Gwen and Blake May Be Dating, But They Aren’t Reality TV Stars

According to the gossip press (Lainey, dlisted, Celebitchy) Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton from The Voice are dating. This would be more exciting if the same people hadn’t predicted in advance of Stefani joining The Voice, that NBC’s PR department would hint at a potential love match between the two to boost ratings. So maybe they are and maybe they aren’t, but the idea is appealing (if somewhat reminiscent of the last season of Nashville – I know, I surprise myself, too).

All that being said, the are-they-or-aren’t-they dating bit is the only way in which The Voice is Reality. And the truth is that, while I have a passing interest in Blake and Gwen (I was once a twenty-something at a No Doubt show with 13-year olds, but I digress…), I have shamelessly seized upon this gossip factoid to raise a pet peeve of mine, which is, despite the mainstream media’s claims to the contrary, The Voice, American Idol, and Dancing With the Stars are not Reality TV shows.

But, real people!  But, prize! Like, like, Survivor!

Wrong.

Survivor and The Voice are as different as honey badgers and honey bees. Survivor is Competition Reality. The Voice is a talent show.  Shows like The Voice (and Dancing with the Stars and Idol) are, as Sam Brenton and Reuben Cohen put it, “no more than an old television formula – the audition/variety show – repackaged with turn-of-the-century glitz.” (And as addictive as popcorn.)

Competition Shows are social experiments, and have their roots in programming like Candid Camera. They take a “regular Joe/Joan,” place them in a foreign situation, and see what happens. In the case of Competition shows this means contestants are isolated from their loved ones, housed (or put on an island) with strangers (usually cast to rub them the wrong way), and have their cell phones and computers taken away. To all intents and purposes they are prisoners of production. (On Dancing, by contrast, contestants come and go at will and on The Voice are even united with their families.) The isolation and imprisonment on Competition Shows places an additional burden on the contestants (beyond the burden of simply attempting to win).

The shows also have tight shooting schedules, so contestants work crazy hours (sometimes up to 22 hours a day), with the winner sometimes being not necessarily the best Survivor or House Guest or Chef but, rather, the person up to the rigors of production. The grind of the process basically reveals who these characters become when they have their backs against the wall (and they can’t boo-hoo to their mommies).

 So while the person (whether they be from Team Blake or Team Gwen) who wins The Voice may be the best singer/performer, the winner of Top Chef is not only the best chef, but the best chef able to perform 24 hours a day, while living with assholes, and having no recourse to familial support. See the difference?

So come on, Blakani, throw down or you ain’t real.

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