Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest Post: Is Reality TV Good or Bad For Society?

My Featured Blog of the Week on Nicole’s Random Blog hop, Cadence from Less Than Reality, has written a piece about reality TV that I would like to share with you. Thank you Cadence for being my first guest post!! And readers, I hope you enjoy!

Is Reality TV Good or Bad For Society?

Whether you consider reality television to be a good thing or a bad thing, one thing is for sure: it’s affected most of our lives in one way or another. Whether we cringe as we watch someone make a bad decision on The Bachelor or laugh when someone points out that a reality show was filmed right near their home, reality TV has had an impact on many of our lives.

Reality television has become such a prevalent topic in society that it not only dominates television and the media, but it’s found its way into academia. In fact, a question asking students whether reality television benefits us or is harmful appeared on the SAT exam.

So, what is the answer to that question? There’s an obvious response, in my opinion: reality television is good for society…and bad…and it can get pretty ugly.

The good:

Reality television can be educational, but in a fun way. For example, HGTV shows like House Hunters and Holmes on Homes are fun to watch, but also teach us lessons about purchasing property, hiring good contractors and the value of a dollar in different geographic areas. If someone sat you down with a textbook about hiring a contractor, would you be interested? Probably not. But is it fun to watch Mike Holmes fix up someone’s mess and give them something beautiful at the end? Absolutely.

Reality TV also creates a positive outlet for those with talent. For example, American Idol made it possible for talented singers without connections to the music scene to prove their skill. While some people have criticized this show and others for portraying glorified karaoke, the show brings so much joy to participants and viewers alike that it’s easy to justify its existence. Plus, American Idol and other contest-type shows create excellent opportunities for family time. I’ve heard many stories of whole families joining together to see who’s going to stay on American Idol for another week.

Some reality shows, like The Locator and Downsized, send positive messages. While the shows are clearly manipulated for the cameras, it is heartwarming to watch family members reunite on The Locator, and to watch the family on Downsized interact. I’m not going to say that Downsized doesn’t frustrate me with its clearly fake solutions to everyday problems – because it does – but the message of the show is clear: you can recover from losing cash without your family falling apart, and you can build your way back up. Additionally, the show Undercover Boss creates an outlet for a company to improve its employee relations while sharing its corporate values with the world. These are all positive communications.

The bad:

Reality TV creates an unrealistic view of reality. For example, take the shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. I loved these shows when they first began. It was interesting to see Maci, Farrah, Catelynn and Amber on season one of both programs. I supported these shows because the girls were real: they didn’t know how they’d be portrayed. Because of this, we got a good view into the struggles in their everyday lives. We connected with them. We wanted them to succeed. Then, the problem began. MTV saw that ratings were high, so they kept pumping out seasons of 16 and Pregnant and created a second set of Teen Mom girls. Rumors swirled that girls were getting pregnant on purpose to be on 16 and Pregnant, and that the show made it look like parenting isn’t that hard. MTV contends that they show an accurate portrayal, but let’s be real here: MTV won’t show us a desperate mom with no hope at all, because it would be too depressing to watch. MTV shows us girls who struggle, but not girls who are so down on their luck that they can barely survive.

The ugly:

Reality television rewards people for being messy. For example, Danielle Staub, who horrified castmates and viewers on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, was rewarded with multiple television opportunities after she was kicked off RHONJ. For her bad behavior, she was rewarded with fame. The same goes for Snooki and the others on Jersey Shore. The housemates acted inappropriately and were rewarded with fame and fortune. What kind of message is this sending to America’s youth? Act like a fool on reality television and you’ll never need to get a real job? Be the most outgoing, ridiculous character on a reality show and you’ll be rewarded for your behavior? This is not okay!

Reality television thrusts people into the spotlight. This can take a normal, well-adjusted person and turn him or her into someone who lives their life just to stay famous. (You don’t think all of the sex tapes and videos of outrageous behavior that got out were accidents, do you?) In terms of another issue, reality television-based fame can ruin people’s lives. Take the Brown family from Sister Wives, for example. The media frenzy caused by their reality show forced them to have to leave their home and move to Las Vegas. I’m not saying that being featured on a reality show was a brilliant idea for the family’s stability, but their strong, loving family seems to have done a lot for the public perception of polygamists. For their attempt at improving relations with their culture, they were slapped with an investigation by the state, and one of the Sister Wives was fired from her job.

In conclusion, like anything else, reality television is both good and bad for society. I’ll compare it to the existence of painkillers: if reality television is used responsibly, in moderation and without causing an addiction, then sure, go ahead and take it in when you need it.


So, what do you think? Leave me comments letting me know what you think about reality TV.

1 comment:

  1. I wish they would just have standards for reality tv. They need to rid the world of those dating shows and shows that just exploit people.


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