Almost Famous

In Harris’ quiet documentary, he discovered something that would change US television forever, America is obsessed with being famous, and obsessed with the personal lives of others. Harris essentially created the blueprint for reality TV. If only he got the network televisions on board and marketed his idea or made a competition out of it, he could have been a millionaire.

The Blueprint:

The Free Labor: One of his game-changing ideas was using free labor. Why pay actors and actresses millions of dollars when you can find willing people to not only do it for free, but give up all sense of their dignity. With one signature, each person gave up their information and their rights. The Jersey Shore, The American Idol auditions, any of the Housewives, the list goes on and on of people who signed to “lived in the house.”

The location: Another aspect of any good reality show is the location. In Quiet, Harris created a house with bunkers for his cast to live in. He needed a place that would keep the people confined and controllable, a place where he could cut people off from the world. The house/bunker became a vital part to influence the direction of the people. Shows that come to mind are Survivor’s beach, Real World’s house, and practically any dating reality show.

The Accommodations: One of the most important aspects is the set-up. It was a calculated move to design the beds next to each other, the endless amounts of alcohol and drugs, the dining room table, the open showers and toilets, and even the gun range. It is a subtle manipulation of the conveniently placed products that are designed to create chaos among the people living in the bunker. That seems to be the trick to making compelling TV. Every MTV and VH1 reality TV show uses this formula.

The Interview:  What completes all reality shows are the talking heads. That is the individual interviews that narrate the situations. In Quiet, there were elements of that as well as the interrogation room set-up. The clips were pretty disturbing, but were created by the above processes.

The psychology behind 15 minutes of fame:

Psychologist Pamela Ruthledge explains that part of the reason why people sign up for public humiliation is that they feel undervalued or powerless, and any sort of attention is a positive validation of being important. Relating this idea back to the Black Mirror, both Bing and Abby made the choice to become famous, even though they knew everything they had to give up. Another reason why people make the choice to be on TV is the perception of a better life, and the sacrifices they give up, don’t outweigh the benefits.


~ by digitalamericathebeautiful on February 16, 2012.

One Response to “Almost Famous”

  1. If only he got the network televisions on board and marketed his idea or made a competition out of it, he could have been a millionaire.

    Harris was already a millionaire. That’s how he bankrolled the project. I don’t think he was really after the money… He was trying to make a statement.

    I think here you may be overlooking the point of Harris’ experiment: anticipating not reality TV but FACEBOOK and the future depicted in Black Mirror.

    Though I appreciate your summary, I’m curious as to what you thought beyond recognizing the project’s DNA.

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