Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hook, Line and Sinker: Reality TV and Its Impact in Our Culture

I was a big fan of MTV’s The Real World throughout my teenage years and into adulthood. The show’s intro “Seven strangers, picked to live in a loft and have their lives taped,” was my cache phrase. MTV had me and millions of other young people hook, line and sinker. I religiously tuned in every week for about seven seasons. The show was a hit and has spawned a plethora of knock-offs.

More than 15 years later, media and entertainment companies find that reality TV programming still garners viewers and is very profitable. You can find reality TV shows on both network and cable television. Popular reality shows in 2012 included Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, American Idol, Love and Hip-Hop (Atlanta), The Voice, Deadliest Catch, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Mob Wives and Real Housewives. The dominating force reality TV has in the lives of many Americans is as real as the shows are popular. How did we get here and is our culture better or worse off as a result of it?

Reality TV History

While the1990s may be the time period that many Americans associate with the rise of reality television, the fact is the first reality television show aired many decades earlier. The first reality TV show was Candid Camera with Alan Funt, which aired in 1948. “In fact, he started a year earlier with Candid Microphone on radio. Truth or Consequences started in 1950 and frequently used secret cameras” (Slocum, 2013).

Filming real people and airing it on television was a novelty that went from being the exception to the rule when The Writer’s Guild of America went on strike during the 1990s. Networks needed cheap television programs and reality television shows became the fix. A star was born with The Real World and it has created a winning formula that gives audiences drama, a voyeuristic look in to the lives of others and escape.

Reality Television Isn’t Real

I enjoy watching reality TV when I have time, which isn’t often these days. However, when I’m home folding laundry or cleaning up, there is usually a marathon on and I get sucked in. Like Lays, I can’t have just one. My biggest issue with reality television is that it isn’t real. We’ve been bamboozled. Reality TV is a set-up and creates a false reality for viewers. The people are real, but everything else audiences see is either scripted or heavily edited for dramatic effect.

I looked up reality television online and found the Oxford definition to be the most intriguing, “Programmes in which real people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative” (Anonymous, 2013). My eyes focused on “designed to be entertaining.” Even the definition alludes to the fact that it’s a creation, not real, not factual. Sometimes I wonder if it’s really that bad. It’s just entertainment, right? Wrong. If reality television was an ice-berg, entertainment would be the tip and beneath the tip are the reasons why we watch that can have both negative and positive effects on us. 

Effects of Reality TV

Unfortunately, many viewers tune into reality television because they want to see drama. The shows “fulfill certain desires – like power or influence, travel and living, survival and outwitting, beauty and satisfaction, revenge and honor” (Reny, 2012). Critics to reality television argue that some shows glorify behavior. Reality TV’s main characters eventually become caricatures of themselves. Shows like The Real World or The Jersey Shore glorify a partying, sexualized culture, where there are no apparent consequences for one’s action. In the real world we face them every day. 

Last year, former reality TV star, Joey Jovar died of a drug overdose at the age of 29. He starred on The Real World: Hollywood and Celebrity Rehab 3. Was this a case of life imitating art or vice versa? I realize his substance abuse issues were his own doing, but I can’t help but wonder how his participation in both reality shows may have contributed to his drug problem. Having watched him on both, I’m left with an impression that his partying and erratic behavior on The Real World set him up to fail. He left The Real World because he thought he would relapse. One can argue that he probably would have relapsed anyways, but if you’re an alcoholic, the last place go to is a bar. In Jovar’s case, the last place he needed to be was on a show where producers and his housemates were enablers. On Celebrity Rehab 3 he tried to fight his addictions to alcohol and drugs, but in the end they got the best of him.

Reality television programing gives viewers a “cone-effect.” The cone-effect is a theory that states media content is exaggerated and distributed to help create a “perceived media reality.” This perceived media reality allows for individuals to see the media in themselves and create a relationship not based in reality. Sound familiar? We get the “cone-effect” in an array of media messages that we see because we’re inundated so many messages on a daily basis. The messages we receive and perceive from reality TV are often false narratives.

The A&E show Beyond Scared Straight is a prime example of a reality show that boldly creates a false narrative. Beyond Scared Straight is a show that claimed to be a groundbreaking series that showed troubled young people getting verbally thrashed by hard-core criminals in order to keep them on the straight and narrow path. Bob DeBitto, president and general manager of the A&E Network and BIO Channel, said that, “Beyond Scared Straight’ truly exemplifies our unique brand of highly engaging programming with a focus on excellent storytelling and first-class auspices” (Anonymous, 2013).

DeBitto and the show’s producers neglect to mention that programs like scared straight have been condemned and deemed ineffective by researchers and professionals in the juvenile justice field. The program was created with good intentions to help young people “straighten up and fly right” before it’s too late, however it was found to cause the opposite effect in studies. “Research makes it clear that youth exposed to adult inmates, particularly in prison or jail settings, are at heightened risk of emotional harm and anxiety and receive harmful messages that lead to increased potential for them to commit delinquent offenses” (Anonymous, 2013). The real deal is that Beyond Scared Straight entertains at the expense of troubled young people.

It’s Not All Bad, But

There is no denying the impact reality programming is having on our culture. I also have to remind myself that not all reality television is bad. It can motivate, inspire and help improve the lives of individuals. Shows like The Biggest Loser and Extreme Home Makeover capitalize on themes of community, leadership, perseverance and self-determination. People in these shows seek to bring out the best in their fellow man. However, even with positive-themed reality shows, what you see isn’t always what you get.

On The Biggest Loser, season one winner Ryan Benson admitted to not eating any solid food before the last weigh-in in order to reach his weigh-in goal in his blog. The show strictly prohibits the use of dieting drugs, but Benson worked around the rules using a concoction known as the “Master Cleanse,” a drink of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. He didn’t break the rules, but was starving himself the way he should have achieved his goal? I also want to know what certified fitness trainer would recommend such actions with intense workouts. The producers neglected to show us this. Five days after the final taping he gained back 32 pounds.

Where Do We Go From Here

A media literate society has the power and the fortitude to look at reality TV critically while still being entertained by it. Like life, reality TV isn’t black and white, it’s a shade of gray. As a society we have to get past the voyeurism and shock factor that grabs our attention.  Recognizing and understanding its impact in our culture is a first step. Having an informed and rational conversation about the content and context is the second step. So next time you watch a show, find a few friends and family members to discuss it with.

Anonymous. (2013). Demand a&e tell the truth about ‘scared straight’. Retrieved from,


Anonymous. (2013). Reality tv. Retrieved from,

Reny. (2012). How does reality tv affect us? Retrieved from,

Slocum, C. B. (2013, May 28). The real history of reality tv or, how alan funt won the cold war. Retrieved from,


kim dorfman said...

I do not really watch TV, but have viewed some reality shows while hanging with other people. It doesn't really seem much different from other TV. Kind of a cross between drama/comedy/game shows/sports, isn't? Gives people false impression at least as much.

kim dorfman said...

I do not really watch TV, but have viewed some reality shows while hanging with other people. It doesn't really seem much different from other TV. Kind of a cross between drama/comedy/game shows/sports, isn't? Gives people false impression at least as much.

Aaliyah Miller said...


I find reality TV entertaining, but I also think its exploitative. I agree about the false impressions it gives society.

Anonymous said...

Pleasе let me knoω іf yοu're looking for a article author for your weblog. You have some really great posts and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'ԁ absоlutely lovе to writе
some articles for yοur blog in exсhangе fоr a link back to
mine. Pleaѕe ѕenԁ mе an emaіl if
іnterеsteԁ. Μany thanks!

Ϲheсk οut my ωеbsitе :: New Bingo Sites

Anonymous said...

[url=]sac longchamp[/url] We decided that it wasn't for us, so I ripped the seams and made myself a hanging wet bag and prefer it. It was difficult to stuff the diapers in, though not impossible. Pretty simple, but for Top Fashion Mulberry Dominic Natural Leather Messenger Bag Black for Men, Authentic Mulberry handbags on sale outlet. just getting started sewing I'm happy with the final product and the money I saved! 1 yd of PUL fabric was enough for me to make 2 of these bags and a 'to go' wet bag for our diaper bag, which I'm going to start in a little while..
[url=]sac longchamp[/url] Trash Cans Without BagsTrash cans can be used without bags. The two purposes of trash bags are to make Shop the latestMulberry handbags from the most popular stores, Sale Authentic Mulberry Zip Natural Leather Purse Light Coffee for Women at auction trash easy to transport from the kitchen trash bin to a larger receptacle outside, and to work as a liner to keep the interior of the bin clean. A small trash can that is designed to be handled easily can be taken to a dumpster or outside bin where it can be emptied directly, with no need for a bag.
[url=]longchamp soldes[/url] When you buy watches online or any other accessories over the internet, you can save a significant amount of time. Thus this type of shopping makes a perfect choice for people who dont have that much time. By making few clicks with your mouse on the screen, you would be able to choose the accessories that will match up your outfit and get on to the activity that require more importance.. It seemed like no matter where we went there were good things to eat. And gorgeous waters to swim in. That was the other thing I loved about the Costa Brava. So take of it to prevent from unwanted wastage of money on newer bed . It is a method where ink will be used for printing is passed through Online shop sale Mulberry Women's Bayswater Leather Ostrich Shoulder Purple Bag in cheap price, Mulberry luggage bag crazy hot either a fabric or a netted/webbed surface. This is extended into a frame.

Anonymous said...

Le modele Pretence Jordan [url=]abercrombie and fitch[/url] CMFT Viz Cinch 11 est une paire sortie au mois d'aout et qui incarne un nouveau virage vers Jordan [url=]hollister france[/url] Image qui souhaite proposer des modeles qui ne concernent pas uniquement le basketball. Cette jolie construction en carbone a ete imaginee avec l'equipe de Fussy Collector. Elle sera [url=]hollister uk[/url] disponible uniquement aux USA.
Ses prix sont reconnus comme les together with eleves de la jeunesse-vetements industry.Internationally, les prix sont presque le duplicate [url=]hollister[/url] de ceux de ses magasins americains. Vente au explicit points analyste Chris Uninteresting avertit que les marques de la societe sont ?un peu profit sensibles" devraient out of the closet a frappe, parce que leurs specialites sont a prix majore des biens plut?t que des necessites. [url=]hollister[/url] En effet, alors que la failure fin des annees 2000 se poursuit, A & F a sensiblement souffert financierement delete son refus de baisser les prix ou d'offrir des rabais. A & F fait valoir que cela serait "marchander" son proche-luxe image. Analyste Bruce Watson previent que A & F [url=]abercrombie[/url] des risques se trouver transforme en ?un recit edifiant d'un magasin qui a ete laissee de c?te quand il a turn down de changer avec le temps". A & F de l'exercice a ce chiffre d'affaires annuel, un indicateur cle de la sante d'un detaillant, a augmente de 13% en Septembre 2010, helper exemplar de fortes ventes a l'international.
Il a rejoint le conseil de l'Université du Trounce de Bonne-Espérance lors de sa création en 1873, même en tant que vice-chancelier à la fois. Il a fait un travail considérable en cette qualité erupt l'avancement des sciences naturelles [url=]abercrombie france[/url]. Il a également été membre du conseil du Collège diocésain, Servilely Town.Smith était aussi très intéressé substandard la philosophie, et il a été impliqué dans la société sud-africaine philosophique depuis sa création en 1877. Il a également occupé le [url=]hollister[/url] poste de trésorier jusqu'en 1908, quand il est devenu Associated de la Baroness Fraternity d'Afrique du Sud - nouvellement fusionnée effusion l'Synthesizing d'Afrique du Sud. Il a re?u un doctorat honorifique [url=]abercrombie[/url] en droit (LL.D.), en 1917.
[url=]Renewed Christian Louboutin added juin paire de FRED Unfetter Hommes automne / hiver 2012 AU 14 nouveau printed poney mocassin[/url]
[url=]La plupart de bienvenue substandard les talons hauts etoiles: Christian Louboutin[/url]
[url=]imprimes animaliers et des inserts decoratifs metalliques integres dans Gengrang suffisamment accrocheur et elegant.[/url]

Anonymous said...

get renova online with no prescription
- [url=]order renova online
[/url] - renova cream arbonne

get cheap renova no prescription

ogip ventures renova
order renova cream
does renova fade brown spots
renova lights
renova approval

Anonymous said...

I blog frеquently and I seriously thank you fоr your content.
Τhis article hаѕ truly peaκed mу intereѕt.
I'm going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed too.

Also visit my site; payday loans

Anonymous said...

I apologise, but, in my opinion, you are not right. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.
Infinite discussion :)
Absolutely with you it agree. In it something is and it is good idea. I support you.
In my opinion it is obvious. I recommend to you to look in
True phrase

[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]

Anonymous said...

I consider, that you commit an error. I can defend the position. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.
What touching a phrase :)
I consider, that you are not right. I can defend the position. Write to me in PM.
On your place I would arrive differently.
I have not understood, what you mean?

[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]

Anonymous said...

Attractive part of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital
to claim that I acquire actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
Any way I'll be subscribing on your augment and even I achievement you get admission to persistently rapidly.

my homepage epicyclic

Anonymous said...





Anonymous said...

My programmer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.
I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.
But he's tryiong none the less. I've been using Movable-type on numerous websites for about a year and
am nervous about switching to another platform. I have heard good things about Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress posts into it?
Any kind of help would be really appreciated!

my web site - /michael-kors-bags/4574657628/

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I was checking continuously this weblog and I am inspired!
Extremely helpful info particularly the ultimate section :) I care for such info much.
I was looking for this particular information for a very long
time. Thanks and good luck.

Also visit my blog ロレックスコピー

Anonymous said...

Great blog right here! Also your site quite a bit up fast!
What host are you the usage of? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink in your host?

I want my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

Feel free to surf to my web blog ... プラダ バッグアウトレット

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's just me or if everyone else experiencing problems with your site.
It appears as though some of the written text in your posts are running off the screen.
Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this
is happening to them too? This may be a issue with my internet
browser because I've had this happen before. Many thanks

Stop by my web-site - ロレックスコピー

Anonymous said...

At this time it seems like Expression Engine
is the best blogging platform available right now. (from what
I've read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

Here is my blog - Matt Cutts

Anonymous said...

Hello! This is my first visit to your blog!

We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.
You have done a wonderful job!

Feel free to visit my blog post: teamplant blog tanaman berjamaah saling sharing

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's what I was exploring for, what a material! existing here at this webpage, thanks admin of this site.


Anonymous said...

Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your
site, how could i subscribe for a blog web site? The account
aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit familiar of this your broadcast
provided brilliant clear idea

Here is my web blog QLT Group Headhunting