What Reality TV Is Teaching the World About Miami (Hint: It's Not Good)
Miami is not a city that lends itself to summary. This town is too vast in its varying shades of weird beauty and visceral energy, its myriad colors and countries splashed about the streets. From Doral to downtown, from Hialeah to Homestead, from Miami Gardens to Miami Beach, there is simply too much life happening to neatly package and sell in bite-size morsels for the masses.
But if you peruse your TV guide, you'll find that the masses don't really seem to give a shit about all that. They want their Miami morsels, and they're getting their fill as more and more reality TV shows about the 305 project their mind-boggling unrealities to viewers nationwide just about every night.
Reality TV is one of the harbingers of doom for Western civilization. Recently, though, it seems the rash of Miami-based shows purporting to show "everyday reality" in the city has actually brainwashed the rest of the world into thinking Miami is nothing more than a collection of celebutantes, cops, and rednecks.
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I recently spent a couple of months wandering through Western Europe. One night, in Paris, I took a cab with a fellow Miami expat. With our driver, a Lebanese man named Omar, we talked about and compared the ways of life in our respective metropoli -- Miami and Paris. The result was a diatribe from Omar about how terribly dangerous and drug-infested a city Miami is, an image he deemed perfectly accurate in spite of never having visited.
How did he come to this less than flattering sense of our town? An education taken from The First 48.
The millions of viewers who live off of the savage emptiness of shows such as Kourtney & Kim Take Miami and South Beach Tow have apparently come to believe these are real glimpses into the 305. Most people living, breathing, working, romancing, and dying in this city have never gone on a shopping spree at Bal Harbour Shops or gotten into a brawl, staged or not, in the streets with a tow-truck driver. Contrary to the visions brought to us by the Bad Girls Club Miami, not all women clap and communicate in monosyllabic words in order to make a point.
From Airport 24/7: Miami to the Jersey Shore invasion to the godforsaken Basketball Wives, not one of these shows makes anything more than a laughable attempt at presenting some form of real Miami. Every fight is choreographed, every love scene is storyboarded, and every inch of drama is simulated. The saddest thing is that this city needs no simulated drama, no monetary stimulation of entertainment -- this is a crazy place au naturale. Hide a few cameras along the main drag of Collins Avenue or amid the storefront windows along Calle Ocho and you'll see more chaos and and fascinating madness than a warehouse full of reality-TV-show producers could ever dream of faking. We have real, weird life here -- there's no need for these awful, manufactured replicas.
Apparently, a big TV network has picked up the rights to Make It Rain, a reality show dedicated to documenting the fights, the flamboyant festivities, and the full-frontal nudity that live within the purple walls of King of Diamonds. Because of course, we desperately need to perpetuate the idea that Drake, Rick Ross, and the Goblin Queen himself, Lil Wayne, are typical Miami guys as they throw hundred-dollar bills at naked women descending from the rafters. You want to see the reality of a Miami strip joint? Take a camera to Tootsie's on a Wednesday night around 10 and watch the scoundrels dangle dollar bills from their mouths as they try to lure the dancers with their cheapskate generosity. You could call the show No Suelte el Gallo.
It should strike a very resonant chord of fear in the hearts of any and all Miamians to think what the possible future of our city's already less than sterling reputation might be if this trend continues. How much more twisted and surreal will the image of the Magic City become? What will be the next sliver of broadcasted so-called life in Miami to find its way to TV screens across the globe? Banned From LIV, maybe, or perhaps Hialeah Driving: Path to Destruction?
As more and more reality-TV shows broadcast, dramatize, and flat-out make up stuff about this strange city, the Miami that exists in the minds of viewers will bear less and less of a resemblance to any experience the average person could actually have in Miami-Dade County. So please, let's put down the cameras and instead look at and learn to feel the real fascination that life in Miami inspires as it ebbs and erupts on every corner, every sandbar, and every stitch of tropical tierra sprawled under the sunshine and the neon nights.
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