Would You Sacrifice Your Dignity for a “Moment of Truth”?

The Most Successful Reality Television Humiliates Contestants


Would you tell all of your secrets for a million dollars? (Rick Nease/MCT)

Published: Febrary 14, 2008

Reality TV has taken public embarrassment to a completely different (and much scarier) level.  FOX’s new television game show “The Moment of Truth” is what everyone seems to be talking about. The crazy concept of the show that has everyone tuning in is to see one more victim leave the show’s set in shame from having revealed very personal facts about himself or herself.  Each contestant is asked a total of 21 extremely personal questions in order to reach the $500,000 mark.  If the contestant gets caught lying once by the lie detector test, then he or she loses any money that he or she has gained for telling the truth on previous questions.  To make matters worse, family and friends are on the set and sitting on a couch to hear the embarrassing truths firsthand.

I understand that money makes the world go round and everyone loves a thick wallet, but I also think that there is a limit to just how much happiness can come from the thick wallet.  Contestants come on these shows to gain money, hoping that this will make their lives better.  But in fact, they end up ruining their relationships; money isn’t all that fun if you have no one to spend it with.

I would never go on any such show because I would never risk losing the love and respect of my family and friends.  I am only 20 years old, so I may not have as many secrets as the other older contestants that have appeared on this crazy game show have, but I still have secrets that I would never tell anyone (and that I would not even begin to start telling in this article). For me, the most important thing is preserving self respect and keeping my dignity.  I thought this would be the same for most people, but I am constantly amazed by the ever growing power of money.  Times are certainly changing for the worse.  I don’t think you could find one person that would come on a show like this back in the 1930s!  Furthermore, I could never drive a Mercedes that I paid for with my dignity.

I don’t think that the contestants of “The Moment of Truth” know what they’re really getting into. We know they are thinking about walking away with a huge amount of money to help change the future of their lives.   They are probably also thinking that they can get away with not answering extremely hard questions.  They are not thinking about the reality of the situation, however.

As we all well know, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”  Fox is not going to give anyone $500,000 for telling them which presidential candidate they might support.  No one cares about that for the purpose of ratings. On the first episode, the contestant revealed that he pushed off having kids with his wife since he was unsure about whether or not their marriage would be able to withstand the test of time.  His wife did not even want to give him a hug after this when he reached out to kiss her!  The second contestant revealed that he helped a friend smuggle illegal substances into the U.S. and that he made a pass at one of his girlfriend’s friends.  Tyra Banks recently had “a moment of truth” when the show’s host asked her on her talk show if she was jealous of Oprah Winfrey. She responded “no” and the lie detector test reported that false. Needless to say, her live audience went wild.  I think that in these cases, a marriage was sold for zero dollars, another relationship was sold for $100,000 and Tyra Banks is feeling tremendous embarrassment as a celebrity.

The fact that this show exists and is so popular seems to be proof that we’re living in a society that craves and feeds off of seeing others mess up or fail somehow.  We love seeing other people struggle.  This is the only logical conclusion that I can draw from what reality TV has escalated into. I don’t know whether watching other people mess up is entertaining to us because we can relate to these experiences or whether the humiliation of others simply pleases and humors us.

Some reality television shows can do more good than damage.  “The Bachelor” might help someone find true love, or at least have more than 15 minutes of fame, and “America’s Next Top Model” might not provide everyone with an amazing modeling contract, but most of the girls do get enough exposure to help them along the line when they do go for that modeling career. But it seems as though reality television that does too much good starts to slip in the ratings. Watching a person succeed is boring.  It seems as though we need something a lot more outrageous to keep our eyes glued to the TV—something like “The Moment of Truth,” for example.

“The Moment of Truth” is unlike any other reality TV show and crosses the line simply because there is more to lose than there is to gain.  That is the fatal flaw of this show and the reason why I think anyone would be crazy to go on it.  I would go on any reality TV show before I went on this one.  They market it as one of the simplest and easiest shows, too!  That’s what really bothers me. The creators know that this is the hardest show and, therefore, gets the most attention. They say, “Just tell the truth, and you’ll win money!”  They need to be saying, “Come and sell your dignity for a slim chance of winning $500,000!”

Everyone has secrets, and everyone lies.  It’s how we protect ourselves from harm.  This show takes the protection away and offers money in exchange.  This show finds weaknesses and then exploits them in such a way that no other reality TV show has done yet. There is no amount of money in the world that can protect me, or anyone, from the harm that this show can cause.  There is no amount of money they could pay me to hurt my family, my friends and myself in such a serious way that could  potentially destroy relationships forever.  If people realized this, then there would be no show.  This show preys on people’s bad decision-making!  So at the end of the day, the truth and an exorbitant amount of money could set you free . . .  from your loved ones and possibly leave your life in ruins.