If there was any doubt that reality TV stars have officially reached the epitome of ultra- celebritydom, the recently staged extravaganza, BravoCon, that featured an array of celebrated characters, who are over-compensated for airing out their filthiest laundry should be the evidence that endorses the viability of non-scripted fare.
It wasn’t that long ago when reality TV was an experimental phase that gained prominence when MTV’s The Real World was launched in the early nineties with the inaugural cast of strangers, sharing a loft in New York City under the watchful eyes of curious viewers who got the first glimpse of propelled voyeurism.
There was a whole lot more from where that came from, and each season presented higher stakes due to the enhanced rowdiness of aggressive cast members, who were able to instinctively translate the hot glare of prying cameras.
The real moments are definitely the most memorable, and they include the notable life story of Pedro Zamora of Real World: San Francisco, and how his public battle with AIDS during a time when the stigma of the disease was at an all-time high, helped to humanize the plight of hidden sufferers, who were regulated outcasts, based on sexual orientation.
Zamora ended up dying of an AIDS-related disease in 1994.
But before his death, viewers were irrevocably transformed by how his selflessness and heroism, helped to elevate the platform of reality TV with inspirational and educational realism, that produces immeasurable results that endure way past the season finale.
Of course there’s been recent attempts at replicating the blueprint for “must-see TV” with the emotional twist. The most notable tryout with Caitlyn Jenner’s unveiling, after spending a decade as Bruce Jenner, the frequently dogged out hubby of Kris Jenner on E!’s Keeping Up With The Kardashians, proved to be the convenient con that fooled us into believing the shady authenticity.
It’s quite possible that the staging for Jenner’s glamorous and epic coming out ceremony was purposed scheduled to take advantage of the porosity of a more tolerable climate. And then you add the inexplicable decision to gift a questionable recipient with the famed Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and how it became the collision of ethics that exposed the rawness of fame at its worst.
There’s no doubt that the Kardashian/Jenner women played a vital role in skyrocketing the respectability factor assigned to major players, who are paid to play that game to the hilt with unapologetic adherence to overt transparency.
Kim Kardashian before she became “West” was the LA-raised socialite who played second fiddle to Paris Hilton, until her burgeoning momager at the insistence of entertainment guru, Ryan Seacrest, masterminded the fundamentals of turning a sex scandal into an ever-growing goldmine.
The wealth spread to other ravenous networks like Bravo, where Andy Cohen, a relatively unknown TV executive hatched out the rewarding framework of what has now become a mammoth franchise, that keeps getting better.
The Real Housewives of Orange County was the perfect launching pad when you consider how its origins was retrieved from the less successful run of MTV’s The Hills, the short-lived shit show, that captured the privileged exploits of a group of boring, rich White young adults, living it up in LA.
The Real Housewives was primed to be the more explosive version of mostly White adult women, who haven’t matured out of the relentless need of demonstrating how much they’re worth, at all costs, even if they embarrassingly go over budget in full view of the world.
The Housewives franchise thrived with increasing popularity and much-needed diversity, that built household names with the reassurance that only the memorable provokers would stand the test time.
But the only validated celebrities of reality TV, were the most famous residents of Calabasas, based on the numerous and graphic makeovers that capitalized on the newly-minted season of “wokeness.”
The most recognizable Housewives were encouraged to spread their wings and fly into legit territories that birth the celebs that matter. Long-timer, NeNe Leakes, of the Atlanta branch, was ambitious enough to flex her self-professed acting skills on hit shows like Glee, and on Broadway where she participated in two big productions.
The mindset back in the day was embedded in the belief system that shamed pathetic desperados, who were driven by the insatiable appetite for feted attention from frenzied fans, who are star-struck from exhaustive exposure, and not the oodles of talent that used to be required for that level of unwavering adulation.
Fast forward to the present landscape of over-saturation, thanks to the addictive components of social media, and we’re now completely immersed in the never-ending practice of courting “followers” to watch our every move in the hopes of gaining profitable returns.
This problematic status has yielded mild to horrific results with the rapid rise of deadly accidents that claim the lives of adventurous influencers, who were willing to risk it all by orchestrating eye-popping stunts all for the glory of stunned revelers.
And it’s only natural that the genre of reality TV would follow suit, by embodying the generic qualities that feed our primal need to feed the distinctive characteristics that most of us were taught to either discard or keep to a decent minimum.
As the 2010s come to a heightened end, we are witnessing the ordainment of reality TV stars as bona-fide A-listers.
They’ve earned the right to finally enjoy their bedazzled station, after starting off the decade in the dog house of sorts, when it came to acknowledgment of their worthiness, compared to movie stars, who dominated the scale of exclusivity as it pertained to the high-rollers of fame.
But when you have mega-stars and rap icons like Kanye West, marrying the most loved Kardashian of them all, and making routine appearances on the still-active show, while Jennifer Lawrence openly confesses her love affair with Kris Jenner, the flowing cosigns eventually spreads like a virus.
The infection blesses the efforts of attention-seekers, who are quite talented at shamelessly acting up.
Just like any celebrated asshole with nasty habits, and woeful incompetence can occupy the office of the presidency, there is more than enough room for caricatures of life to become shiny emblems of pop culture.
As long as they possess the uncanny ability to last in the gauntlet of dysfunction, with no scars to symbolize the battle for survival.
The age of “whatever” is the classless homage to the normalcy of worshipping anything or anyone who is able to manipulate the spotlight with the tools of engagement that require blue checks as blinding verification.
Housewives aren’t necessarily “heathens,” but they are desperate to stay relevant regardless of the toll that could be wearing down with unavoidable vengeance.
And when you examine how “non-scripted” fare is really code for heavy scripting, that previous victims of this treatment have publicly condemned to be jarringly cruel, and not worth the departure from reality — it’s impossible not to correlate this preferred method of deviousness with other massive platforms of our discontent.
Does being relevant have more to do with the number of humans and bots that are calculable for the instant glorification of gawkers?
Or should it be about the incalculable value of the silent minority, who do what they do to get the job done when no one is looking or liking?
Here’s a hint: the answer isn’t hidden.