If a person turns their TV on in almost any country, most likely the channels will be filled with different kinds of reality shows. This is no surprise, because this kind of TV program has become amazingly popular in recent decades. Such shows are entertaining and addicting to watch, as they focus not on fictional characters, but on real people put in different contexts and situations. However, regardless of the entertainment it delivers, a question may arise: is there something more to watching reality shows than being entertained?
When evaluating reality shows, several factors should be taken in consideration. The “reality” that is usually shown on TV is not the same objective reality we live in. Every reality show has a core idea to which the behavior of its contestants is subdued—though the participants are not obliged to act one way or another, they still follow the script, and their behavior is then evaluated (by audiences, other show participants, moderators, and so on). “All TV shows, not just reality shows, help construct scenarios that demonstrate how some behaviors will be rewarded or punished. The concern is that frequent viewers of these shows will learn these behaviors, see them as desirable and then model them in the actual real world,” says Dr. Brad Gorham, chair of the Communications Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University (USA Today).
If we try to figure out what is so entertaining about reality shows, we can reach this conclusion: it is the humiliation and mocking of the contestants that makes people amused. Indeed, if we analyze such a popular show as American Idol, we will easily notice many episodes of this program are dedicated to making fun of the contestants, whose performing abilities were lower compared to other participants (which does not necessarily mean they are deprived of talent, or are worse in any other way). This can create an audience (which mostly consists of teenagers) that rate and assess people based on their qualities, such as appearance or skills; this model forms a solid basis for discriminating behavior and a lack of tolerance (eHow).
Yet another negative effect of reality shows is a distorted depiction of relationships between genders. Many reality shows address sexual themes, or depict relationships based on scandals and fights. Relationships on TV contrast real life ones: they tend to be less stable and harmonious, they are sexualized, and usually aimed at bringing more popularity to those engaged in them. Since it is difficult to control the access of underaged audiences to TV programs, children and teenagers are exposed to the risks of developing a wrong perception of relationships based on what they see on TV, which is unacceptable (RFA.edu).
Even though reality shows have become extremely popular, it does not mean they are beneficial for their audiences. Rather often, these shows display role models that are based on semi-artificial circumstances and environments. However, these models are still seen as desirable by viewers. In addition, humiliation, which makes the basis of the entertainment component in the majority of reality shows, teaches audiences to rate people based on their physical or psychological qualities, which can create a solid basis for discriminating behavior. In addition, considering sexualized and simplified depictions of romantic relationships in reality shows, one can claim these TV programs can cause perverted perceptions of relationships between different genders in the minds of teenagers, who usually make up the target audience of the majority of reality shows.
Fahner, Micki. “The Real Effects of Reality TV.” USA Today College. N.p., 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.
“Negative Effects of Reality Shows.” EHow. Demand Media, 07 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.
LeBoue, Sarah. “Reality Tv May Cause Deviant Sexual Behavior Among Teens.” RFA.edu. N.p., 01 Sept. 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.
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How Reality TV Affects Teens
Parents should take an active concern on how reality shows impact their teenagers. There are many aspects to reality TV shows that glamourize things that should not be glamorizing. There is a lot of focus on physical beauty and sex appeal. Even though reality television is a part of our lives, it negatively impacts teenagers by giving them a false sense of what is real.
There is research that has proven that reality TV does in fact impact how young girls see real life situation as well as their daily life values. When Kim Kardashian was getting ready to have her baby, she wasn’t preparing her bags, she was on the phone making sure her hair and makeup artists could make it out to make her look pretty during labor. This promotes a lack of values and gives teenage girls the impression that these are the things that one should focus on during child labor.
Shows such as America’s Top Model actively promote excessive beauty and sexuality. This gives teenagers the impression that life is one big beauty competition, and gives them problems with their self-image and self-esteem. It endorses competition and lack of actual success by defining success as beauty. Shows such as Beverly Hills feature over privileged young adults in their designer clothes and fancy cars. This gives teenagers the impression that success is equated with having a lot of money and fancy material possessions. Shows such as The Real Housewives promote gossip, aggression, and bullying between the women on the show. Teenage girls might get the impression that gossiping is simply a part of the female relationship, and women are simply mean to one another. It also promotes a competitive nature making young girls assume that this is how females behave around other females.
One of the biggest issues with reality TV is that the shows do not typically promote real life success stories. They promote external beauty and greed while teaching teenagers that this is how the real world really is. These shows should be promoting women with successful careers, college degrees, doing positive things with their lives. Those types of things are considered real world success stories. Beauty and competition are just that. You should sit down with your teens and watch these shows together and make sure they understand the difference between what the TV portrays as real, and what really is real life.