A mild rant.

 My friend, Naxos Loon, sent me this bit of news posted by Linden Labs on their website.

 "MTV’s Catfish is Seeking Second Life Stories by Community Manager Linden Lab on ‎02-26-2013 10:49 AM MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show brings together couples that have online relationships to meet offline for the first time, often with surprising results as the differences between online personas and offline lives are revealed. MTV is now casting the show’s second season, and they’re interested in hearing from Second Life users who have fallen in love inworld, and would now like to meet their love in person. If you’d be interested in being on the show, you can apply online here." 

     Now I am not going to try to encourage or dissuade anyone from signing up for this, but I thought I would put down a few feelings on what this suggested to me in some areas.  Somebody somewhere said that all media coverage was good in the end.. even bad media.  It brings exposure etc.  So I can see why Linden Labs would promote this as a bunch of people will no doubt see the episode(s) and potentially will bring in some new users.  Makes sense.  No problem.  However I am a bit wary of tv shows and the perceived image of Second Life.  First of all it should have been named Avanet, the Grid or something equally cool as the name Second Life suggests to some that people who use this virtual world are not so happy with their "first" life and thus need a second one as a backup.  Kind of similar to the idea that people who use Facebook have no face.

      But anyway,  I think I might be a little jaded with the ethics and intentions of TV.  Here are a few reasons why.  A while back I saw a tv show called Cheaters.  Essentially they would spy on a spouse to find out if they were cheating on their partner.  They would bring the partner to a motel room and expose the cheating in real time while filming the reactions of the hurt partner.  Capturing the moment of nausea and sadness at seeing your partner with another, perhaps if they are lucky its even a friend.  Then they step back and hope there is some fighting because that is also great TV.  Jerry Springer is all about the fighting bit.  On a show like American Idol some of the most popular aspects are when a really bad performer sings and is sliced up by the judges.   Somehow a person with little talent, yet blissfully unaware of this, is brought onto the show.  Their dream seems to be coming true to them and they have attempted to achieve this goal.. which should be applauded despite the lack of talent?.. seems so because you know .. people improve over time.. yet there is no morally responsible person who encourages them yet kindly prevents the inevitable prime time public humiliation that awaits them, because then the networks couldn't count their money.

     Simon Cowell made a name for himself by having little empathy and understood that some in the audience at home secretly were now addicted to the extreme emotions shown on TV.  Reality TV has desensitized many in the population where now we can only really get a deep reaction to emotional extremes.  Watch Dr Phil some day.  Does anyone not cry on that show?  You can see the wheels turning in his head as he prods and pries at his guests in an attempt to make them weep on tv.  That is TV gold.  Watch his body language.. he will often lean back into his chair when someone begins to cry.  He can relax now.  Fighting, crying, humiliation/shame and  betrayal all work well for the voyeur at home.  Networks seem to think its a form of emotional Attention Deficit Disorder we all have.

     I watched a movie this weekend with my Dad called "Marty".  He always makes me watch old movies, and even though I grumble they usually are pretty good.  Marty is a simple character study of a lonely unmarried man working as a butcher, living with his mother in the Bronx.  It was very poignant but nothing really happened in it.  However, I really enjoyed it despite its lack of explosions and special effects.  This leads me to believe that those behind network programming and the movie industry really don't know us at all despite their focus groups.  They just follow a formula that they believe works.  My university friend ended up being a 2nd Assistant director for movies and he was telling me that it is standard for TV networks to have a say in the storylines of their shows.  So they can take the creative work of the person who designed the story and change it should they have enough voting power.  It is crazy to think that some guy in a suit can adjust the story arc as though they knew better than the original creator.  The only exception to this was for the show Simpsons.  Fox could not change anything and look how popular that show became. 

     Pretty much all the reality shows are watching each other to see what is successful, and then editing their shows to try to gain a similar degree of success.  I think it is common knowledge that in a show like Survivor or the Bachelor, where each is filmed over a long period of time, that the editors design "characters" by creatively editing footage.  They design a sweet girl or sneaky guy, the loner and the drama queen etc.  all to fit into a season long narrative.

     Having said all this.. what do you think the odds are that this MTV show will depict a normal couple who met in Second Life?  If they get 20 couples to choose from where one is just a messed up situation involving adultery, vampires, BDSM and hopefully (from their perspective) a complete misrepresentation of body types.. which will they choose?  And how will they edit it? 

Anyway just a few thoughts.  Be careful if you signup for this.  Perhaps they are an ethical program but just remember that how you see your relationship may not be how they wish others to see it.


Unknown said…

And what do you intend to do here now

The One Peoples Public Trust has arrived

Linden Labs will soon be like all the rest

The pope saw his high and mighty throne fall

The queen left Dutch throne with only a cry

How many more days do you think we have

What will happen to all of the art then
S0phia Inkpen said…
Good thoughtful analysis, Bryn.

Mireille said…
Thank you, Bryn. Your post is sociologically significant and representative of worries I have had for some time about these shows. Bringing SL relationships to such a programme could be both interesting and dangerous. I use both words carefully, for I am truly concerned.

As someone who knows several couples who have met in SL and who are now together in RL, I am aware that such can happen and bring much happiness. I am sure the opposite is true, as well. There is a range of relationship in SL - just as there is a range of relationship in RL....

Television - like the Internet and written publications - can be both informative and salacious, both helpful and harmful. I have worried for some time that we are teaching people to "scan" information and then to feel "informed" with "understanding." Even well-done programmes run this risk because it is up to each person to handle the information appropriately - or inappropriately.

I could go on about all this, but will spare you my little rant, and instead thank you for your wonderful and insightful post. I appreciate knowing not only that this is happening (the programme), but also that I am not alone in my concerns about misrepresentation, etc. My SL is like my RL - my life, which I enjoy and which both enlightens and entertains me.

Thank you for your many contributions to my experience here, Bryn. I so appreciate your art, your writing and your willingness to forthrightly and with sensitivity address issues of importance.
Moto Kaligawa said…
Hehehe, 'normal' really doesn't play well on TV, one reason being that it doesn't exist. Television is spectacle and based on the idea that everyone loves a train wreck. Oh yes, we cringe, but we do stare and wonder what it'll show us next.

I can only imagine the surprised faces of couples that meet Offworld, face to face, for the first time. Will LL facilitate this? Now that will be interesting....

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