Reality TV might be the institutionalization of Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame, and I want to make sure to see all of them. While jonesing for more Queer Eye lately I’ve adopted MTV’s Made as a surrogate. The premise, of course, is that a youngish person (typically high school) has the opportunity to attempt identity change with the help of an MTV-appointed trainer. The results are usually successful, with drama kids turning into prom queens or girls becoming extreme sports athletes.
A recent episode of Made showed the transformation of a Louisiana State University student from geek to player, the story of Mr. Tony Brown. Once a nobody, never having had a girlfriend, MTV gave Tony a complete makeover and the impetus to extend beyond his small social world. The physical transformation is quite striking, which raises a lot of questions, the most pressing being: can a person’s physical appearance and a few tips on behavior really change them at a fundamental level?
This is the axiom on which so many reality tv shows rely. Of course one must always keep the Hawthorne Effect in mind when evaluating "reality;" having an MTV camera pointed in any social scene will make people act funny, usually in the way that MTV wants them to act. If the experiments presented by Made are validated within the one hour of programming, most people will believe that things really can be better, but with the absence of cameras, will life remain in its altered state, or will Tony regress back into his geeky roots?
Of course being on television gives you more than the requisite 15 minutes. Tony has become a sort of campus celebrity in the aftermath of his performance, and will probably continue to get attention for quite some time. But we can do much better than following Tony Brown’s media coverage as he maintains his very own weblog at mrbrown.net! Assuming that he continues to update in his newfound fame, we’ll have a chronicle of his progression our of the spotlight and back into the real reality. I plan on checking back in on Tony’s progress just to see what kind of change persists after one is "Made.".