Reality TV is unscripted programming that doesn’t employ actors and focuses on footage of real events or situations. It differs from documentary television in that the focus tends to be on drama, personal conflict, and entertainment rather than educating viewers. There are many different types of reality TV genres, a few of these are Competition/Elimination shows like the Amazing Race and American Idol. To Makeover/Renovation shows like Extreme Makeover. Another subgenre of reality TV is the documentary style reality TV, some examples are Geordie Shore, Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Real World. This blog mainly refers to the documentary style subgenre when referring to reality TV.
Effects of Reality TV
One of the issues that is always discussed heavily is how reality shows promote irresponsible and aggressive behaviour. The social cognitive theory gives an understanding of why actions may be imitated. Sometimes it is because the media portrays actions as being acceptable, but sometimes actions are imitated because they are realistic. On an episode of the show Teen Mom one of the mothers, Kailyn, got in a physical altercation with her partner and she ended up hitting him. The whole incident was shown on the show. The negative implications that can occur from viewing this is that over time viewing this material can lead some viewers to imitate what they have seen when similar situations arise in their own life. Rather than handle these situations maturely, viewers can imitate what they have seen and act in a more negative way.
Common themes in a lot of new reality shows are the materialism and excessive partying that occurs. The series Rich Kids of Beverly Hills show all these young adults going on extravagant trips wearing designer clothes, spending a lot of money on alcohol-fueled parties and are never seen working regular jobs. Meanwhile in shows like The Jersey Shore we see the whole cast spend an entire summer drinking excessively, participating in risky sexual behaviour, engaging in altercations and even being arrested. The reported “Hollywood Hill robberies” committed by a group of teenagers called the Bling Ring is an extreme example of how emulation of reality TV lifestyles can cause problems in teens. The teens idealized the party and high-fashion lifestyle that is often featured on reality TV and subsequently robbed the homes of celebrities to fuel this lifestyle.
I consider myself as a “gamer” or someone who plays video games a decent amount. As someone who plays video games I often read articles or hear comments made about how violent video games are damaging to youths and promote aggressive behaviour. I have to go on record to say that I play a lot of these violent video games and I don’t think there is anyone I know who would consider me to be an aggressive or violent person. But I do acknowledge that yes, for some people playing violent games can actually make them violent and can promote acts of crime in extreme cases. I don’t watch reality shows at all because personally it just isn’t appealing for me. However, just like I play violent video games I’m sure there are people out there who watch reality shows and in no way imitate what they see. Again, there also are some people who view reality shows and do imitate what they see.
What we should understand is that just because something says it is “real” doesn’t mean you should stop thinking critically and take everything on board as useful information. Also if you like reality shows then by all means don’t stop watching them. But if you are finding that a lot of your social interactions with others aren’t going so well or that maybe your relationships are filled with problems, at least consider consuming media that is less “toxic”. Instead you could try consuming media that is stimulating for your mind and see if there is any change in your life.
Winifred Fordham Metz. (2007). How Reality TV Works. Retrieved from http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/reality-tv.htm
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Kaleidoscope Acres. (2012). Different Types of Reality Shows. Retrieved from https://reality-tv.knoji.com/different-types-of-reality-shows/
Psych424. (2014). Effects of Reality Television. Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/aspsy/2014/03/24/effects-of-reality-television/
Holly Peek. (2014). The Impact of Reality TV On Our Teens. Retrieved from http://www.mghclaycenter.org/parenting-concerns/teenagers/impact-reality-tv-teens-can-parents/