Another example of how these perspectives show the reality of reality television is the footage of a conversation that occurred within the girls bedroom on day eight, when Moon made a fake confession about being admitted into a mental institution after being sexually assaulted, This lie came about due to a statement that Sally made about the mentally disturbed. Moon’s comments were given to the responder through the perspective of the inmates.
After this confession the responder is given the perspective of the editing room in which Geraldine (the show’s producer) orders the production crew to save the footage so that it can be broadcasted later, out of sequence, when things from the house seemed dull, or when they want the public to be influenced toward Moon’s direction. The result of this was the audience being shown this event later on within the series, when public affection for Moon was dwindling.
These examples show how unethical the producers of reality television can be, and how reality is distorted in what is called “reality television”. Dead Famous also creates a social commentary on what society believes entertainment to be, and questions what entertainment really is. The questions raised by the composer deal with the amount of sex and sexual references within reality television, the morals of the viewing public and producers, as well as the extremities that reality television producers will go to, and still market their product as entertainment.
Throughout the text, a clear reoccurring theme is that of sex on television. Within the entire text, the responder sees that everything from the amount of alcohol presented to the housemates, to the colour scheme chosen and layout of the house, the climate of the house and the tasks selected for the housemates to perform have been based around the idea of sex, and encourage the housemates to partake in the act.
These include the “inmates” having their weekly house budget divided equally by the producers into both a “food” budget and an “alcohol” budget; therefore, the “inmates” receive a high quantity of alcohol in an attempt by the producers to intoxicate them. After an interview with the house psychologist, the responder was informed that the sheets within the house were all coloured navy blue, as this colour would stir sexual passion within the inmates.
Within the house, the housemates are given a shed within the yard called “copulation cabin” in which housemates may go to partake in the act of sex away from the other housemates, however not away from the eyes of “peeping tom” who has several cameras within the shed. During the event when two housemates went toward the “copulation cabin” after much drinking, a view of the editing room shows the crew becoming excited over these developments, and were hoping for Hamish to grope Kelly, as the first crew to record footage of a grope were promised a Magnum of vintage Dom Perignon.
This helps to show the responder the focus that the production team had on sex within the house, and how the production team pushed for the “inmates” to have sex. Through an interview with a lead editor, the responder had been shown that in order to keep the “inmates” in a half dressed state throughout the entire series, the central heating system was switched on. Geraldine declared that an ideal television temperature would be “twenty five degrees in the room, and minus five in the vicinity of the girls nipples”.
The greatest example of this is the “sweatbox” task, in which the “inmates” were provided alcohol and forced to be naked within a box that has been heated to high temperatures in an attempt at “group bonding” or risk failing the task and having a considerably smaller budget for food and alcohol for the next week. Within this box, the “inmates” (aided by alcohol), took part in sexual activities, which were broadcast on television. The text questions the extremities of reality television.
The melodramatic events that took place within the house, and the people selected to be put within the house are all examples of how the programmers use their power to increase the ratings of the television program. These include the murder of one of the “inmates” within the house in order to boost ratings that dwindled during the last season of the show, and the selection of particular personality types to be put within the house in order to cause greater conflict.
These include the narcissistic actor, David, Sally, the “inmate” with a family history of paranoid schizophrenia, Garry the arrogant van driver, Layla the aspiring model, Kelly the sales consultant who has dreams of becoming an actress, and Woggle, the anarchist, put within the house simply to stir trouble. These elements of the show, if placed within a different context, would be declared immoral, however these are broadcasted to the national audience and are marketed as entertainment.
Best in Show is a late 20th century mock documentary, which contrasts to Dead Famous in both form and content; however, they both contain seriousness beneath their humour. Best in Show follows five dogs and their owners in their quest to win the title of “Best in Show” at the “Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show”. Underneath the humour of a beauty pageant for dogs, the composer raises serious issues about societies pre-occupation with beauty and obsession with beauty pageants, as well as child beauty pageants and the ideas of parents pushing their children to succeed in these competitions.
The film is shot in documentary format from which much humour is generated. The use of documentary is a serious form for a comical subject. This documentary style is shown through the use of interviews between the subjects and the camera, the use of voice-overs, and the deliberate shaking of the camera whilst following the subjects of the documentary. Interviews used within Best in Show between the camera and actors, often referred to as “talking heads” are used to explain or comment on the text’s subject.
These interviews are used to fill in blanks within the story line that have not been shown within archival footage. From these interviews, much of the humour within the storyline is generated, as it is an ideal opportunity to tell humorous stories and continue with the plot of the film. The use of voice-overs and a wobbly camera are documentary technique that has been ridiculed within the text. The use of a voice over allows for a comment or explanation on the visuals. The use of a wobbly camera is a convention of documentaries that have been ridiculed within Best in Show.
As cameras have become more portable and affordable, documentary directors could do more “on-location” shooting, this can often lead to an unstable camera shot that has become much like a convention of documentaries. The ridiculing of this allows the responder to draw a parallel between both Best in Show and other documentaries, and creates humour through this parallel and the fact that a documentary style is used for a comical subject. The text makes a comment on societies obsession with beauty and the superficial society we are quickly becoming.
The “Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show” is a version of the “Miss Universe” or “Miss World” pageants that the world will stop and watch once a year. These competitions are simply to discover beauty and are a reflection of the vain society in which we live. This is shown with the representation of the dog show as an international event. The responder is given a segment of the show which was broadcast “live” as if it were a highly sponsored, worldwide event (much like the Miss Universe pageant which is broadcast in approximately 150 countries worldwide), and as if the dedication of these dogs and their owners was to be envied and strived towards.
The scene that opens the dog show is part of the live telecast that is being broadcasted. These opening credits are much like those of a typical beauty pageant, it gives a grand introduction to the history of the pageant, and displays images of the delegates who are preparing to be put on stage. Within Best in Show the “Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show” is given an introduction that declares over “3000 dogs are here tonight, all competing for the title of Best in Show”, as well as cleverly placing an advertisement for their major sponsors.
The responder recognises the similarities between both the dog show introduction and the introduction to most beauty pageants and from this comes the humour of the scene. Within Best in Show, the responder is given a point of view in regards to child beauty pageants and the parents who place their children within these pageants in an attempt to compensate for their own lost dreams. This is clearly shown with the way in which the dogs are treated by their owners, it is clear to the responder that the dogs are spoiled as if they were the children of their owners (and spoilt children at that) with the thoughts and emotions of children.
This is shown when the responder is given an interview with one of the managers of the pageant who says that the “Dogs worked really hard to get here” and then says that “for some dogs it will be a very long drive home”. This is also shown with an interview with Gerald and Cookie fleck, the owners of Winkie the Norwich Terrier, who say that “Winkie’s worked for two and a half years for this”. Another example of this is the owners of Beatrice the Weimeraner, the Swan’s, who take their dog to a psychologist after it witnesses them in the act of sex.
This scene is one in which the responder is shown the treatment of the dogs, as a therapy session (which is often quite expensive) is in fact for a dog, and not a child as was originally expected. The owners of Beatrice also show this treatment of their dog, after it attacks a passer by, and treats the dog as if it was the passer by who attacked it, much like a parent when told that their children has attacked another child.
This attitude towards the dogs is shown once more by the Swan’s when their dog looses its “Busy Bee” toy, and when searching for a replacement look for a toy of the same colours although they are told repeatedly that dogs are colour blind and their’s is simply responding to the stripes. This treatment of the dogs, and the forced competition of the dogs are most clearly shown within the scenes that take place during the competition. These scenes portray images of the owners becoming highly agitated over their dogs.
These scenes include that of Scott and Stefan working with their dog Agnes, in which it is clear that Scott and Stefan are more agitated and worked up than their dog, which is competing. This is also shown with Christy Cummings taking the opportunity to look around at the competition, or that of the Swan’s attempting to “psyche up” their dog Beatrice. This is an example of the trainers, owners and handlers living through these animals, much like prior beauty queens who live through their children, and push them to unrealistic expectations within these pageants.
These pageants result in many psychological disorders within these girls who later feel the need to be “perfect” as they once were perceived to be. Both Dead Famous and Best in Show are satirical works with an underlying seriousness. Both these texts create humour through the use of techniques specific to their text type and genre, and through this humour, both of these satirical works (and many others like them) contain a serious commentary on issues within society.
Elton, Ben (2001) Dead Famous. London: Bantam Press.
Best in Show, (1999). Warner Brothers and Castlerock Entertainment.
Reality Film (2002) “Documentary Resources and Reviews, conventions” [WWW Document] URL: www.realityfilm.com/study/conventions.html