Killer Karaoke and the Harsh Future of Reality TV

Today, a friend of mine decided to show me a few segments of a show that he hailed as the funniest thing on TV and his current favorite show. I had never heard of Killer Karaoke before, and I usually trust his judgment on humorous videos, so I was excited to see what he was talking about. The point of the show is as a karaoke program, the catch being that the person singing is put through a dangerous or frightening situation and must continue singing the entire time or they are disqualified. Basically it’s a hybrid between American Idol and Fear Factor. The first segment he showed me involved a man trying to serve Steve-O (of Jackass fame) food whilst singing and wearing a shock collar, randomly being shocked for varying lengths of time throughout the performance. At first, I thought it was a little funny. But over the length of the video, I started to feel worse and worse about both the person singing and about myself. It is kind of frightening; to me at least, the things people will do for their 15 minutes of television fame. I understand this man signed up for this, he knew what he was getting into ahead of time, and anything that happened to him was entirely his fault for going through with it regardless of whether he is proud of his performance or bummed out that that is what he had to go through to be able to deliver it to a fresh crowd that has grown tired of the staleness of the American Idol crowd. I, personally, felt physically ill after watching the video.

I clearly did not enjoy that video, so my friend tried his hand at another one. The second segment I sat through involved a woman suspended from a crane of sorts. Once she started singing, a large tank of very cold water was revealed and she was swung over the container. She continued to sing, though clearly with very much concern, as a garbage can was brought out and snakes were dumped into the tank. Obviously they wouldn't put people into dangerous to the point of possibly deadly situations on this show, so I can only assume that the snakes were not by any means poisonous. She signed waivers allowing them to do this to her, it was her that decided she wanted the television and internet fame, but I still found it extremely sick and perverse when they started lowering her into the tank. This woman started screaming and crying while trying to continue singing, being egged on by Steve-O to continue so, with these snakes directly below her. There was no real danger involved, but the fear she clearly showed is something that has possibly scarred her for life. The entire time, the live audience is cheering and laughing in the background and my friend is almost on the floor laughing. The entire scene reminded me of E3 2012 when the trailer for The Last of Us played and everyone in the audience cheered in a bloodthirsty frenzy when the generic enemy's face was literally blown apart by a shotgun blast while begging for his life.

I expressed my feelings of doubt for the humor and impressiveness of this show to my friend, to which he responded by attempting to convince me with one more video. The final video involved a man in a full Bite Protection Suit singing his jingle. As the song progressed, bigger and bigger dogs were released. This seemed like the least potentially dangerous segment that I saw because the Bite Suit was protecting him from pain as long as he could keep his balance. As soon as he lost that balance and went down, the dog trainers were immediately on the dogs getting them off of him before they could put the man in true danger. From what I could tell, the video involving trained attack dogs was the safest segment that I saw.

Again, I understand that this is what people signed up for. It was foreseeable that the American Idol format would become flat enough that they would need to recreate it with a new hook. But I didn't expect people to jump through so many hoops, facing everything from fear to pain, just to be televised. I understand that people like shows like this and I don’t think it is intrinsically evil or needs to be taken off the air, as I don’t believe in broad censorship. There is a point of taboo however, that we as a society should have better taste than to exhibit in a public medium. Clearly I personally will not be watching it again, nor would I ever recommend it to anyone. My fear though is where we, as a culture, will draw the line. Jackass showed Steve-O and his friends doing things like this to themselves. It was one thing to me when it was a close-knit group of people doing these things together. It is another all together to introduce the "fun" of filming the show to the public when the ratings of the source drop below an acceptable profit margin for the producers.

The beginning of every episode of Jackass starts with their own version of the "Do not try this at home" warning message. It seems that this type of message is now changing to be "Do not try this at home, come do it with us". How long will it be until this message goes even further, or goes away completely? American Idol got stale to a lot of people since its conception. Fear Factor got stale and was cancelled a long time ago. How long will it be until this gets stale and revamped into something that goes from pushing the limits of the human will, while singing, to something much worse and with more real danger? At what point does our society come to get bored of our current style of reality television and jump to something that cannot be described as anything but torture porn? Specifically with the segment with the snakes, although no real danger was present, the fear was clearly real. With all the laughter, cheering, and instigating from the crowd and host, all I can look at it as at this point is inherently disturbing.

Although I do not wish to perpetuate the viewing of this show, I feel the need to cite the source videos described.

Shock Collar - Paragraph 1 -

Snakes - Paragraph 2 -

Dog Bite Suit - Paragraph 3 -