The Reality TV Effect

Welcome back to Culture Critique and what is the last of my scheduled posts. I’ve decided that despite my university module ending, I’m going to try my hardest to keep this little blog running in my final year. So if you’ve been reading since post one (Misogyny in Music) I can only applaud your dedication, and hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the subsequent topics… In the words of the delectable Vinny Jones, ‘It’s been emotional’.


Anyway, on to this week’s topic – the controversial effects of reality TV. After a friend of mine suggested exploring this idea, I couldn’t help feel conscious that it would just come across like a rant and no-one would read. After all, it’s no secret that millions of us curl up on the couch after a hard day and indulge in some mindless reality television; there’s supposedly nothing more relaxing than just watching, without having to try and keep up with any sort of intelligent conversation. However, after spending some time researching articles and other blogs about this topic, it seems there is plenty to discuss.

Reality TV  (noun):
television programmes in which real people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative – Google definition

It’s hard to deny that we live in a somewhat strange culture at the moment where young people aspire to be famous, but pay little attention to any valuable things they could do to achieve this status. It’s rare to hear a young person say ‘I want to be famous for writing an amazing novel’, or ‘I want to be known the world over for inventing something revolutionary’. Instead it seems to be tedious wishes to be thrown into the spot light for no real reason. I know I’m a product of the same generation, but I simply don’t see the appeal. Reality television has somehow made stars out of people just like us, that would have been otherwise unknown – Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Snooki. When did actual talent or hard work stop being idealised?

I read an article on Elite Daily (here) which made me laugh nervously, as it accurately hit a few nails on the head: ‘It may feel good and calm you down to watch people who have bigger problems than you, but at the end of the show, there is absolutely nothing gained and only time lost’. It’s worth thinking about that… Of all of the TV shows you watch, how many of them are actually informative and leave you feeling educated? I bet there’s more that leave you feeling like you’ve lost half your brain cells! As Elite depicts, reality TV is like a drug – it does nothing for us, benefits us in no way, yet we continue to consume it. We are a generation pacified by stupidity. Don’t worry about politics or world peace issues, because Kim Kardashian had dyed her hair blonde!

2003-11-27-reality-tv-event-television-550wbIt’s important to recognise that reality TV can be held responsible for more than just being a guilty pleasure; this genre of television can lead to behavioral changes, including an increase in violent tendencies. Psychologist Sarah Coyne, in an article with CNN (here), says ‘research shows in the short term our own concepts of aggression are activated in the brain when we watch these shows, and we are primed to behave aggressively’ – it’s not difficult to see why. When we watch action movies and superhero sketches we know the violence isn’t real, but the same can’t be said for the scraps we see on the likes of Big Brother and Geordie Shore. According to Coyne, it is totally plausible to suggest that some people can subconsciously begin to mirror the behaviour they watch. As an example, the Birmingham University professor uses Gordon Ramsey’s cooking shows to demonstrate the normalised aggressive behaviour. How many of you have sat down to watch Hells Kitchen and laughed when the famous chef screams in someone’s face? I’m certainly guilty… and why? If that happened in the street you’d expect someone to intervene or call the police, yet on this particular show we seem disappointed when he is not having angry meltdowns. Strange when you think about it right? Could we subconsciously producing a society of bullies?

geordie-shore-507-gary-charlotte-630x360Are we to blame? As a society we seem to have lowered the age that kids are exposed to bad language, intimacy and drug consumption. I know in my parent’s day, it wasn’t until they were in their late teens that they began to learn the details of sex, substance abuse and vulgar dialects. But then again, there’s no way they were allowed to sit in front of the television for hours on end –whether parents are busy, or simply can’t be bothered to spend time with their children, TV has become a substitute for teaching morals, even if they’re not the right ones – could this be the reason our children are aggressively thrusted into a distorted grown up world?

Don’t get me wrong, there are cases to suggest there are positive aspects of reality TV, such as medical shows highlighting potential issues, fitness shows depicting the reality of poor eating and young parent shows showing the importance of birth control.The show Hoarders for example has been praised across the world for highlighting the fragility and commonness of mental illness. However, we have to remember that, 90% of the time, these shows do not the genuine realities of people’s day-to-day lives, despite what they claim. It’s incredibly easy to have our own sense of the real warped and forget that these characters lives are heightened and exaggerated for our entertainment. As with most things we’ve talked about on Culture Critique, a lack of education seems to be at the height of this controversial topic.

Now… let’s try and end it on a more amusing note. I read an article in the 2011 Daniel Craig edition of GQ magazine in which he labelled the likes of Kim Kardashian ‘fucking idiots’. If James Bond says that, who am I to disagree? Speaking about the famous Kardashian family in particular, he said ‘You can’t buy it back – you can’t buy your privacy back. Ooh I want to be alone. F**k you. We’ve been in your living room. We were at your birth. You filmed it for us and showed us the placenta and now you want some privacy?’. You’ve got to hand it to him, point well made! These people are famous because they let the cameras into their lives, allowing us to spend our hard earned cash on exploring the privilege. He reiterates my previous point about the damage to society when people become famous for no real reason – although if I do say so myself, he isn’t so eloquent with his choice of words!

Thanks for reading, please leave your opinions!


One thought on “The Reality TV Effect

  1. I will use your arguments with my daughters when trying to convince them that ‘The only way is Chelsea Shore’ is in fact causing them harm. Very well argued. Thank you.

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