One of the scandals to hit the media last week was the revelation that the show House Hunters International is just another example of faked “reality.”
Many people were surprised to find out that a reality TV show was actually not all that real. I have to admit, I was also surprised. Even though I’m usually very skeptical (and critical) of reality TV, I didn’t consider House Hunters International as being in the same genre as the likes of The Real Mobwives of the Jersey Shore, or whatever they call those glimpses into other people’s hell. I (perhaps naively) thought that House Hunters and its International spinoff were more like light documentaries, with a touch of public service information. Apparently, I was wrong. But as it turns out, that’s not the really surprising part.
What surprised me most is the number of people who responded by saying, What does it matter? Who cares if it’s not real? It’s still entertaining. That’s true – it is still entertaining – and for me, it’s not like I’m actually going to buy a house in Tuscany any time soon (though I do mentally tuck the information away for later). One travel writer and photographer, who was actually on the show, responded the same way. Check out his perspective at this link:
But don’t people care that they’re being lied to? This was my beef with The DaVinci Code. I don’t have a problem with fiction, unless it’s presented as fact. And when fiction is presented as fact, then that’s false advertising, and I’m being lied to.
Recently, I wrote about some thoughts that came from bringing children to Italy. (See my blog entry, “It Wasn’t Built in a Day.”) My point was that the state of the art of virtual reality (entertaining though it is) might be ruining our children’s ability to appreciate REAL reality. Now here we are confusing reality with something the TV producers prefer to call, “scripted reality.”
I can’t help but think of Pontius Pilate’s relativist question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) and Jesus’ statement, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Is it too much to suggest that these TV producers are more like Pilate than like Jesus?
Clearly, the line between reality and fiction has become blurred. And the worst part is, people don’t seem to be offended, let alone care. C’mon people! Demand to be treated better than this. Demand to be told the truth. There’s nothing wrong with fiction, of course, but don’t tolerate being lied to, and told that fiction is the truth!
Now, I realize that there is a school of thought which says that there is no such thing as raw information. That in fact everything we might call fact is actually just the perspective of whoever is telling the story. It is true that all history contains at least one layer of interpretation (see my book, Reading the Early Church Fathers, for more on that). But I don’t accept the approach that takes this concept to an extreme, as though we can’t know anything to be true for sure. Some things are still true, and some things are false. And some things that are false are passed off as true. And when the ones telling the story know that their audience will get a distorted picture of the way things are, then that’s a deception. So are you one of those people who say it doesn’t matter as long as you’re entertained? Or would you rather not be deceived?