Reality Shows Promote Perilous Perspective


Nicole Kennedy, Opinion Editor

I’m 1 of the 7.5 million people who, according to Variety, watch The Bachelor.

As the female contestants were introduced during the January 6 debut of the show’s latest season, I could not help but cringe at their desperation for media attention. But, paradoxically, what makes me nauseous while watching catty shows like The Bachelor is part of the appeal.

Although I have watched The Bachelor and other reality shows like it for years, the 3-hour debut chock full of tears and catfights made me realize that the basis of the reality show industry is pitting people against 1 another for the entertainment of others. Resembling the gladiator fights of Ancient Rome, watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills can be brutal.

According to Statistica, in 2017 reality shows were the 3rd most popular genre of television in the United States, just behind drama and comedy. Reality T.V. is not only toxic for its participants, but for the audience, and we should be ashamed of supporting the industry.

1st of all, the name “reality T.V.” is a total lie. According to IBTimes, journalist Rebecka Schumann, who attended a dance competition at which Dance Moms, a reality show about a dance team of teen girls and their drama-inclined moms, was filmed, not only were the crowds of fans for the show staged, but the drama itself was scripted between the moms and dancers.

Even competition shows with cash prizes are cut and crafted until the episode is dramatic enough to captivate viewers. For example, past employees of the popular show Big Brother, in which a group of contestants were isolated in a mansion and competed for a cash prize, reported that the producers preselected the winner of half a million dollars before filming even started, according to TVOvermind.

These shows are just warped by a team of producers and publicists.

Worse yet, in 2019, Love Island (a show like The Bachelor in which contestants try to form romantic relationships) contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sohpie Gradon committed suicide.  They were motivated, in part, due to their years of filming reality T.V., reported BBC.

Reality T.V. is a massive step backward with regards to improving mental health in our society. Not only do such shows put unhealthy emotional strain on contestants, but they also condition audiences to accept the dramatic, irrational behavior of these participants as normal.

Research shows that audiences are negatively impacted. A study conducted by U.S. News of 1,100 teen girls found that those who watched reality T.V. exhibited “an increased focus on appearance and a willingness to compromise values for fame.”

Central Michigan University psychologist Bryan Gibson conducted another experiment that found that those who watched reality shows that exhibited violence or bullying (which is basically all of them) used similar aggression in their own lives.

While many people like to watch reality T.V. simply to poke fun at the larger-than-life characters and their silly drama, the unintended consequences includes becoming more like these characters ourselves.

So, rather than binging Keeping Up with the Kardashians, consider watching an actual reality show like a sports game or a historical documentary, or start a new Netflix drama or comedy series.

Whatever you do, beware of the rabbit hole that is reality T.V.