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Cinema Vérité — What People Don’t See

March 27, 2012

Heffernan pieces together an interesting quilt of analysis and commentary using the country’s first ‘reality TV’ (RTV) family as a teaching tool and exemplar to the hoards of the shows, especially family-based RTV that currently cover the TV guide. Since the unfortunate first flirt turned foray in 1971 with the Loud family, RTV has come to scourge innocent boob-tubes nationwide. Of all stations, PBS was the station that dabbled with what has now become the devil, in what was sincerely intended as a look into family dynamics. Little did we know the medium of RTV would become such a popular, albeit quality modicum of, well, literally, entertainment based on reality. Who could have known that the PBS program, and moreover for Heffernan’s piece, the specific kind that captures everything a family does* (*see a further breakdown of what exactly is potentially ‘private’ in family RTV shows; e.g., going to the bathroom, bathing, nudity, sex, etc.) in ’71 would become THE type of program to both launch dozens of shows in ratings heaven and be the most ridiculed stage of cultural criticism and angst. Lest we call the RTV fam-based medium a cultural artifact**, but the show has come to represent and affect the masses. Heffernan creatively tackles how the show has affected culture, especially both the filmed and the viewer, shrewdly referencing “The Journalist and the Murderer.” (Finish later)

*RTV family show breakdown of what is not shown; e.g., nudity, etc.

**Dare we call it a cultural artifact, and inflame the feelings of the responsible and respectable artifacts in museums and mysterious caves around the world, but as a social scientist (aren’t we all: I think so, btw), judgement escapes our lexicon. In that way, at least.

The New York Times, article by Virginia Heffernan


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