They cook, renovate, fall in love, sing, survive on tropical islands and even get married—all in front of a camera to entertain the millions of Aussies hooked on reality TV.
But in between cooking/renovating/falling in love etc. contestants cry, argue, snipe at each other, cry, complain, talk behind each others’ backs and cry.
It seems you either love reality TV or you hate it. For those in the latter category, the complaint is often, ‘Why don’t they just cook or paint and forget the histrionics?’
Really? You want to spend an hour watching someone rolling paint onto a ceiling or stirring a mushroom risotto? No, what we want to see are the contestants, people we come to know well over the weeks—sometimes months—of the series. We want to see the interaction between them, how they cope with stress, crumble under pressure and deal with difficult personalities—oh, and, of course, see what skills they develop along the way.
After watching several years of these shows, most of us realise the so-called ‘reality’ is manipulated by producers keen to create drama. Just the way contestants are edited can make them look vindictive, lazy or incompetent.
Mohammed ‘Mo’ El-leissy, a contestant on the first series of Amazing Race Australia (2011), recalled how this hung over his head while waiting for the series to air, months after filming had finished.
‘I’d wake up having panic attacks, sweating, because I was thinking, “Would they edit me wrong?” I’d remember something really stupid that I said and think, “If they put that in it’ll look really bad”,’ he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Not only that, contestants are put in situations designed to cause stress. This includes being physically and emotionally exhausted, separated from family and friends for several months and living in a ‘hothouse’ environment.
Simon and Shannon Vos fromThe Block Glasshouse in 2014
Brothers Simon and Shannon Vos, who won The Block Glasshouse in 2014, both lost 7 kg during the series. Simon told News.com.au that the show almost broke him, and at one stage he was admitted to hospital. ‘There was a stint there where we did 54 hours straight without sleep,’ he recalled.
For some people, however, exhaustion, isolation, conflict, arguments and tears are a bleak reality that has no end date of a ‘grand final’ cook-off or auction.
We may come across them—at work, mothers’ group, church, seniors’ club, school—these people who seem angry, tearful, complaining or negative. And it’s not entertaining. When people act like that around us, it can be uncomfortable, annoying, hurtful and frustrating.
But before we press the figurative ‘off’ button and turn away, it’s worth taking a minute to wonder what might be triggering such behaviour. All of us go through hard times and all of us, at some time or another, will feel dreadful. And when we do, a kind word or hug can make a huge difference.
‘Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them,’ (Luke chapter 6, verse 31). That’s a bit of a reality check, isn’t it?