"Is there an easier position to take in polite society than to patronize reality TV?" asks Michael Hirschorn of VH1 in The Case for Reality TV for this month's The Atlantic. According to him reality shows "have the visceral impact of documentary reportage without the self-importance and...where documentaries must construct their narratives from found matter, reality TV can place real people in artificial surroundings designed for maximum emotional impact."
This is something that has been done on reality shows from their inception. Cast members of the Real World are not allowed to have cell phones and watch TV. Big Brother made this phenomenon its entire plot driver. And girls in The Bachelor are kept cloistered to raise their emotional attachment to the title character. But things become more interesting when the line between reality and real life and the celebrity culture all blur. Which is why my favorite reality show is the Laguna Beach spin-off The Hills. In some ways the main characters are real...they have jobs, relationships, and go to actual places in New York and LA. But nothing about them can be definitively construed as authentic.
This became apparent when an article about Spencer Pratt and Brody Jenner was printed in Details Magazine, titled "Master of his own celebrity: Brody Jenner knows just who to screw to sit pretty on the B-list." It's really a fascinating read and extremely revealing about the nature of celebrity in our society. Bascially Pratt and Jenner are two young, rich, and attractive man-children who are also just savvy enough to realize that its no longer what you do, its who you are next to that makes you famous. Pratt says matter-of-factly in the article “Basically, I made it, like, my mission to try to go on a date with every girl on The Hills.” And it's working, Jenner and Pratt have an entourage and financial backers willing to keep them living the high life for no other reason that they have hooked up with other psuedo-celebrities whose only real talent is partying (Jenner has been linked with Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, Kristin Cavallari, and Lauren Conrad).
So with that said, I think I should provide a service to all readers, The Face Journal-Picayune's Guide to Becoming Young Rich and Famous:
1) Be young, good-looking, have money and live in NY or LA
2) Be able to sip Grey Goose and smile while talking to obscenely hot girls
3) Have someone buy you a fleet of Benzs, Bentleys, and Beemers
Follow those three steps and before you know it you'll be in Us Magazine.
The best thing about getting famous from reality television is that you can simultaneously embrace and eschew your celebrity somehow without biting the hand that feeds you. The uber-cop out for reality stars is that "they dont show you everything that happened." Which misses the point. Character may be what you do when no one is looking. But it's the big moments - like a first date or a job interview, or LC calling out her friends (“He's a sucky person!”) that make up your life, and how you react to them is who you really are.