The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

April Fool’s Week 2015: Entering Dystopia Hotel with Paradise Hotel 2

Written by: Anastasia Salter, Pop-Culture Editor

For April Fools Week, Anastasia Salter takes on one of the all-time sleaziest reality shows: Paradise Hotel 2

It’s been a long time since I’ve written for CC2K, but I do remember the tradition of April Fool’s Week well. It’s always tricky for me to come up with something for someone else to watch or read: normally, I don’t make it very far into anything unless I can find the redeeming value, and much of current popular culture has something to offer (even if it lurks pretty far beneath the surface sometimes.) So, it was with that attitude that I opened my assignment for this reunion week and found—something I’d never even heard of. And, worse: reality television.

I first encountered reality TV thanks to MTV: back when I was a teenager and they still showed music videos, those videos would sometimes segue into Road Rules and Real World. I remember that I would sometimes let those shows play in the background while I worked, and the absurdity was always striking. I would always wonder: who would actually go on a show like that? What’s the appeal in exposing oneself to that type of drama and public exposure? Years later, I can’t say that much has changed about me or reality television.

So, as I watched the first episode of Paradise Hotel 2, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a slightly more grown-up version of that same incomprehensible tendency. The very title scared me (wait, there was a Paradise Hotel *1*?), and the opening display of conventionally good-looking heteronormative people converging on a resort did little to counter that impression. This competitive premise in this  context seems to eliminate any pretense of skill, focusing entirely on social relationships and so-called sex appeal.

Paradise Hotel 2 is pretty much everything I expected, only more depressing as social commentary. The contrivance (eleven “singles” check into a hotel and pair up, with the one who doesn’t find a “roommate” is booted out of the hotel and replaced.) During their stay in the hotel, the participants mostly enjoy conspicuous consumption of alcohol and luxury while competing to stay in a mockery of social rituals.

Watching the show called to mind a recent series on BBC, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. The season one episode “Fifteen Million Merits” imagined a world where most everyone pedals bicycles generating electricity for a living, while watching others compete on reality television shows. One man meets a talented woman and pays the fee for her to go and compete, only to have her end up on a show dedicated to pornography instead of an actual talent show. This dark episode suggests that every human action can and will be commoditized, and it seems like a dystopia not far off from today after just this short dose of modern reality television. While Paradise Hotel 2 isn’t quite so extreme, it is fueled by a kind of voyeurism that comes from the same impulses—and, perhaps, the same desire to watch people compete for meaningless accolades, as according to the CC2K reunioner who recommended the show the full arc takes on “diabolical” overtones. I must admit that even with that promise I don’t have the stomach for another episode, much less an entire arc.