Fake Reality

“Do you watch The Bachelor?” the woman cutting my hair the other day wanted to know.
“No,” I answered.
But then, because I don’t want to become known around town as that crazy woman who has a million kids and is completely out of touch with the real world, I added quickly, “But I did see part of a different season a few years ago.”
“The funny thing about all of these reality TV shows,” my stylist mused as she snipped, “is that they are so totally fake.”
So totally fake.

She’s right about that. I remember thinking the same thing about the original reality television series of Survivor years ago. Yes, I watched. Or more accurately, we watched.
For more than a few seasons, my husband and I harbored a secret addiction to Survivor, each of us rooting for our own favorite contestants to dominate the competition and win the million dollars.
We were outed one week when we needed to be away from home on a Thursday night. Since we were living in the pre-DVR dark ages of 2004, we had to ask ourselves: “What is more important, keeping our television addiction a secret or knowing if Boston Rob gets voted off the island tonight?”
I called my brother-in-law and asked him to record the episode for us.
Even though some of us enjoy watching it, all of us know that there is nothing “real” about being trapped in the wilderness, surrounded by television cameras, running through obstacle courses, and aiming to win large sums of money.
I once saw an ad for an even more unreal kind of television show where unmarried couples test their love for one another while staying at a luxury resort on a tropical island. If couples really want to test their love for one another, they should get married and have four or five kids in as many years . . . Wait, I think there is a show like that on TLC.
Perhaps it was my weakness for fake reality shows in the first place that made me respond positively to Bump+ — the Web-based fake reality show that actually admits it isn’t real at the outset — when it was released earlier this year.
Many people I usually agree with balked at the concept. Dr. Laura Schlessinger was outraged, and Patrick Madrid was offended. Others took a less dramatic stance, but still questioned the premise of the show, which was meant to be a conversation starter.
While I tend to agree with those who have criticized the show’s writing, acting, and characters, I can’t deny my appreciation for the fact that, incidentals aside, a Web-based fake reality television show is a unique and powerful new media.
And those of us who care deeply about life issues need all the unique and powerful forms of new media we can get our hands on. How else to reach and influence the next generation?
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that today’s 8 to 18 year olds spend an average of seven and a half hours per day plugged into entertainment media. I read statistics like that and recall what Canadian thinker Marshal McLuhan once cautioned us: “The medium is the message.”
If fake reality is the medium, what can be real?

Well, abortion is real. Every day, for both serious and shockingly frivolous reasons, people really do make the decision to destroy unborn human life.

Perhaps inserting something as real as abortion into a medium that young people are already consuming is the most effective way to encourage them to ponder its significance.
Pro-lifers in particular should be eager to embrace new forms of media. After all, the truth is on our side. The more truth and information people have about abortion and the more thought they give to its reality, the more likely they are to oppose abortion themselves.
We simply can’t afford to disdain new media or “fake reality” television. The bad guys are already using it, and in most places I’d say they are winning.
If taking the real issue of abortion and turning it into something “fake” is the most effective way to inspire more people to think about abortion, talk about abortion, and learn the facts about abortion, then I say we do it.
Game on. Let’s do it. For real.


Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

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