Whenever I watch The X-Factor or any reality show on TV and when the elimination show is on, with a great level of accuracy I can say which contestant will go and the one who is going to stay. Gone are the days when the nicest, wholesome person or group will stay to continue their climb to the top. Nowadays, viewers (and presumably more so, the TV networks and the media) prefer a slightly nastier contestant – or the one with an interesting story to tell. He or she should not alienate or offend the mass viewers, but they should have enough interesting stories or dark secrets to titillate us to take more notice.
So whenever I see two contestants battling it out, I would ask myself – would I be interested to watch somebody who is wholesome and so nice (read: “boring”), or would I want to be rustled emotionally – either by excitement, disapproval or even anger, by the other contestant? For those of you who have been following The X-Factor in Australia, when Johny Ruffo was pitted against Trent Bell during the Boot Camp, I know that Guy Sebastian, as the mentor for the Under 25 Boys would put Johnny Ruffo through. Trent is just too nice, too wholesome, whereas Johnny has a story to tell – somebody who is reportedly a bit rough around the edges, a concreter who can sing. That is surely more interesting to sell in primetime TV right? When the more wholesome group Audio Vixen was in the bottom two against … yes, Johnny Ruffo, again, I know which one would be eliminated. Although Audio Vixen is superior vocally, they are well – rather bland. They haven’t shown any dark secrets or interesting stories – like perhaps they have a pet orang-utan or that they were once selling snake oil around Uganda. Perhaps they can show a sob-story – a tactic that was used extensively in the recent past, that has been abandoned now – like “Oh, my Nanna is watching from heaven and would’ve been so happy to witness this.” or “This is my father’s gardener’s pet galah’s favourite song …”. Johnny is still more media-sellable than Audio Vixen. The same case happened when the street group Young Men Society were put in the bottom two against Declan Sykes – an intriguing young singer with an Asperger Syndrome. Three nice guys (with various background who can dance and sing) or a slightly-dark, silver-haired teenager with an attitude?
Viewers now reward questionable behaviours and nastiness rather than wholesomeness and good manners – perhaps we have been so conditioned by the media that we shouldn’t consider getting our entertainment from ‘nice people’. We follow Lady Gaga more than we tune into Taylor Swift; more interested in Charlie Sheen rather than Chris O’Donnell … nice people don’t stand a chance in the limelight. Even Guy Sebastian, who eventually won the Australian Idol in 2003 feels the need to ‘nastify’ himself – a born-again Christian who was ‘nice’ and well-mannered when we first saw him on TV, has now turned into an inked, ear-ringed singer with a tinge of arrogance when he appears in The X-Factor. Perhaps he is still the same nice guy and that he has to develop a tougher media persona for the viewers to enjoy. He may need to watch it as pride comes before a fall … Proverbs 16:18.
So, it’s a sad state of our entertainment really – good wholesome series are taken off air, while others that are pretty vile are proliferating. I have been conditioned as well – I would probably yawn watching “Seventh Heaven” or “Touched by an Angel”, but would be glued on the screen watching “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”. I miss the days when I would unconsciously cry while watching “Eli Stone” – where series like that softened me again and told me that it was okay to be nice. Unfortunately that’s not the direction that the media are taking now – if you’re nasty, you’re well supported; if you’re too nice – well, you have to figure out “your image” or ship out. The same with life and business – the common belief is that if you’re too nice, you won’t get anywhere and people would trample all over you, but if you’re a little bit nasty, a little heel-nip here and there (no backstabbing of course!) and show some fangs, then people say, yup, you have got the drive to succeed.
Just don’t go blame it on the society for worsening manners and courtesy when you are out there on the street. We have pushed niceties out to the periphery – and we are all to blame.