My friend Chelsea recently posed an interesting question on her blog:
so, here’s a topic that’s been on my mind: blogs vs. reality tv, and how the two have a similar platform – a peek into someone else’s presumably ordinary life that is made interesting by the use of imagery, prose, camera work, etc. – and yet blogs are so much more tasteful (usually – i mean, hgtv’s cash and cari is *kind of* reality tv and she’s great). is it that blogs hit the topics that matter? are blogs more sustainable because they address holistic (re: lasting) interests? i mean, we can watch celebrities shop at fancy stores, or we can look at bloggers who are sponsored by various online boutiques model their gifted/thrifted/vintage outfits – is it that the blog-writers’ lives are more attainable? is it making art out of the mundane (ie: children’s toys, lunch boxes, crafts) that appeals?
I think this difference in response has nothing to do with format. Blogs are merely a format, in the same way magazines, books, television and movies are all formats. There is nothing inherently superior about the blog format, just as television is not inherently inferior.
So why is that when reality television looks into the inner workings of someone’s life, it makes one feel more uncomfortable than a blog post? This difference is tied up in tone, focus, and agency. The standard reality television show is one of exploitation. People are put in difficult situations and filmed. Between coaching and editing, the film is constructed to create a particular storyline, often one that skews reality. This fabricated storyline is then used to ridicule, demonize, or embarrass the subjects. It is the studio in charge; the subjects of the show are mostly helpless to impact the finale image shown to the public.
Blogs are in general much more subject driven. The personal stories told in a blog are chosen by the subject, edited and presented in a fashion of her choosing. She controls the story, the presentation, and the format. Nothing stands behind you and the truth except what the subject herself choices to put there.
Of course, neither of these are absolutes. The example of Cash and Cari is an example of reality television that IS subject driven. Cari Cucksey is the driving force behind the show, and it is focused on making her the hero. There are also blogs that are entirely focused on presenting someone’s life story in the worst possible way imaginable. You see this a lot in far end political blogs.
The important thing to take away from this is that format does not dictate quality. Blogs are not inherently good any more than reality television is inherently bad. It is the intent and focus of the creators who shape a work’s value. Knowing and understand that is the key to finding quality content in whatever format you look at.
-That is all.