The Reality of Reality TV
This blog has been a long time coming. In fact, I’ve started to write it maybe three or four times since being evicted from the Big Brother house back in September 2013 however it’s a tricky one to put out there, mainly because you’ve got to be really careful at who you’re pointing fingers at. The last thing you would want to do- as someone hoping to stay in the television and media industry - is bite the hand that feeds you.
That being said, today’s article on news.com.au, featuring Kelly from My Kitchen Rules has inspired me to finally put my own two cents on paper (or screen, as it were).
Before I get into a few home truths about reality TV and the lives of the d-list ‘stars’ that are produced as a result of it- I need to make something very clear.
Despite the print and social media shit storm that I was greeted with upon leaving the house, and the continued online bullying and trolling that I am subjected to on a daily basis - and even what my friends and family believe was the crux of the public backlash I experienced- I never once blamed the editing of the show or the producers.
Did they force me to make the decisions I made in that house? No. Did they put words in my mouth? No. Did the producers call me into the diary room and ask me to act a certain way or use certain words? No.
Did they put me in alien situations where I would act differently to what I perhaps would on the outside world? Yeah, of course. Did they make conscious decisions to show certain clips of me, where I may have been at my most entertaining (even if that meant I was crying)? Yep.
But what did I expect? It’s a reality television program designed to entertain. I knew what I was risking, I knew what I was putting myself up for and I signed along the dotted line anyway.
With that being said, I think it’s a little rich for Kelly to blame editing for the way in which she wad depicted.
Was it a glowing example of her personality? Not exactly. Was it fair? Maybe not. But she knew what she was signing up for and she said every single word that was aired- she just probably wishes they hadn’t picked and ignored the parts they did.
Now that I’ve said that- what I will support Kelly whole heartedly on, and what I’ve discussed countless times with other reality television 'stars’ (X-Factor, The Voice, The Bachelor, Australia’s Next Top Model, The Block and Big Brother just to name a few) is just how fucking tough it is after the bubble bursts.
One minute you are being pampered and cared for by everyone from executive producers of the show who can’t stop telling you how fantastic you are, to chaperones who’s one job in life for the next 10 days is to look after your every whim. You get cars sent to carry you from A-B, flights all over the country, publicists air-kissing you, patting you on the back telling you how fantastic you’re doing. You have the glowing prospect of a career in the field you’ve always dreamed of- shimmering just off in the future like an oasis in the dessert.
Yeah sure, there are a few negative Tweet’s coming your way but it’s no skin off your nose- you’ve got a plane to catch, a fancy dress to slip into and a celebrity event to attend.
And then it all stops.
As suddenly as it started and before you can say “but where is my hotel transfer?”- only a handful of those people give a flying shit who you are, how you are or what you’re feeling.
You struggle to slip back into your old life. Your group of friends, despite watching your every move through their television screens and feeling like they’ve really gone on this adventure with you- really have no idea what they’re talking about.
Your old job would probably take you back if you went begging with your tail between your legs but could you handle it? All the whispering and the looks? Doesn’t that mean the small window of opportunity has now indeed closed and you have failed at making anything of yourself?
You’re broke. Initially, stuck in a contract but then just struggling to find work. All the clothes on your back were a gift from brands wanting you to promote their stuff on your Instagram and all the parties you’re constantly photographed at meant you were fed and watered for free- in fact it’s the best meal you’ve had all week! You have to move back into your parents, live off your mother’s superannuation or borrow rent off younger siblings.
You’re exhausted. Emotionally, physically, mentally. Despite appreciating all the fun, excitement and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that have been bestowed upon you, you feel like you need a 5 week holiday on a beach somewhere lying very, very still to recover.
You’re overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, all the online love from people who call themselves 'fans’ is heart warming. You put up a half-decent photo of yourself and you’re inundated with compliments.
Unfortunately- the negative comments are the ones that stick with you, worming their way into your brain, making you question and second guess yourself. “Maybe my boobs ARE really saggy?” “I thought I looked good in that dress….” Whilst they were easy to ignore during and immediately following the show, back when you were up to your eyeballs with appearances and post-show commitments…now, back at home, by yourself, at 10pm at night, after a day of doing nothing because remember, you don’t have a job- they make you feel really fucking shitty.
However perhaps the harshest reality of reality television is the lack of psychological support.
I can’t speak on behalf of other reality television programs however at Big Brother, apart from the initial chat with the psychologist immediately after you are evicted- there isn’t a whole lot of help in that regard. Sure, you’re told you’re able to talk to the show psch whenever you want, post-show however you’re not exactly sure how open and honest you feel you can be with someone so closely affiliated with the program.
It got to a point where I requested the production company cover the costs of a psychologist of my choosing- which admittedly they were more than happy to do.
I do however believe it would be hugely beneficial for future reality television contestants of all shows, on all networks- to have compulsory check in’s with an independent psychologist once a week, 6-12 months after completion of the program. At least. And this is something I will be passing on to the people that be at Big Brother.
With that all being said- my memories and feelings towards Big Brother are by far and away, overwhelmingly positive.
I love all the producers and crew members like they are extended family members (weird Uncles and crazy Aunts). It was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life and if I could do it again I would, in a heartbeat. (Probably make some different choices, sure but hindsight is always 20/20.)
I guess what I really wanted to get out of writing this article is a little bit of empathy and understanding for people like Kelly.
Yes- we put ourselves in the limelight. Yes, we do receive certain benefits such as invites to some cool parties and free clothes here and there. But do we deserve the online bullying or constant public scrutiny after the cameras have stopped rolling? No.
We’re human. We’re people. We have feelings and insecurities. We make mistakes- just like you. We just happen to be silly enough to agree to have them filmed for a national audience.
And it’s not all doom and gloom, by any means. I’m sure the reality shock will subside and we’ll slip back into every day life painlessly, looking back on our time on the telly with the fondest of memories but just so you know- in case you hadn’t thought too much about it- the aftermath of a show such as MKR or Big Brother isn’t easy or as glamorous as you might think.
SO- next time you think about commenting on a photo of that new Voice contestant, telling her she looked chubby in her dress last night…maybe think again. Instead, tell her you’d never have the balls to get up on stage and give it your all in front of so many people and walk away feeling good about yourself.
With that, see you on the couch. Shot gun the remote.