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Phil O'Hearn

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Reality Television
by Phil O'Hearn

November 2004

German quantum theory physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927 stated that to measure something changes it. This theory is stated mathematically but I don't understand math. What I do understand is that to observe is to disturb.

Thesis statement: Reality television is faux reality television.

I do not like so-called reality television. I prefer well-written dialogue and good acting. And reality television is not real. The cast must audition. They are given scripted situations. The performers are chosen because they are "watchable." Generally, what they say is stated because they want to create a good sound bite.

That which is divisive and derisive has become popular. Also what is popular is watching other people make fools of themselves. The humiliation of others has become entertainment. And yet people desire to appear on these shows because they desire to be seen and become famous.

Reality television is not a new concept. Candid Camera embarrassed people years ago, but the subjects did not audition. They were made fools of without knowing it before hand. They did, however, have to agree after the fact that their humiliation would be televised.

I suppose the public enjoys watching others being humiliated because it makes the watcher feel superior. We are a competitive species. When others are knocked down, we are elevated. And, as for the participants, I suppose the desire for fame outweighs the cost of humiliation.

But my contention is that reality television is a misnomer. People on reality television are not regular people; they are cast because they possess charisma or good looks and outrageous or obnoxious personalities. And because they know that they are being recorded, they act. They perform. But they do not perform well nor do they speak well.

Recently the Austin American Statesman reported that reality television shows are declining in ratings. Perhaps the novelty is becoming worn.

Faux reality is fiction. False reality television is bad fiction written and performed by bad actors. It appeals to the ignoble human wish to see others degraded.

I, for one, will be glad when it is gone.

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