July 23, 2015
Rick McGinnis: Little reality in reality TV
Rick McGinnis writes:
An early favorite of mine was Black. White, a 2006 FX series produced by the rapper Ice Cube where two families, one black, one white, switched places thanks to wigs, makeup and wardrobe and lived on the other side of what was – and is, Obama notwithstanding – still perceived as America’s defining racial divide. The very liberal white family overenthusiastically throw themselves into evangelical Baptist masses and slam poetry events; the black family’s son finds himself comfortable with white friends using the “n-word.”
It was very provocative and – years before Rachel Dolezal – imagined how a white person might actually consider it exciting and even advantageous to pretend to be black despite the expectations of systemic racism. It was also a complete set-up – the white family were portrayed by actors and the situations were stage-directed.
While this sounds deceitful, it’s understood that all of reality TV works this way, with an army of underpaid producers orchestrating scenarios and writing dialogue while the talent, either hired or eager for their moment of fame, happily go along.