In April, Jewelyn Cardozo decided to test her boyfriend’s loyalty in a bare-all reality show on national television. The 21-year old college student’s boyfriend failed the test and the episode ended with her throwing a pair of slippers at him.
The show was aired the day her final-year university exams began. She was nervous about her television debut. But minutes before the second exam began the next day, students surrounded her excitedly, asking about her experience.
“My whole family was watching,” said the Science student, who wept inconsolable on the show. Cardozo’s lack of inhibitions in playing out a personal drama in public view, reflects the bindaas attitude of the youth.
Today, college students are flocking reality shows to get their 15 minutes of fame. Soaps have lost the TRP war to the emotional and adrenaline-driven voyeurism of reality shows.
Participants on these shows are curiously earnest. One of the finalists of a ‘fresh face’ personality contest said his competitors took the show very seriously: they campaigned for public votes through Facebook and even put up their post- makeover pictures online. Another second-year student, who requested anonymity, signed up for a ‘romance-adventure-reality game show’ on a music channel where, among other tasks, she was asked to solve puzzles while on a ride in an amusement park and collect flags while zooming past them on a roller-coaster. Asked what prompted her to take part in the show, she said, “I don’t know. I would never do it again. I got into trouble with my parents after I appeared on the show.”
She said the show “didn’t want models, only regular-looking college students.” Reality shows are probably the only shows that don’t have talent or beauty as pre-requisites for participation.
“People are desperate for even five minutes on TV,” said Aditi Nayak, 19, a student of St Xavier’s College. She reasoned that in a culture that supports these shows, any attention is good attention. In addition, for many collegians, these shows are an entry point to the world of television.
Often, participants are so focused on the prize money that privacy is a small sacrifice.
The fact that their peers and not their parents are watching the shows is also a security blanket.
For others, ‘being noticed’ is the draw. However, some such as Cardozo realise the prick on their bubble of privacy only after the show is over. “Initially, privacy wasn’t a worry. But after the show, I got to thinking about it,” said Cardozo also acknowledging the attention she garnered.
St Xavier’s College sociology professor Madhuri Raijada said reality shows have lost their charm owing to the upsurge. “Students today like to experiment,” she said, and reality shows offer varied options.
Also, when they walk down a road and people recognise them, it feels good.