This summer I was made aware of the existence of yet another garbage, summertime reality program. The show in question is called I Wanna Marry Harry – in which a handful of women are presented with a gentlemen who somewhat resembles Prince Harry and then compete to allegedly marry him.
Of course, the whole damn thing is fake, just like the overwhelming majority of reality shows. Where this show deviates from the norm is that it is outwardly fake, and is cashing in on the potential amusement of watching these broads clamor and fight for the chance to be a princess. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after only a few episodes, so I have yet to experience this atrocity first hand, but as soon as it makes it’s inevitable and auspicious Netflix debut, trust and believe that I will be there, with my popcorn, whiskey, and cynicism close at hand.
If I were Prince Harry, this would be my favorite show in the history of television. Heisenberg who? I’m going to watch these girls fight over my stunt double.
The most concerning issue is that one of two things has to be true for a show like this to exist, neither of which are particularly positive. Either these girls think that they are genuinely vying for the affections of a prince, or they are completely aware of the dickery at hand and choose to go along with it in hopes of achieving fame and/or fortune.
My money is on the latter.
Seriously, who the fuck thinks they can marry a prince on a reality game show? Nobody, but these girls will pretend they believe it all to get famous. Because if they are famous, they might actually get to marry a prince.
I choose to single out the contestants of I Wanna Marry Harry because it’s novel and amusing to me, but I could just as easily be talking about several dozen other shows (most notably Joe Millionaire).
Every show that pits a group of people against each other is a modern incantation of the Stanford Prison Experiment, where we adopt our roles and dutifully play them to obtain approval and validation. We will plot, scheme, and betray each other to win – maybe for the prizes, but we are also fighting to ‘win’ a longer run on the show.
The more interesting (read: shitty) our behavior, the more screen time we get. The longer we play the game and are featured on the show, the more likely we are to become famous. We feel entitled to fame, and the audience that accompanies it, so we have little issue stepping on the throats of others to claim what is rightfully ours.
American Idol, The Voice, or any other ‘talent’ show where people are willingly judged for the delight of the masses exist simply because we feel entitled to fame. We have been reassured that being ourselves is more than enough reason to be famous, so we conduct ourselves accordingly.
I’ve often thought that football or MMA fighting were our empire’s coliseum. But I was wrong – it’s awful reality game shows where people sacrifice every shred of their humanity to win and achieve the fame they know they deserve. We sit transfixed by our television sets, marveling at the spectacle presented to us. Some of us watch with disgust, shameful of the pleasure we get from these programs. Others watch with some combination of admiration and jealousy that people not unlike themselves are achieving notoriety just for being themselves.
Either way, it keeps us complacent, metaphorically quells our primal need for bloodshed, and reinforces the most callow aspects of our society. I’m not saying that the primary function of reality television is to keep the masses under control, but fostering a culture that encourages the (usually selfish) pursuit of fame and fortune over more productive (usually selfless) activities would be a pretty solid way to do so.