Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Define 'reality'

After yesterday's rather serious (and lengthy) political post, here's something a little lighter, although no less significant. The world of celebrity has been rocked by the news that last weekend's big A-list wedding may not have been as legitimate as we were led to believe.

Meet Khloe, one of the stars of Keeping Up With the Kardashians - a reality TV show following the adventures of the children of Robert Kardashian. Don't know the name? Well, Robert was one of OJ Simpson's defence attorneys, and his time in the spotlight was sufficient to warrant prolonged media interest in his family (Robert died of cancer in 2003).

The three oldest Kardashian girls (whose names all begin with K, whether they're spelt that way or not) seem to be the stars of the show, and have delighted easily-pleased viewers with such adventures as posing for Playboy, attend acting classes and buying Bentleys. All gripping stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

With Kim the glamourpuss of the family, and Kourtney (this is NOT a typo) devouring the column inches with her 'surprise' pregnancy, Khloe needed to do something to redress the publicity imbalance. Which is why, after just thirty days of dating, Khloe walked down the aisle with her new boyfriend, NBA Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom.

Despite the fact that 250 guests attended the wedding, and the bride wore a Vera Wang dress, some bitter old cynics have suggested that the whole thing was a sham. Tragically, it has been alleged that the marriage is not legally binding, although the happy groom has claimed “Anybody that was there will tell you that it was a beautiful event and it was real.”

Adding to the newlywed's woes, are the reports that the whole affair was scripted and meticulously stage-managed by the show's producers. Reporting the story with the breathless intrigue of a Watergate-style cover-up, the usually reliable Huffington Post declares:
"In the audio... the producers are heard debating a line from the wedding script, specifically when during the festivities Khloe should tell her stepdad Bruce Jenner that she considers him her real dad."
And they said investigative journalism was dead.

Regular viewers of 'reality' TV shows know what's what. They may have a tolerance for trash that other mere mortals find hard to comprehend, but they're not idiots. We all know that 30-day romances and an ever-present camera crew don't make for genuine wedded bliss. So it should hardly come as a shock that these events were staged for the cameras. I think the more depressing insight from all this is that somewhere, there's a roomful of writers, dreaming of Pulitzers and Peabodies, who have to earn a living putting words into Khloe Kardashian's mouth.

As for the viewers, they know that reality TV is no longer a serialised documentary format. It's simply taken the place of the soap operas we used to watch for all our salacious behaviour and vicarious thrills.

After all, we've now reached a point where soap opera actors threaten to quit when asked to portray their characters in an unappealing light. Is it any wonder we look to Khloe, Kourtney and Kim, who have no such qualms?

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