Star Academy: Rise into fame or fall into shame?

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A show that helps young talented candidates rise into fame. A show that supplies the tools needed to become an ‘artist’. A show that provides a 24/7 reality TV station so viewers can witness the transitions these people go through, and not only love their talents, but also their characters. It all looks good, until one wonders, does the word ‘show’ really go with ‘reality’? Can a company (obviously wanting to generate profit) be trusted in producing ‘artists’? Or will some drama be triggered as to attract more viewers? The latter seems to be what’s happening.

With more than 5 million fans around the Middle East, Star Academy 10 launched last month, and despite being more than 10 years old, it still proves to be a popular show demanded by millions. In this piece, I explore the negatives of reality TV, especially in the Arab World, and the effects it might hold on those in front of the cameras.

Let’s get right into it. We live in conservative societies. In most of our countries, a female’s reputation is all she has, and once it’s publically shamed, suffering begins and in no way she can be looked at as an ‘idol’. A male is in no better position; a male can be shamed if he acts too emotionally or too rigidly. One cannot put 10 males and 10 females in one house and expect them to conform to social boundaries. Imagine yourself living under one roof with the same people, after a month or two, you will be forced to display actions, which might not be acceptable to some, but which will be completely appropriate to those who live it. For example, she (X) misses her parents and her home. She starts crying. He (Y), who has been living with her for more than 90 continuous days, now hugs her trying to comfort her. The hug may be completely brotherly, with no intention but to act as a friend. That is what happens in front of the camera, but that is not what’s usually translated to those behind TV screens. The next day, tabloids and YouTube channels release news pieces or footages with titles like: ‘Relationship begins between X and Y’ or ‘Watch Y trying to physically touch slutty X’. Production companies are not dumb, they know it’s this juice which people like the most and see viewers’ interest in X and Y, hence increasing the focus on them, putting them in situations where they need to be close. Cameras start focusing on their every move, every gesture they make towards each other, and every eye contact. I have myself searched through YouTube, and some footages with couples sitting alone gain more than 2 million views, while others, of individuals signing, gain no more than 10,000 views. X and Y may leave the show and enter the real world with no clue of what has happened nor of the ways the show got advantage of their bond. Some families may not mind, but others might, and with the pressure of harsh judgmental communities, these people may not be able to handle being in that spectrum of the public eye.

An example is the case of a student in one of the seasons. After colleagues of his, completely negligent to the fact cameras are all around, gossiped about his ‘strange’ behavior and talked about his sexual orientation. He was a powerful popular participant who was going to win the title and it was obvious that due to competitive jealousy, some thought that spreading these kinds of rumors would be ‘fun’. In the Middle East, one’s sexual orientation cannot be considered a ‘normal’ issue, and even though the talks were only gossip and free of any truth, the show itself should not have released these footages, as it must know the implications it would cause him and his family. His sister called him and told him to leave the show as his dad is ill (he was not, but they could not disclose to him what was happening in the outside world on air), and so he quit. This is an example of a young man, aspirational and completely determined to reach his goal, but was prevented. Yes the inappropriate discriminatory social boundaries played a part, but the show, which puts profit generation goals above morality and respect towards these people and their families, should also be accountable for his departure and possible emotional distress.

Psychology maintains that not one single human being can keep on acting for more than 24 hours, and the real personality prevails eventually. How will then a true character appear when 4 walls and the same people confine it? Participants will, with no doubt, reveal their attitudes which may not seem sensible to the normal viewer but will completely be normal when the situations these people are put in are lived. It is well known, that under stress, frustration and anger will prevail over sweetness and smiles.

It is true that Star Academy opens a door for social and political change. It introduces cultures to each other, reflects a more inclusive society: one, which features women as equal men, and threatens the appalling restrictions of a ‘conservative’ society. I have no problem with Star Academy as a show, which interrelates cultures and releases talents, but they have to admit that the dramas, the gossip, the catfights, are the main profit generation pathways. Hence, a fine line should be drawn between harmless drama and life ruining footages that will always be there for the world to see.

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6 thoughts on “Star Academy: Rise into fame or fall into shame?

  1. Interesting read. I am using the word “interesting” but it is -to me at least- more than that. I do not watch such shows to be honest, we have abandoned TV since 2005 and although u cannot help not being exposed to such things and matters but for the major part I am not aware of such subtleties occurring in such “shows”. The reason I am saying this firstly Badia is not to showcase anything of whatsoever merits in my attitude/behaviour; rather an attempt to clarify my stance on what I am about to say next.

    These kind of talent/reality shows as anything else “new” have an appealing element and even people who disagree with this “direction” know it and fall, at least temporarily, under its lure (no one likes to be left outside of a social trend).

    My only time following such shows was with Arab idol when diana karazoun won it. Looking back at those times I guess it was a waste of time but I was young(er) and it was a newie thingy.

    It is absolutely right that every detail possible is pre-planned by people behind such shows. They need ads, revenue, and subsequently profit. These need viewers and “clicks”, which only can be proliferated by exposing what is hot and juicy (as u pointed rightfully). الجمهور عاوز كده

    No real interest in developing talent or a cultural awakening of some sort -in my view- it is a business, period! If any consequence such as awareness of “whatever” or altering someone’s life and boosting them into stardom happens, that is -again, in my book- a byproduct AND in any case, being used (abused) to re=promote the show(s) and their usefulness/impact/etc..

    This is not just for our region, all these reality shows have been scrutinised heavily (UK mostly as far as I am aware) and many leads point out that beneficiaries are a selected few (corporation wise) and even people behind these blockbuster shows are often of political links. (no, I am not possessed with conspiracy conceptions :D).

    If one looks at how the focus on facial expressions, gossip, judges/mentors reactions/ the delay in streaming live shows/ the cut-edit-paste material than is being thrown at us/deals with telecommunication giants (voting and what not) …. all this suggests it is only, at best, a money-sucking machines, or at worst, a consumerism-feeding beast that is growing only in size and ugliness.

    * I have looked for a report that dealt with this matter (there r a few) but could not find the one I wanted to share.

    1. Diana Karazon won Super Star lol, I remember because it was also the show I dedicated my time to watch 😛
      I agree with what you said, and yes these ‘reality’ shows receive criticism all over the world, but my point is, as Arabs, our societies are constructed differently, and ‘reputations’ are sometimes all what people have, it seems that these corporations feed off the people they lure in and enjoy the social damages which result from the footages they show from fabricated drama. No consequent legal action can be taken by anyone because of the contracts they sign pre joining..so is this really the price of fame? (we should also remember that these people are not ‘victims’, as no one forced them to enter).

      *Thank you for being an all-time reader of my blog!:)

      1. My pleasure.

        And if I may, I want to reiterate that I do agree on what u said regarding the reputation and the consequences that might (would?) follow if it was touched. I was trying to some sort of elaborate on my thinking about the matter but I guess I got a bit carried away! 🙂

  2. I have seen odd episodes of this whilst in Jordan.What is more surprising is that in Khaleeji countries where the audience is more ” Islamic” they seem to be totally enthralled. There is no accounting for taste!
    As usual a well written piece Mabruk!

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