This has been another rough week for Reality TV, as a private tragedy has turned into a water cooler/shock jock/all-media gabfest mostly centered around finger-pointing.
The suicide of Russell Armstrong, a member of the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, has been made to seem like some sort of wake-up call for the genre. Did the pressures associated with being part of the show cost a man his life, or was it the combination of lawsuits and impending divorce proceedings that drove him over the edge? It’s “The Day that Should Change Reality TV,” according to one guy who’s also the managing editor of a website whose current big stories include such incisive content as “Celebrities Who Look Eerily Similar.”
First of all, this is a tragedy. A man is dead. A child is now left without her father. I was thinking this when some jokester/ghoul talk radio personality asked me this week if I thought that the show would have used the footage of the body being found.
If you’re curious about the answer to the question, it’s no. I also believe that if you said you thought for a moment that the answer would be yes, you’re lying.
If you look back over the history of movies and television, there are hundreds of actors that have killed themselves… more than a few likely tied in the media to the pressures of fame compounded by an inability to cope with it. This particular headline isn’t about reality television specifically, it’s about mental illness and depression being exacerbated by a situation that the participant elected to be a part of. If you have heart trouble, don’t ride The Dragster at Cedar Point. If you get seasick, don’t go on a boat. If you’re going to be part of a reality series that’s part of a long-running franchise that’s had plenty of controversy, bickering and scandal… know that your experience will probably be similar.
Above all… know that Reality TV can’t make you into something you’re not. Fame is an amplifier, that’s all. If you go into it thinking you can self-produce yourself into the ideal version of you, stay away.