Parody, when done well, can illuminate the reality of a world that is almost too perfect.
Drawn Together aired on Comedy Central from 2004-2007. A sort of animated The Real World, the characters come from different cartoon genres. There is the super hero, the Disney-esque Princess, the chiseled hero from an action cartoon, etc. But, the different between these characters and their stock character predecessors that audiences have gotten used to watching.
Though it only lasted three seasons, Drawn Together was perfection while it was on the air. It took the the cartoon characters that we know and love and turned them on the head. It was funny, slightly sarcastic and perfectly mocked the genre in which it is based on.
Many of us want our 15 minutes of fame. Reality television capitalizes on this need, for better or for worse.
Between 2003 and 2006, The Surreal Life was on the air. The premise of the show is as follows: a group of celebrities whose fame has faded live together for a short time and have their lives taped. It’s almost like The Real World, except the housemates are not a diverse group of twenty something strangers, but celebrities. Over the course of the show’s six seasons, the casts included musicians, actors, reality stars, etc.
Among reality shows, this was the most brain-dead. One did not need brain cells to watch mostly has beens trying to resuscitate careers that once burned bright.
Change often comes not when we stay in our own little bubble, but when we step out of our bubbles and into the Real World.
The Real World is the mother of the reality genre as we know it to be today and MTV’s longest running program. Premiering in 1992, the premise is simple: take a group of diverse young people who have never met before, have them live together for a short time, film them while they live together and see what happens.
No topic was off limits: sex, religion, prejudice, abortion, etc. While the original season was filmed in New York City, the show has since traveled all over the US and to parts of Europe. Over it’s 25 year history, the Real World has been the career spring-board for a handful of alumni: Jacinda Barrett and Jamie Chung both have successful acting careers. Sean Duffy, who has represented the state of Wisconsin in the House Of Representatives since 2010.
One could argue, that like every other reality television show, it is a little contrived and as scripted as a non-reality television program. But, at the same time, the show spoke to its teenage/early 20’s audience because the cast was the same age as the audience. To have a television show, when you’re at the age when you are starting to form your own opinions and build your life in your way, speak to you in a way that is unique to your age group is powerful and potentially life changing.