Media Musings & Meditations

Observations and discussion about technology, culture and spirituality. As new technology developments and trends envelope the Internet and our "wired" culture we all need time to reflect and process the implications on our society, our relationships and our spiritual practices.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reality TV Religion

What makes reality TV more “real” than standard Hollywood-produced shows? One element is religion. For decades, Hollywood has followed that old adage about not discussing religion and politics that in polite company. So the majority of TV shows (and movies for that matter) don’t show or talk about religion to any degree. On those rare occasions when there is a religious character, as media critic Michael Medved has pointed out, he or she is usually portrayed as a psycho, a prude or a hypocrite. So despite polls reported in national magazines that show a majority of Americans believe in God, the Hollywood media pretends that hardly anyone does.

I’m not for a moment saying that reality TV shows are religious or even all that wholesome. But what I am saying is that when we see real people reacting to situations and circumstances one of the factors that helps them cope and overcome is their religious faith. For those people who have a religious faith, that belief affects their behavior and decisions (just like it does for most Americans).

Let me just run down some of the examples of religion in reality TV: on last year’s Survivor one of the tribes had a morning “devotional/prayer” time together as a group, on various seasons of Big Brother we’ve seen house guests reading the Bible, praying or talking about their faith, various couples on the Amazing Race have discussed their faith and prayed about their circumstances. This year’s Apprentice has two Jewish people who observed the Jewish holidays during the show. Kayser on last year’s Big Brother practiced his Moslem faith. And this year’s American Idol featured Mandisa who, referencing Jesus, publicly forgave Simon for criticizing her weight.

As we watch these religiously oriented people in reality shows encounter the same challenges and situations that the non-religious people do, we see that their faith affects their thinking and decision-making. Generally the religious people want to be fair and kind, they don’t like being deceptive, they try not to dwell on the negative and they are usually optimistic about the future, they are more ready to forgive and encourage and even losing does not seem to defeat them. Reality TV doesn’t teach us that religious people always win, but it does deliver a message that people who take religion seriously tend to be good people, are nice to be around, are more likely to help and encourage you and they remind us that winning isn’t everything. Evidently, this is a message Hollywood does not want delivered. But that is one of the reasons I find many reality TV shows interesting, fresh and REAL.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Julie said...

Yes, and I think my bias will be showing when I say most of the time, I root for the person on the show that openly displays their faith. Except for this year's Amazing Race--I'm rooting for those adorable hippies (mostly because they are just so blatantly ENJOYING themselves and SO aware/appreciative of their surroundings wherever they go). I don't know if the hippies are religious at all--if they are, I haven't seen it.

Which makes me think. Ya know, I don't really come across many people who are so outwardly joyful about life anymore. I mean these hippies are just so OPENLY kind/happy/funny/fun/smart that you just want to be their friend! You know, bubbly yet thoughtful, funny yet appreciative, smart yet humble. I've said it before--they just have a clear "joie de vive." Where are all the people like that these days? I'm not meeting many of them.

Oops. Sorry to get off on a tangent about the hippies there...!

10:23 AM  
Blogger Lissa said...

I added your blog as a link to my blog, if you don't want it there, just let me know and I'll take it off. :) -Melissa-

12:26 PM  
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