They are dominating networks everywhere and viewers just can’t get enough. From dating shows, talent competitions, and personal exposure, reality TV has definitely proven over the years that it is here to stay. But, have reality shows gone too far, taking parody and satire to the extreme? And more importantly, are we wrong for watching?
Reality shows continue to stay relevant because they provide an endless amount of questions such as: “Are we what we watch?” “Are these shows abusive?” and “Is it ok because it’s not us who are the ones looking crazy?” These shows allow viewers to escape the issues in their everyday lives such as the failure of the economy and problems within their own homes. Viewers enjoy feeling better about their own lives watching others live destructively. Reality shows let the viewer know that things are not so bad and that there is somebody who is always worse off.
“The Best Funeral Ever” is one of TLC’s newest money-makers on their Sunday night lineup. This show glorifies the home-going celebrations of the deceased by putting together themed funerals, such as baby back ribs BBQ shindig where an oversized grill serves as a casket. It’s quite obvious why this show might raise a few eyebrows. It has even been known to have carnival themed funerals where the ashes even ride the rides. Other controversial shows are “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Teen Mom,” and a Viewer’s Choice favorite “Toddlers & Tiaras,” which routinely pulls in more than 1 million viewers. In the summer 2010, “Toddlers & Tiaras” premiered with an audience of 1.2 million. During the 2011 season, “Teen Mom” reached their season high in January with 4 million viewers. 3 million of those were in MTV’s target demographic of 12-34 years old.
TLC says when producing content for their network they are only interested in one thing, will people watch. When people watch, ads are bought and shows stay on the air, simple as that. The irony of all this is that the same executive producer of these over-the-top, non-educational programs is the same executive producer for “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” Hey, at least they covered all their bases.
The manipulation of these shows can be so deceiving that it can make the viewer questions their own values and beliefs. The amount of heavy editing creates programs that are sometimes more artificial than the scripted primetime shows. Here are the Five Biggest Lies that we are fed by our beloved reality shows courtesy of one critic.
- They have No Social Message – These people should be looked at as pure entertainers for our viewing pleasure and nothing more. Women are constantly told ‘how to get a man’ (i.e. The Bachelor) and how to be submissive. These shows play into the many social biases that surround us and we eat it right up.
- They Liberate People from stereotypes and bigotry – It’s like taking one step forward, only to move 3 steps back. Fascinating drama and humor comes at a price and we watch it every day.
- They Dominate TV because viewers want them – What you probably don’t know is that many poorly rated reality shows only exist because they can cost 50-75% less than scripted programs and benefit from revenue streams such as product placement and endorsement deals. They are merely filling airtime and money has been made long before shows reach our living rooms.
- Today’s audience is too sophisticated for manipulation by producers – Producers like to think that content is acceptable because the consumer “knows better”. The term ‘frankenbiting’ is defined in media as stitching together bits of conversations over time to create scenes which may be partly or completely fabricated. Pure deception at its finest.
- Critical thinking about reality shows means rejecting them – Let’s not be afraid to get educated! We are human and need our daily dose of entertainment just as much as the next man and that is ok. Knowing the facts and differentiating between fiction and non-fiction is key here and producers are preying on the weak.
Will I stop watching reality shows? Heck no! The fascination is undeniable however, they are not for everyone and what’s REAL must be understood.
– Brandi Fields