“Reality TV.” Two words that hold very different meanings to different people. For some, reality TV shows are a plague, to others a guilty pleasure, and to others, just a pleasure. Regardless of how people perceive the genre, it holds a subtly different meaning in the East compared to the West.

Personally, I’ve never really been all that into reality shows. Still, I will occasionally watch one once in a while. When I do, I find I have always preferred Japanese produced reality shows to Western ones. I’d never really given it much thought as to why until recently. Reality shows all center around a very basic concept: Voyeurism. Peeking in on a part of someone else’s life and seeing the very human elements we don’t always get to see. However, aside from that core, the way reality shows are made has largely diverged with each culture.

In the West reality shows tend to be largely built around a competition. There is always a mutual objective that the people participating are striving for. In Japan, however, reality shows generally seem to be about placing a group of individuals together in a situation and just seeing what happens. The participants may have their own objectives for appearing on a show, but generally that is their own thing and not necessarily a mandate from the show itself.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this. There are Japanese reality shows based on competition and Western reality shows that are not. However, ratio-wise there is a fairly clear difference. Not to say that one format is “right” and one is “wrong” or that one is better than the other. It all comes down to preference.

Of course, in the end, “reality” TV is real in name only, regardless of culture. TV shows are filmed and edited with audio and visual tricks and cut to create a narrative, whether fictional or real. It’s all to appeal to the viewer and stimulate their emotions regardless of what a show is about.

Anyhow, next time I’ll talk about my current favorite reality show.