How the mechanisms of reality TV taught us to trust no one

Last summer, BuzzFeed published an article detailing some of the betrayals that can occur when reality is reimagined as a genre of entertainment. Sourced from people who claimed to have inside knowledge of the workings of reality-TV shows, the piece included such resonant bummers as “Lifelines for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire can totally google the questions” and “Reactions on What Not to Wear aren’t genuine” and “Some couples on Divorce Court aren’t actually married.” The story joined years’ worth of similar articles (“Real or Fake? The Truth About Some of Your Favorite Reality TV Shows”; “Reality TV Hoaxes You Fell For”); that reality lacks realness was not at all, by mid-2019, a new revelation. BuzzFeed’s indictment was notable, however, for one of the headlines it ran under: “17 Secrets About Reality TV Shows That’ll Make You Question Everything.”

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