Reality television: a loaded phrase if ever there was one. To some, it connotes trash. People who are pathetic, immoral, and disgusting. To others, it says irresistible entertainment: passion, hilarity, love, and obsession.
Whatever your feelings about it, there’s no doubt that somewhere, somehow, you have come in contact with some form of reality TV. The very first reality television program premiered on MTV in 1992—The Real World. That one show spawned an entire industry, and created a new kind of celebrity—what author Andy Binder calls “The Z-list Celebrity”. In Andy’s world, reality television and the Z-list celebrity are neither trash nor passion, but a way of life.
Reality shows, despite their claims of unplanned spontaneity, are carefully crafted vehicles populated by various familiar “types.” There’s the cocky attention-getting male who has appeared on countless reality shows. The sweet country girl with a boyfriend of five years back home. The wild drunk girl who tries to bring home a different guy every night. The virgin who has never seen someone naked in person. And the list goes on. These characters represent the full spectrum of American society, and they all play their parts with conviction and relish.
But what happens when the cameras stop rolling? Do the reality stars keep making money? Do they have huge egos? What do they do when they aren’t filming a show? What are the real lives of these reality stars like? Does it mirror in any way what we see on TV? Harsh Reality looks at the hidden world of reality TV fame, a world Andy Binder witnessed first-hand.