We call them Reality TV Shows because they are nonfictional, even though some of them are staged. But in reality, the shows are there to provide real life situations as they are – no doctoring, no scripts, and no guard. The shows expose people’s actions and reactions when they have their guards down. It brings out people in their most vulnerable state.
The type of reality shows this piece is interested in is the reality comedy skits that are fast gaining traction today. These skits capture people when they least suspect that they are actors in a drama. It creates humour by exposing people’s ignorance, greed, sexual orientation, pains, and what have you. We all see these videos and laugh at the “stupidity” of the “actors”, especially because we know they are real life situations. We relate more with this type of humour because we can see ourselves or people close to us in the depicted action.
The purpose of reality comedy skits ranges from entertainment to research. Some of the videos we see are there to expose societal challenges and problems. Some are satires that are used to correct societal ills. Then we have the ones that are recorded and posted by individuals that want to use them to amass social media followers. Of course, social scientists sometimes make use of candid cameras and hidden audio recorders to gather data. But no matter what its purpose is, reality comedy skits are taking its toll on the “actors”.
The reality comedy skits may entertain us and pass on some lessons to us, but have we ever sat back to ask ourselves the effects they have on the unsuspecting “actors”? Note that this type of shows is different from that of Big Brother Naija (BBN), where the participants in the shows are quite aware of the fact that their privacy is at stake all through their “acting” period. They know that spy cameras are mounted in strategic places and that they are being monitored. But in the case of the reality comedy skits that I’m talking about here, these people’s privacy is intruded without their permission. Unlike those in BBN, these people are not on guard; they never envisaged themselves going into the internet or being aired on TV at their most uncomfortable state. The worst is that the majority of the actors trusted the people that caused them this unplanned negative fame.
Studies on effects of reality TV shows have been undertaken by different scholars. It is found that both the “actors” and the audience have been affected positively and negatively. In relation to reality comedy skits, some of the effects mentioned include:
- Withdrawal from the Public
Some people have been embarrassed to the extent that they shy away from the public. Thanks to mobile phones, someone’s mistakes could be the next viral video. By the time this person (or his relatives) sees his face flying all over town, he will withdraw from the society until he feels it is safe for him to come out again.
There are certain comedy skits that warrant that the actors are simulated to run for their lives. Some of these “actors” have to scale fences or run across busy roads in their attempts to move away from their threats. Most times they sustain different degrees of injuries during the act. In this case, the proposed comedy turns into tragedy.
- Loss of Lives
Some time ago, someone that wanted to play the bomb scare skits in France was shot dead by the police, who mistook him for a terrorist. I also watched a video, where a man scared his partner while she let herself into their apartment. Unfortunately for him, the woman ran out of the house and into an oncoming vehicle. These are just a few of such cases, where comedy turned tragic.
- Opportunity for Defamation
The coming of mobile phones has turned every Tom, Dick and Harry into cameramen. This makes it easier for malicious people to hurt others. Even though some people record these videos without the intention of hurting their actors, there still exist those that do them deliberately with the sole intention of defamation. Some go as far as setting their victims up in order to get them when they are most vulnerable. They do not mind the damages they will cause when they post these videos. The worst problem here is that the affected persons will be judged and mocked by everyone that watches the video. This is actually inhumane.
Maybe if those that play these pranks on others realise that most of their “actors” will become traumatised they will stop. Reports on suicides connected to “acting” in this type of reality show have been recorded (though they are not on comedy skits). I don’t believe anyone that finds himself in this situation will just laugh it off and take it as one those things. At least I know I wouldn’t find it funny if I were ever to find myself in that situation.
We all enjoy comedy when it is about someone else, but we would never want to see ourselves in such situations. For that we need to stand together to discourage this type of play/prank. If it must happen, then the actors’ reputation should be considered. In this case, some measures should be put in place.
The safest way to release these videos (if at all it should be released) is to blur the faces of the actors so as to give them some privacy. Even if their voices give them away, it is still better than having their faces exposed. However, it is advisable to the general public to request the ban of risky reality comedy skits because they have caused more tragedy than comedy.