I was approached by a good friend (Matthew Rozsa, Google him) who works in the media to turn a personal FB post into an article for one of the sites he works for, “The Good Men Project.” It was a bit of a surprise as I wasn’t planning on going public with my feelings. However because I have a lot of respect for my friend’s opinion, I went ahead with the idea.
Writing about the topic I was dealing with was very difficult. I was afraid it would piss people off: both the people I work for and the people I really enjoy connecting with online.
The topic was self-objectification for profit.
When I was a kid, (in the 1970’s) I remember actors or other public figures would sometimes pose in Playboy or Playgirl in order to get attention. And it sometimes worked. They’d get a movie deal or attention that boosted a lagging career.
But these days because of the internet, just about anyone can get a little bubble of attention by showing some skin. The Kardashian kids are making a huge living off of acting up sexually in front of the camera. Reality shows are digging into the worst parts of folks lives and rewarding them with huge financial gains. (Note: I’ve heard that the women of a certain huge reality show franchise are making close to a million dollars for one season. That’s a million dollars for thirteen weeks of work. Pretty good deal, if you ask me.)
However when I was approached by a certain reality show last year I turned it down. Why? I guess I’m an idiot. But I didn’t want a Hollywood production walking into my life and rewriting it for entertainment.
You see, I know people who work behind the scenes on reality TV. They’ve told me almost everything that happens on camera is “soft scripted.” There’s very little that contains actual reactions. Later every word, every reaction is manipulated in editing to look like what the producers will think will fit with the story they want to tell and be the most sensational. There is nothing real about reality TV.
Why does it work? I think it works because it portrays what we want to believe, not the truth. Sometimes we want to believe bosses really care. Sometimes we want to believe rich people are really unhappy. Sometimes we want to believe that love is a game that can be won if we only play it right.
In the last few weeks I’ve been going through a rough time. I gotta admit that. I’ve been wondering if my decision making has been flawed. I’ve been thinking that I should’ve said yes to that reality show, that I should’ve lived at the gym so my body would be rock solid on camera, and that I should’ve gotten a publicist. I should’ve taken tons more selfies, attended more Hollywood events…. and on and on. I should’ve played the game that is currently being rewarded.
But I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t.
My book was what I felt I had to give. Inside those pages lives every raw, wounded, broken, fragile, strong, HUMAN part of me. I simply couldn’t get more “real” than within the pages of that book. To have to get all made up for a “reality” show that could choose to portray me in any way they wanted, to become a living Barbie for others to throw off a cliff… it was just one step too far for me.
On the other hand, I joke that I am “professional Barbie.” I get made up, put on clothes, and go to work to create the scenes that the writers have crafted. I take pride in being able to make sometimes over the top “soap” scenarios come to life. In the past, my skill was enough to keep me employed. But these days I am told that my Twitter and FB numbers are where the producers and television executives are looking for proof of value.
How do you get those numbers up if you aren’t already on TV every day?
The Kardashian kids know it. You make your life in the media and online into a sensationalistic “reality” show. Peek-a-boo photos of your bum, insider gossip, and relationship dramas seem to get more attention than an all nude production of “Cinderella on Ice.”
So here and there I have given in. I’ve posted the bikini selfie. I’ve even taken some sexy shots that I later deleted thinking, “That’s for Jon, not the world.” Then I wondered, “would I be more valued by my job if I had posted them? Would I be more valued if I had taken the reality show?”
So when my friend said, “write an article about it” I felt like it was really important to do so. Important for me to say, “Hey, why is this happening? Is it just me or is this pressure felt by a lot of people? Are we right to have to turn ourselves into objects? Products to be sold? What happened to the value of the skills we may have spent a lifetime developing?”
So I said it. And 4536 FB shares later, I’m beginning to feel like I am not the only one who feels this way.