Let’s face it – if it weren’t for villains, nobody would watch reality TV at all.
Without the drama of “real” people losing their minds on our television screens, we’d just be… watching houses getting built and meals getting cooked and people going on dates with each other.
In the Australian reality TV landscape, we’ve had our fair share of memorable “villains”: think Carmine and Lauren from this year’s My Kitchen Rules, Brad from Seven Year Switch, David The International Model from The Bachelorette, and, of course, the original: Dicko from Australian Idol.
Many of these villains have spoken about how they were portrayed on the show, and the response of the public remains unsympathetic.
No matter how much contestants protest they were “manipulated” by producers, we know the truth: you can’t make someone say something, no matter how great you are at editing.
At least, that's what we thought until now.
In a post for Vulture, an American reality TV executive reveals the methods he uses to create "villains" for the enjoyment of viewers.
Writing under a pseudonym, "James Callenberger" explains a technique called a "frankenbite", which works by "stitching together" pieces of different sentences to create scandalous television content.
Callenberger claims this technique is obvious to the trained ear, but that most audiences don't notice the subtle change in pitch as they listen to the pieced-together dialogue.
He cites Chad, the controversial villain on the current series of the American Bachelorette, as a prime example of a victim of frankenbites.
"Whatever he may have been talking about in real time, it ends up sounding like he’s talking shit on the show," he says of Chad.
Of course, Callenberger insists that frankenbites are only used to "expose" a villain for who they really are. But, having used frankenbites himself, that seems like a disclaimer he's compelled to make.
Callenberger went on to explain how producers pick the "villains" from the huge numbers of contestants who apply. It turns out they mark themselves out immediately by saying the six magic words: "I'm not here to make friends."
Watch Chad from the Bachelorette in all his villain-y glory...
Once the villains have been established, Callenberger says they fall into three categories: those that know they're villains and play up to the stereotype, those who have no idea they're behaving badly, and those who sort of know they're doing the wrong thing, but insist they're in the right.
Naturally, every manifestation of a villain is hard to deal with when the cameras aren't rolling.
"The villain also doesn’t care about call times, silencing his cell phone while shooting, or the fact that his mic is still on while he’s chatting off-camera about how much he hates the sound recordist," the TV executive observes.
"The villain, in general, isn’t just the villain of the show; he or she is usually also the villain of the set."
Turns out reality TV is way more complex than we ever would have imagined.