The XX Factor

The Opposite of Reality

We live in an environment where self-branding is a lifestyle choice and self-promotion is confused with achievement. Breaking through the 4th wall (when reality contestants talk to the camera) is not the same as actual contact between player and watcher, however, and does not substitute for honesty or intimacy. When the Octomom had her litter in January, Jess and Noreen wrote about the Gosselin and the Duggar families who became television commodities by inviting reality producers from the Discovery Channel into their reproduction-driven lives. Now I learn from Hanna’s post that one reality celebrity husband, Jon Gosselin, has a secret life with a secret friend . I have to say, I can’t really blame the guy. Maybe he just wanted some privacy?

I sometimes wonder about living our private life in public. Since my husband, my daughter, and I are each involved in different aspects of the media, at times when our home life is particularly surreal, I can imagine us inspiring a sitcom. But my family’s imaginary TV series would be more like a small-cast version of the ABC series of 30 years ago, Eight is Enough. In that now-quaint series, the family of newspaper columnist and former CIA agent Tom Braden was fictionalized, their identity was disguised and the eight actual Braden children kept their relative obscurity.

Like Hanna , I cringe at the level of self-exposure necessary to tear down the 4th wall in the manner of that “family of renovators” featured in the New York Times article “Branding the Family.” Bravo , the cable network that brings us Real Housewives of New York City and other urban locations, bets the exploited exploits of the Novogratzes, another multi-offspring family, will be riveting to audiences because, as the series executive producer told the Times , “audiences are craving authenticity.” I doubt they’ll get it watching Bravo. Real reality happens without cameras, inside the four walls of our own lives, fueled by truly unscripted, unedited, conversations. It is sometimes uncomfortable and usually, in our case at least, decidedly unphotogenic. Though, it may be exciting to imagine a life in front of an audience, genuine people tempted by reality-shattering reality cameras should follow the advice of fray poster ScrewJack2008 , and run for their lives.