-A video manipulation exercise for my Experimental Video subject at RMIT …

Reality television ‘Judging’ programs like Xfactor, Australian Idol, Masterchef et al, succeed because they capitalise not only by tapping into their viewers’ innate competitive instincts, but also by feeding their modern addiction to emotionally charged sensationalism. Enticing the viewer to empathise with, and barrack for, their favourite competitor caricatures; the viewer can vicariously experience the highs and lows of their chosen protagonists/antagonists throughout the competition. Similarly, the viewers’ egos are fed because the show allows them to objectively critique an others’ merit vicariously through the decisions of the judges, but also through their subjective judgement of the saga at large.

A positive of this journey for the viewer is that they get to experience the thrill when their favourite competitor faces adversity and triumphs.

A negative is that the designed format of the show enforces the notion on the viewer that the only way to achieve success is to judge or to be judged.
Within this context, the viewers’ own self-esteem is challenged, as their egos compare their own merit against the competitor characters’, and also what the judges (via the producers) decide and rule is noteworthy.

When this consumptive experience reverberates out into society, particularly into and throughout the lives of developing and highly charged hormonal teens (who are a target demographic for some of these shows), the result is subliminal, but toxic. Individuals are burdened with a heightened critical and comparative self-conscious awareness, for they are persistently judging themselves, or fear they are frequently being judged. They conversely also feel more comfortable and readily justified in projecting a judgemental opinion upon others, through bullying for example, as these actions are celebrated on television as normal, heroic, honourable, and ultimately equate to an individual’s success.

Teenage depression and suicide is strongly linked with this low self-esteem and feeling of never ‘fitting in’ or ‘succeeding’, and it is increasing. Is it due to this new cultural consumer aesthetic of ‘judge or be judged’?

I believe so. Which is why I have juxtaposed the content of the sugary, super-saturated designed ‘reality’ shows purveying this model, against the bleak actual reality video diaries of young depression sufferers and self-harm addicts.

My aim with this piece, through image/sound editing and manipulation, is to negate this mainstream frequency by revealing the corrosive ideal of ‘judging others’ that the shows thrive on, and elucidate the destructive influence they are having on the mental health of society, and all neatly (well, actually uncomfortably) packaged in a 30 second grab as they so cleverly do.

Completed entirely in Final Cut Pro (using all found footage, from The Voice Australia’s promos and individual depression/secrets diaries from Youtube)…I think it achieves this goal…but…you be the judge!



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