Skip to content

The Lure of Reality TV Fame: Turkish Not-Really-Game Show Leads to Frightening Experience

September 11, 2009

We can safely say that the reality TV genre, especially the competition subspecialty, has been a craze for quite some time.  Airwaves and print are littered with shows, their current participants, and their alumni, from shows about dancing, dining, and simply dithering.  Europe and Asia have been in on the trend longer than we have, so it makes sense that Turkey, a country that straddles the two, shares the love.  Turkish reality game shows run the gamut from quiz shows featuring Rapper 50-Cent performing the Turkish Ciftetelli to Penitents Compete, which asks adherents from four religions to try to convert atheists to their faith, presumably on the strength of theology and customs rather than the sexiness of its followers (I’m not inclined to give reality TV the benefit of the doubt).

It appears, though, that some Turks do have a penchant for bikini-clad prurience: nine women responding to an ad for contestants for a Big Brother-style TV show were held against their will in a resort in Riva, on the outskirts of Istanbul.  The women were allegedly ordered to dance while wearing bikinis and fight each other, and naked images of them were sold on the internet.  Police discovered the situation when they were asked to investigate by families concerned that they weren’t allowed to contact the women.

How did this happen, and is it possible to keep it from happening again?  Easily, and I doubt it.  For one, reality TV has become the route of choice for those who want to become rich and famous quickly.  American Idol gives county fair performers a record deal without the dues-paying decade of life on the road and the experience that might make newfound fame and money easier to manage.  (Granted, AI is the only way that some people with real talent and no connections would ever make it.)  Survivor, The Mole, Big Brother, and the like were springboards for tons people to appear in, well, other reality TV shows, cameos in scripted TV shows and movies (remember Colleen Haskell?), and not a few Playboy spreads.  So simply running an advertisement for reality TV show contestants would be a cheap and easy way to exploit people looking for some screen time quickly without putting in time in the industry.

It’s also odd that of the nine people directly caught up in this, none of them or their families seem to have done much if any research into the production company (if there was one), the location, the players involved, or anything, really.  A contract that doesn’t allow people to leave the show early for any reason without paying a fine?  No contact with any outside party for any reason?  I’m not well-versed in Turkish law, but this sounds like a pretty unbelievable entertainment contract.  More details about this story will surely emerge, but a whole lot of alarm bells should have gone off for a lot of people.

I want to make it clear that I am not blaming the victims; the scumbags who perpetrated the scheme, four of whom have been detained, are clearly the bad guys.  But given the allure of fast fame and fortune that reality TV competition offers, pulling off this kind of scam has become easier, and I personally would feel safer knowing how to protect myself than relying on the world to be the type of place where I don’t have to.  As Tomlin said in an earlier post, for those in front of the camera (or who want to be), reality TV is getting realer every day.

%d bloggers like this: