My wife and I just finished the reality series “Tiger King” during the COVID-19 quarantine this week. Not only did I find myself rushing back to the TV after each snack break, but the layers of shocking sociopaths were as entertaining as they were intoxicatingly exciting.
I remember when reality TV first hit the market. Jersey Shores was hot and early on I admit that portions did look and feel real. Although innovative, well casted, scripted, and with a lot of improvisation, it was the crazy stunts and emotions on screen that produced the buzz and high viewer ratings. Even when the material wore thin late in the series, you had to watch the next series. An odd mixture of humiliation, drama, and desperate energy was a form of entertainment never before seen. But it was the ecosystem and personalities that we would not normally see or relate to combined with the voyeuristic safety that kept us tuning in. Then there was the ‘shock’ value and ability to expose themselves episode after episode while gaining more adoring fans than before.
Maybe Rome started it all with Gladiators in the Colosseum, but we perfected the precious commodity of ‘Crazy’ on our stage. Even in advertising, the number commercials that either shock us or use a crazy spokesperson increase in the market each year. And we lap it up because they really do leave an impression or better a memorable experience if they tap into our emotions. We like these things, hence terms like ‘adrenaline junky’, ‘sex addict’, ‘funny as hell’ or ‘hopeless romantic’.
If aliens came to earth tomorrow, I can guarantee they would shake their heads in disbelief if they saw a bunch of humans on a rollercoaster ride. A bit reckless, definitely a thrill, but is it a good emotional stimulus? Good or bad we all seek a higher level of stimulus, it just seems like society today is making it a top priority.
Maybe ‘Crazy’ is simply a genre in the entertainment world that leaves a newer, different stimulus for the audience. Mix in fun, love, fear, depression and a little mania and ‘ta da’ it’s Seinfeld on steroids and crack. Have to admit, what Joe Exotic and the rest of the characters did by just being themselves was very entertaining. And inspired me write a blog, didn’t it.
The other factor that I did not mention is that this new stage now provides a place for monetary gain as well as fame. Where power comes in is the fact that if you get enough eyeballs on that channel and time slot, money becomes an effortless side-affect for everyone involved.
Just a little nervous on what the next series will be. Admittedly, getting older and experiencing my first grandchild just a few weeks ago are factors. Somewhere between the harmless exposure of these people’s crazy lives and wondering was it nature vs. nurture that caused them to get like this, is where I am. And like the virus we are now dealing with, just seeing some of these things may expose some of us to the risk of replication….
Or worse, acceptance.