Reality TV provides less reality than a typical, scripted TV show. Even though, for the most part, the characters within the reality show are able to speak “freely,” the fact that the show is created under the pretenses of complete honesty and reality, but is then completely manipulated by the writers and producers, is a more misleading concept than normal television.
This summer, my dance studio and I were asked to compete against one of the most notorious dance studios, The Abby Lee Dance Company. The ALDC was made famous by their weekly reality TV show “Dance Moms.” Being a dancer, I always loved watching the show because I could connect with some of the things that would happen at their studio and at their competitions. When I was given this opportunity, I expected to have the same experience I had with any other competition I had previously attended: I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The day began with being asked to stand outside and wait for the “Dance Moms” girls to arrive. This seemed fairly normal to me until the producers announced that we had to cheer for the ALDC’s most vicious rival the “Candy Apples” instead of the beloved ALDC. We were told to stand silently and raise and apple above our heads. As soon as this happened, I knew I was in for an interesting day. After watching many numbers compete, one of the ALDC girls was announced over the loudspeaker. Nearly 30 minutes pass and still no one has come out onto the stage. Finally, someone performs, but we find out that they need to perform numerous times in order to get all the shots needed for the show. 2 hours and 1 obviously staged fall occur when we hear there is a “gas leak” in the building and forced to evacuate. At the awards ceremony, I was able to witness the obvious staging of who wins what award. When watching the show, I had always hoped that the girls were really earning their awards (and they were!), but now I’ve learned that no matter how much one of the ALDC girls deserves to win, only the producers and the writers get to decide in the end (within reason of course). The obvious formula for success with the viewers is to allow the ALDC to win as a group, which is, of course, what happened.
With that strange day behind me, I was excited for the actual episode to air to see how the editors had warped and manipulated what happened. Surprisingly enough, what was seen on TV was actually a fairly accurate representation of what happened that day. Sometimes the editors don’t need to change anything if the actual event was scripted enough! The only thing that was truly unexpected was that many of the parts I thought would for sure be in the episode, because they caused lots of drama, were cut out.
This was a truly amazing experience, and no matter how staged it was, the producers could never stage the talent of the dancers on the show. I think that what I learned from this, and what everyone can learn from this, is that Reality TV is not real, it’s very entertaining, but not real. From my first hand experience, what happens in real life, behind the scenes, is a lot more interesting than what actually happens on the screen.
Here are some pictures from the actual competition and from the episode!