Reality Beyond Television

Here's an idea for a reality series.

Take 27 million ordinary people, put them all together in a country, and then organize a botched invasion followed by a civil war that utterly ravages what infrastructure was available and sets large segments of the population at violent odds with each other, and then see how they live their daily lives amid the drama of a destroyed nation!

The only question is, how do we decide who wins?

Well, come to think of it, it's a horrible idea for a show. Let alone a horrible idea for reality. No one is winning.

But unfortunately, this is reality. More real than what passes for reality in most of the media, even the news.

One thing that I've felt now for a long time is how isolated I feel from what is going on over there. Where is it? What is it? All the war is is statistics and tallies and tickers. Wherever he is, Baudrillard is crying. There are 27 million people there! Where are they? Why is the only Iraq I can see American newscasters, American troops, American politicians and maybe a burned out car?

As it says on the website of the video blog, Hometown Baghdad:

"The everyday life of the Iraqi citizen has been the great untold story of the Iraq war."

But now it being told, in English and with quality production, available on the internet for everyone, in any country. A series of roughly two-minute long episodes follow the lives of Adel, Ausama, and Saif, "20-somethings trying to survive in Baghdad." They are, we find through a revelation remarkable in its obviousness, just like middle class 20-somethings anywhere. They like music, sports, and women; they go to college (when breaks in the violence permits it) and they have career aspirations (except when these aspirations are forbidden by politics).

The difference is that they are attempting to live normally while their surrounding reality is anything but normal. Maybe this is what reality really is, and why we find it so dramatic and try to capture it on TV. Except that reality, when captured, becomes entertainment, and is no longer reality. Yet it still is real for those who are living it. You can see that here; no matter what happens in the episodes there is no arguing, no dramatic posturing, because there really is a war on, and they don't need to be reminded of that, because that is what their reality is. And that is the problem with the war, with Baudrillard, with entertainment, and with reality. No matter how much you abstract something that is actually real, it still remains real.

And this is why I think that Hometown Baghdad is so powerful. The production value is high; it is produced by veterans of broadcast television both in the Middle East and New York. It has the abstraction of false reality: the cuts, the short episode length, and the character vignettes of a "reality" series. But that doesn't stop the reality of the people, the place, and the footage from finding their way through the internet and to the viewer. This "show" has something that media can never abstract, and that is a subject matter who is real: crucially, absurdly, unbelievably real. Reality is something that you can never not believe; you can feel this streaming through the internet all the way across the world, and that is what makes this actual, reality television.

Everytime I see the crap on our TV, it makes me want to puke. I may be somewhat entertained, but I still want to vomit. These clips don't make me want to do that; they don't make me want to lie on the couch all day; they don't make me want to lash out the members of my species. This reality makes me want to live.

Forgive this lavish review: I know its not really my regular style, but this show deserves to be reviewed again and again until everyone watches it. I'm glad that they are making this show, and I hope that they continue to do, because it is making a reality real in a way that it hardly ever is.

These two episodes are, in my opinion, the most memorable so far:

Adel - "Brains on Campus"

"Symphony of Bullets"

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