Story and Ethics

One major difference between a character in traditionally scripted sitcoms and dramas and a character on a reality television show is that outside the confines of the tube, no one expects the sitcom/drama actor to be the same person they are onscreen.

With reality shows, participants have to live with the public’s opinion of them as individuals for a long while after their turns on tv.  It can affect their ability to function in relationships, find employment, or interact in daily life with the bank tellers, clerks, and cab crivers who recognize them.

Source material can be reworked in hundreds of ways to infuse meaning that may or may not be true to the situations originally recorded.  Guided interview content alone can completely change the meaning of a scene. 

For example, if little Judy gets up and dances on a table in New Orleans, is it because she’s a wacky funster or a lush who can’t control her public drunkenness?  Interview content alone can paint the picture, and it’s up to the ethical standards of story producers to make the call.

So viewers, remember to watch your favorite sensational shows with the same critical eye you’d watch your favorite dramas with.  And when you see your favorite reality stars on the street, don’t be surprised if they’re not the monsters or angels you think they are.

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