In the article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Walter Benjamin compares the film industry to painting and architecture. This comparison is appropriate in terms of the art conception and comprehension. Besides, the same approach may be successfully applied to the comparison of Benjamin’s ideas concerning film shooting and its peculiarities with the specific features of the modern reality shows.
Reality shows are extremely popular in the current course of time due to the possibility to be as close to the reality as possible and witness real life from diverse angles and perspectives. Moreover, the reality shows successfully combine social and emotional connotations. As it has been anticipated by Benjamin, the social layer is essential in the art work and predetermines its popularity stakes. It appears to be so crucial and significant because it predisposes the viewer to a certain issue or phenomenon and its problematic scope, which is topical nowadays and to some extent relates directly to the viewer and his/ her own reality. Moreover, the emotional aspect of the reality show is considered to be much more intense and sincere than the one of a movie or soap opera. Any reality show tends to picture a dimension of life as real and a set of events as true as possible. The imaginary characters and actions are not allowed within the concept of the reality show. The basic idea is being close to the viewer that is to be a mass appropriate, and either mass approved or mass rejected product. Nevertheless, the obligatory element within a reality show is a strong and intensive reaction upon its idea, form, or approach. The viewers are not to stay indifferent by no means.
Walter Benjamin anticipates this crucial point as well as he also states that the mass reaction may be even expressed in strong aversion and determined refuse, but it is still the proper answer to the authors and actors, as it comprises different emotions and opinions. It means that people tend to think while watching the reality show, and what is even more crucial – they continue thinking and discussing it even afterwards.
It is essential to emphasize that Walter Benjamin distinctly and consciously underlines the type of “non-actors” in the scope of the movie starring. He describes them as participants of the movie making process appearing as “not actors in our sense but people who portray themselves and primarily in their own work process” (n.p.). This idea is obviously extremely close to the essence of the reality shows’ participants’ roles and essence.
Moreover, it is interesting to analyze the ways, in which the modern reality shows trigger the viewers’ imagination and spur their interest. They either scandalize some of the current issues that are considered to be urgent or especially controversial, or offer unexpected and miscellaneous solutions to the existing problem. These steps are intended to be taken in order to attract masses’ attention and win in the popular stakes.
In conclusion, Walter Benjamin anticipated the essence of not only the movie production, but also the characteristic traits of the reality shows’ modern tradition, as well.