The Worst of Reality TV Manipulation

Reality TV is all about editing. I think any reasonable person knows that. These editors (really writers, but that's a whole other can of worms) can take a situation where 10 people get along like they've been best friends forever and make it seem like everyone hates everyone else. They can make someone with a dry sense of humor look like the nastiest human being on the face of the earth, or make a kind considerate person seem like they just stepped off the short bus on the way to their seventh year of high school.

I was hesitant to watch America's Best Dance Crew last night because the challenge was to incorporate traditional styles of Indian dance, wherein a misplaced eyebrow can change the entire meaning of a routine, into hip hop routines. While I wasn't thrilled with the results I saw, that wasn't the problem last night.

The problem last night was an editing package about the crew Vogue Evolution that seems to indicate MTV is done allowing a crew comprised of five out members of the LGBT community to appear on their airwaves.

It was clear when a voguing crew was cast on the show MTV had no intention of letting them win. They were mostly a gimmick to add diversity (like the "Hick-Hop" crew or the DC Go-Go/House crew) to a program that hit a bit of hot water last year when judge Shane Sparks shouted "No homo" before complimenting the sexiness of an all male crew. What MTV did not anticipate was that Vogue Evolution would be a popular crew on the show. Even if they weren't the cleanest crew or the most inventive, they knew how to put on a show and they received enough votes each week to not be in the bottom 2, meaning they couldn't be eliminated .

Here is the editing package from last night's episode:

Problem 1: Why is drama from last week, that could have been edited into last week's clips(it's not broadcast live), being used against them this week? The clips shown of her making comments like "Y'all bitches ready?" or "My arm hurts" don't seem to indicate this massive diva attitude, especially coming from the Ball world.

Problem 2: Lil Mama. I normally love her as a judge. This week she absolutely crossed the line:

  • A) She said Leiomy, a transgendered woman, was born a man and becoming a woman and therefore needs to act like a lady. I wasn't aware that Lil Mama was BFF with Leiomy and knew exactly how Leiomy felt about her gender even as a young child. To call her a man becoming a woman insensitive in the most positive light I can provide.
  • B) Both JC and Shane made it clear that regardless of what happened backstage, Leiomy performed like a pro on stage. Yes, she walked out of a rehearsal last week (we'll get to that), but she came and performed this week. Lil Mama acted like she walked out 30 minutes before the show this week and needed to be punished this week.
  • C) The incoherent rant about not being the face of transgendered but being the face of America seemed a bit off, and not just because Lil Mama didn't actually say anything.

Problem 3: Dear MTV,

Please don't lie to America. It might have been important to mention a few details about what went down last week and why VE, not just Leiomy, were in a bad mood.

You clearly want the crew off the show, otherwise this would have easily been edited to show the dedication of VE in continuing on the show after losing one of their close friends, and Leiomy's mentor. Alloura Jordan, who helped get Leiomy into the Ball scene, passed away (highlight the black text, it explains everything) either the day before or the day of the filming of the performance episode. Rumors obviously spread very quickly, though it's not hard to believe that MTV intentionally did not divulge the information. The biggest rumor that does not shock in me in reality TV land: MTV wouldn't let VE fly out for the funeral because they simply had to film their package receiving the challenge that day. There's even speculation that the focus on floor work in the beginning of the routine was a direct tribute to Alloura Jordan's style, though there was nothing edited into the package to indicate that.

Judging by the critiques of Shane and JC (more in line with this: Some days you don't want to perform, and as a group, you get through it, and you did exactly what you were supposed to do today. It wasn't your best performance, but you did what you had to. Good job), they knew exactly what happened. And for some reason, MTV doesn't want America to know. And MTV wants VE to go home. They did this before with a crew that threw a member out for breaking the rules and acted like the leader of the crew was an outrageous diva; they were eliminated by the judges that episode.

This is the opposite extreme of American Idol allowing one of their finalists to constantly play the "my wife died" card to get votes, and neither is ideal. It's, simple put, reality TV manipulation.

Death is a part of life, and reality TV producers still don't know how to handle it in a responsible way.

For example, did you know that in Cycle 10 of America's Next Top Model, the contestant who quit the show during the first judging panel and was treated like a criminal for doing so by Tyra Banks only quit because someone close to her died right before they started filming? That she only quit because that was the way Tyra suggest she leave the competition? And that the episode intentionally did not mention anything to indicate that the girl had a legitimate reason for leaving the competition?

Or how Top Model conveniently does a photo shoot connected to death or murder whenever a contestant finds out a friend or family member died during the filming of the show? How sensitive to drop someone in an open casket into a funeral plot for a photo shoot after her best friend died. Or what about that other contestant who learned her best friend died of a drug overdose and the very next photo shoot had her simulating death by poisoning? Classy.

And let's not even get into what happens in the real world after the show has finished filming.

Reality TV is all about editing, and somehow, the producers and editors have developed the belief that showing us the truth isn't good enough, especially when the manipulation can get the results they want.