It’s time to change the channel on vilification television.
The controversy surrounding Channel 10’s The Shire highlights this disturbing trend.
Apparently we want to watch people who are fatter, nastier, or sillier than ourselves to feel good.
Whether it’s the paunch porn of The Biggest Loser, the curdled callousness of My Kitchen Rules, or the sheer humiliation of Funniest Home Videos, we lap it up.
What does this say about us as a society?
Do we yearn to see others fail?
Is our collective self-esteem that low?
Some call it Schadenfreude. I call it vicarious vilification.
A leaked clip of The Shire features a young woman saying, “I want to be a porn star” and a man declaring, “I like false boobs”.
Channel 10 News and The Project promoted it as the Australian version of Jersey Shore in the US and The Only Way is Essex in the UK.
These shows could be classified as ‘pov porn’, starring disenfranchised youth with a poverty of ambition, common sense, and ideals – aside from applying fake tan, working out in the gym, and getting stonkered.
Harsh, I know.
But the TV networks are exploiting these vulnerable people with the promise of the bright lights of fame.
Instead they’re thrust under the laboratory lights and dissected like rodents.
Then the TV networks lie about it.
When Network Ten announced the commissioning of The Shire, Chief Programming Officer David Mott said it would follow the “often outrageous lives and loves” of those in a “unique sub-culture”.
“The genre has been a hit in the US (Jersey Shore) and the UK (The Only Way is Essex), changing the way people view television, and we intend to do the same,” he said.
Now, he’s changed his tune.
Think the theme song from Home and Away.
In response to criticism from the Mayor of Sutherland Shire, Mr. Mott said it was “incorrect to assume The Shire would be a clone of Jersey Shore”.
The reprised version is the tale of a young woman with stars in her eyes who returns home after breaking up with her boyfriend in Los Angeles.
Despite the new pitch from Ten, Mayor Carol Provan stands by her comments that the show looks “horrific. I’ve told them that if that is what the show will be about then I will do everything in my power to ensure they do not get over that bridge.”
“They’re going around to different people saying ‘do you want to be on the show?’ It’s about sex and all this sort of thing in the Shire’, well why wouldn’t we try and stop it?” she told Sydney radio.
One can only imagine the lies told to locals.
After all, manipulation is the beating heart of this bastard child of drama and reality television.
These shows put very real people into unreal situations.
Then they cut the footage to create heroes and villians.
As the audience we sit back in judgement, like Emperors at the Colosseum.
Sure, they get fame. But certainly not fortune.
The stars of The Only Way is Essex weren’t getting a shilling until they complained about it.
Now they’re earning a whopping 50 Pounds a day – a little more than the National Minimum Wage.
Frankly, I feel sorry for them.
The entertainment industry eats them up then spits them out.
But we’re to blame too, for consuming this junk food for the soul.
My advice is, change the channel.
You’ll certainly feel a lot better about yourself, and the state of our society.
TEN’S new “dramality” show The Shire might be one of the most talked-about upcoming series of the year, but Network Ten may not be able to get it to air with the Mayor of Sutherland Shire vowing to take “any means possible”, including “putting a boomgate across the Tom Ugly bridge” to stop the production crew getting in to her back yard.
On March 19 the council reportedly put forward a motion at a council meeting saying they did “not approve the filming of The Shire and [would] not co-operate in any way with the production”.
“It’s taken us a long time to heal from the Sylvania Waters reality show and then of course we had that drama (the Cronulla riots) five years ago, we’re only just getting over all that and we just don’t need this type of publicity. Our legal people are now trying to find ways to stop them.”