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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Japan wrestler's death a lesson that cast members are humans

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

A young Japanese woman who had been appearing on a TV program suddenly passed away, and we know that she had been troubled by the many slanderous comments she received on social media. It's very sad and unfortunate.

She had been featured in a reality show. The history of this kind of program where cast members are filmed without any scripts goes way back. In the United States, a program which is similar to what is considered a "dokkiri," or a prank video, began airing in 1948 and apparently became very popular for a long time. In 1973, a series that showed up-close the lives of an ordinary family, such as recording fights between a couple, also apparently went viral across America.

One charm of TV is not just seeing performances of renowned actors and famous singers, but also watching the lives of other people who are just like us. Viewers see people getting sad and troubled over problems just like we do, and are comforted that we're all the same. At times, this will even provide a hint to help solve their own problems.

Meanwhile, people who appear in reality shows have to carry a huge mental burden. Events and thoughts that can be kept private under normal circumstances will be broadcast to many people. It may be fine to disclose positive events like romance and job changes, but what about breakups and debt? Sometimes, private family issues get caught on camera and are aired.

Nowadays, viewers can directly send their thoughts about such shows to cast members via social media. These comments are not always offering encouragement or empathy, but can be insults and attacks on people's characters like the ones thrown at the deceased woman.

In these difficult times, I feel it's too dangerous to air reality shows like in the past. I think that such shows should be just one single episode, introducing a person's lifestyle, instead of covering people's lives over the course of several months. But there might also be viewers who would like to see how relationships develop and experience the excitement together with the cast members. In those cases, program staff should take measures such as reading social media comments and act as a cushion between the audience and cast members.

We seem to never get tired of looking into other people's lives and taking them as examples. However, cast members' mental health and lives should not be endangered to provide such content. We should not forget that individuals who appear in these programs are human beings, and like us, susceptible to being hurt.

(Japanese original by Rika Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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