Before Reality Television

Before Cops and The Real World, there were news reels and home videos.  It could be a mere case of semantics, but this footage of Robert W. Woodruff reminds me much more of 21st century reality television than any decade’s evening news segment.*

The beginning of the clip reads:

16MM Home Movies Shot By Robert W. Woodruff And His Friends

Woodruff’s associates as The Coca-Cola Company gave him a camera in 1925 on the eve of his first trip to Europe.

The gift was accompanied by a note that read:

“It is with no idea that we could possibly keep check on you in Europe that we give you a motion picture outfit, but were are merely prompted in this gift by the knowledge, gleaned from past experience with you, that no ‘still’ camera could keep up with you.”

How brilliant.  The man himself knew that the most effective way of capturing the world through his eyes is with moving pictures.

For me, “reality television” might as well be called “tagging along.”  Whether or not the words spoken and spectacle aired are edited out of context is irrelevant.  When I watch these shows featuring people I never knew existed, I feel like I’ve been permitted to sit in the back seat and witness their highs, lows, and periods of stagnation.

* This interview with Coco Chanel, for instance, is more journalistic to me.

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