The Simple Life, The Only Way Is Essex and The Hills. Just three examples of reality television that have been major successes. But how real are these “reality” shows? Paris Hilton, one of the stars of The Simple Life has been quoted as saying:
‘The Simple Life’ is a reality show and people might assume it’s real. But it’s fake. All reality shows are fake basically. When you have a camera on you, you are not going to act yourself. Before I started the show I thought I’d make a character like the movies ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Clueless’ mixed together, with a rich girl all-in-one. Even my voice is different and the way I dress is different from me in real life. It’s a character I like to play. I think it’s carefree and happy. The public think they know me but they really don’t.”
Hilton raises the key point that people who star in reality shows want to be liked by the audiences and therefore play upon characteristics that are stereotyped of their persona. Of course, to anyone who has ever watched The Simple Life, it is clear that it isn’t real and certain parts may be scripted.
The more recent UK reality show, The Only Way is Essex, states that while the “people in the show are real, some of what they do has been set up”. This does make you wonder how much of what you see on these supposed “reality” shows is actually real. Are the focal relationships shown in the show real? Are the amazing job offers real? Do these people actually own the businesses they claim to? And if scenes are set up, should it have been portrayed as a reality show?
Perhaps the most popular reality show was MTV’s The Hills, running for six seasons, it was constantly scrutinised over how real it really was. As the people featured in the show were in the public eye, especially in America, there were elements of their lives that were not in the show, but were known to be true. Examples of this are cast member Brody Jenner‘s relationship with singer Avril Lavigne and Lauren Conrad‘s relationship with actor Kyle Howard. Since leaving the show Conrad has released a book series titled L.A. Candy, which is based on a group of girls staring in a reality show. It is suggested through the narrative of the book that the reason certain relationships were not shown on The Hills was because the stars significant others did not sign release forms and did not want to be featured on the show.
The most interesting feature of The Hills though, is the ending of the final series. Whether the show is real or not, you have to hand it to the show’s creator Adam DiVello, amongst all the controversy surrounding the show’s realism, the ending is truly inspired.