ahhh reality, wherefore art thou?

photo by nicolealevizos @flickr

How far we’ve come since that very first peek into a family’s “reality” (quote intended) with the Loud family and their An American Family. I do remember the series (which dates me, I know, but I was really young…. I am curious to watch it again, as well as to see the film about it, Cinema Verite.

I said “how far,” but if you could see me you’d see the sarcastic smirk a mile wide on my face, for I feel we’ve not come far at all, at least in the sense that traveling a distance usually implies some growth, some improvement.

First of all, we need to realize that there is very little reality in what we apply that adjective to (when did reality become an adjective, anyway?). It is impossible to live the same way we would without a camera if we have one filming us and we are aware of it. Duh. The same way blogging (or, in the pre digital age, writing in a journal or diary) when we know our words are (or could) be read is tainted by just that fact. We are natural actors, in fact our survival often depends on it as a sort of human camouflage or, the contrary, as a way of making ourselves stand out. We naturally like to control how we look in front of others.

Reality is what you do when you are alone and no one can see you and no one will ever know what you’ve done. Kind of. Rare event, I know. And complicated, for many do things when they are alone in preparation for others finding out… Reality of this sort is more often than not something we’d not wish to broadcast, for normal human reality is often not pretty, can be rather boring, and to decode it would require slipping into the minds of others which we really can’t do, not realistically anyway.

So now that I’ve established the fact that I believe there is precious little reality in this so-called “reality tv,” let’s also reiterate that I am no fan of it, or at least most of it. I’ve gone through stages when “real-life ER”-type shows made my dopamine swirl, and have been known to have a bit of a “Survivor” addiction, but nothing unhealthy, I swear. But when I see my middle bunny wasting her time watching Jersey Shore (not even worthy of a link…so there!) or any of the other shows of that ilk I cringe and usually curse their mere existence, let alone the fact that my child would spend their time watching them. Life is too short to watch ignorant people doing ignorant things.

Diane Lane, who plays Pat Loud in the film, said it very well: “…we are accountable for what we turn our eyes to.”

Perhaps American Family shared some of the voyeuristic falseness of these umpteenth gen reality shows, but it had some purity to it because at that point no one knew the impact it would have. Kind of like the first season of The Real World.

When eyes are on us, we are not real. One of my favorite singers, Alejandro Sanz, has a beautiful song, “Cuando Nadie Me Ve,” whose lyrics say (and I am translating from Spanish):

When no one can see me
I can be or not be
When no one can see me
I turn the world upside down
When no one can see me
I am not limited by my skin
When no one can see me
I can be or not be


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