Reality TV Is the Modern Equivalent of Freak Shows
Mike Leigh is an English writer and director of film and theater. He began his career in theater, studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and directing and writing for the stage. In 1971 he made the transition into film, directing his first feature film "Bleak Moments," but it would be 17 years until he directed another feature—"High Hopes" in 1998. In those intervening years, he focused on television plays, characterized by their gritty "kitchen sink realism" style. His most notable works are arguably "Naked" (1993) for which he won the Best Director Award at Cannes, the BAFTA-winning (and Oscar-nominated) Palme d'Or winner "Secrets & Lies" (1996) and Golden Lion winner "Vera Drake" (2004). His most recent film is "Another Year" (2010).
Mike Leigh: I’m reluctant to proclaim about what entertainment should or shouldn’t do. You talk about reality shows and all of that, which are basically, if you think about it, just simply the modern equivalent to Victorian freak shows, where people with anomalous growths and things and—you know ladies with beards and whatever it was, people with three feet—would be put on exhibition for the public. There have always been and there always will be the peripheral sideline activities which are a form of entertainment, which is to say you pay a couple of cents and you see something freakish. Well that is what reality TV is and I don’t think, with all due respect, that really belongs in the conversation that we’re having. Because what we’re actually talking about is art. We’re talking about work that in some way, however it does it, wants to get to some kind of truth and therefore have something substantial to offer an audience. So entertainment is an essential... that the thing be entertaining is an essential ingredient, as I’ve said. And I think we should dismiss and tolerate and in fact, keep our sense of humor about peripheral crackpot activities because they don’t really come into the job of the proper artist or the job of the committed audience, which is to say the audience that really wants to be stimulated.
Recorded on October 7, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Snooki and crew are like the bearded ladies and the deformed of the Victorian era. The public has always been willing to pay a couple of cents to see something freakish, says Leigh.