lead a normal life (not that I understand anything about the concept of a normal life you understand) in the wake of such non-stop media exploitation are far too often asked to attempt to do so while the cameras are running. 

Even if you decide that the 'Look at me' game is one that you are not interested in playing, it is likely that you will find yourself unwillingly and unexpectedly caught up in some other player's effort. It often seems these days as if we have no knowledge or control of when these cameras are running, what part of that which we used to consider 'personal and private' they are recording, and who will eventually be watching it with embarrassment or amusement. 

The only thing that we can appear to be sure of is that sooner or later some act that we least wanted to is likely to become publicly displayed. So what's to do in response? Should we succumb to the paranoia fostered by this ever-growing invasion of privacy and hide in our homes? (yeah, as if they were safe) Should we spend our days physically and emotionally paralyzed as we second guess each and every move for fear that someone will be playing back a copy of the poor choices that we have made? Should we simply give in to the 'Ed TV', 'Truman Show' mentality and spend the rest of our lives in a rather stilted performance of a script that no one ever bothered to give us? 

I certainly have no answers. I do know however that these are questions that we had better begin to ask ourselves. The lines between reality and entertainment have now blurred to a point that they are all but unrecognizable (a sad commentary on the lack of originality in the media, but we've covered that ground before); and whether we like it or not, we are asked (or soon will be) to act natural because the cameras are on.


Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...


I have a problem "acting natural" on cue too.

I just hate it when someone whips out a camera and says "Smile," or proceeds to count one two three...

I take that as my cue to freeze with absolutely nothing resembling a smile on my face.

Brian said...

True enough. It seems as if those reality shows are 'softening' the American public up to the idea of even greater privacy invasion. So all I guess all can do is to 'act naturally.'

Wasn't that Ringo Starr that sag that with the Beatles?

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

I meant sang, not sag...:-)

Tim Higgins said...

The reality shows are certainly a part of it, but so is You Tube and every computer with a web cam. One of the games being marketed for last Christmas involved putting yourself in the scenes of classic movies.

We have become caught up in a culture that celebrates those who best play the "look at me" game, and even those of us blogging ride a fine line on such behavior. Shall we muddle through in obscurity with the thoughts we would like to share never heard or attempt to join the game.

Both answers carry a price.