Malcolm Gill is here for “Running the Race” where we look at different aspects of the Christian life and how to persevere.
Today we’re talking about one of my passions reality television…
Now, I’ve got to say, I don’t like all reality TV but Survivor is probably one of my favorite shows ever. Are you a big fan of reality TV, Mal?
I like Reality TV. I will say, like you, there are some good ones out there, and there’s some rubbish ones out there. But just think about it. It started off, probably, quite a few years ago. They were more sort of documentary-oriented shows. So I remember years ago, watching The Crocodile Hunter. He was, in some ways, one of the first guys who would follow along with a video camera, with Steve Irwin jumping on a crocodile or being bitten by a snake. And that was kind of fun. And then Bear Grylls came along, and that was also kind of fun to watch his adventure.
But over a period of time, these have just becoming increasingly popular. So there’s ones where we follow pretty random things, Ice Truck Drivers, following people driving big semitrailers in parts of the world. There’s the World’s Deadliest Catch that follows people out in the ocean catching Alaskan snow crabs. There’s one that I saw recently called Ink Master, it follows the lives of tattoo artists.
The ones that you’ve mentioned… “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Jersey Shore,” “Married at First Sight,” “The Bachelor.” We could go on and on and on.
That’s pretty much all that’s on TV these days, right?
But it’s one of those funny things. I’ve been thinking about what is it about these shows that we like? Why do we tap into these shows? Well, I think there’s a couple of things. There’s something about when we watch shows, we actually feel better about ourselves when we see the flaws in others. And sometimes you watch these shows and you think, “Whoa! These people are out of control.” And there’s an element of feeling a little bit superior, so we actually feel a bit affirmed.
I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but there is something, I think, in the reality TV shows that we look and say, “Oh, boy, they’re pretty broken people.” So we can feel better about ourselves.
And they’re often cast like that as well. They want you to hate them, right?
They are. And this is the other slightly disappointing thing. Recently, I’ve discovered somebody that I know was struck up…they were in a restaurant once, and were tapped on the shoulder and invited to be part of a reality TV show. And they were a little bit disconcerted to discover a lot of it was scripted. And you know, maybe I’m not quite a realist at all times, and I thought, “Hey, this is all reality TV,” but even there, a lot of its scripted and cast and edited to present life a certain way.
It’s even when we watch the stories which we enjoy, there’s often a plot or a tension, sometimes there’s a resolution. We like to watch other people’s lives, but it’s really interesting that often, when you watch the show, it doesn’t give you the mundane things. So you never watch reality TV show and see people doing the ironing, you know, or taking out the rubbish or washing the dishes. And I think that’s the danger of the reality show is that they’re not always real. Not just in the fact that some of them are scripted, but often, they don’t present some of the real struggles and the real issues and just the mundaneness of life.
But I would like to say this, Sam, one of the reasons that reality show has power is because often, we watch, and we sort of tap into these people and we follow their lives, and we often learn about their motives. And so sometimes, the selfishness comes out of individuals, sometimes, the generosity comes out, but it does show their power of influence in watching somebody else’s life. And it’s really interesting to me that the Apostle Paul actually picks up on this, and he makes this thing.
He says, “Follow my example as I follow Jesus.” Elsewhere he says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me, put into practice”. There is something powerful about watching the lives of others, but the Bible, unlike some of the reality TV shows is not a scripted piece as much as the Apostle and the early Christian saying, “Actually, watch my life and see how the good news of Jesus affects that, and then follow me.”
Nothing wrong with watching the big screen, nothing wrong with following whether it’s “The Crocodile Hunter” or people surviving on an island, but the Bible says there’s something that we sure have in our lives that people look at us and say actually, “That is real, that isn’t fake, that’s the genuine deal.”
What an encouragement to be genuine. I thought we’re just going to talk about trash TV.
No, well, we could talk about that, but I’d rather talk about following Jesus.
Yeah, I think that’s a good idea, and we’ll do it again next week, Mal. Thank you.
Each Sunday, FRESH presenter Sam Robinson chats with Malcolm Gill, lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC), about different aspects of living the Christian life—or ‘running the race’. Hear them on air Sundays at 6.20am and 9.20am or on FRESH just after 9pm each Saturday.