The Effects of Reality T.V. on Society

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Imagine a regular day in an American household: you come home from

work or school, tired and stressed, you flop down on the couch, reach for the remote and

turn on the television, looking for an escape. “Oh, yes!” you exclaim when you find your

favorite reality television show is on. You reach for your drink and settle back to watch,

but what exactly is it that you are watching? Many people don’t realize the negative

messages their favorite shows may be sending. Most reality t.v shows have underlying

messages of degradation and humiliation of others, materialism and superficiality, and

the reinforcement of stereotypes. Is this really what we, as a society want as an influence

for ourselves and our kids?

The degradation and humiliation of others is a common theme we see threaded

throughout the most popular reality t.v. shows. It seems that the entertainment value of

these shows rises as the amount of disgrace and mortification of the characters increases.

In other words, people find more enjoyment at the distress and misfortune of others.

There is a word for this we have borrowed from the Germans, schadenfreude. This word

is defined as “the pleasure one receives at the suffering of others” (Reality Check). The

Bad Girls Club is a perfect example of this. In this show, 6 or 7 “bad” or misbehaved

young women, between the ages of 21 and 30, are thrown together in a house and are

encouraged to shock the audience with vulgarity and oftentimes violence. In one

particular episode, “Life’s a Bleach” two of the characters on the show decide they do

not like another girl and elect to get her kicked out of the house, which can only happen

if the physical violence of one participant towards a co-star reaches a certain point. The

girls devise a plan to do and say whatever they can to get the other girl out. The two run

up the stairs to the victims room and begin yelling and screaming in her face, calling her

all sorts of names as well as telling her to leave. When they realize the yelling hasn’t had

the effect they were hoping for, the two girls move on to terrorizing the victim. They

proceed to do this by smashing the other girl’s possessions and pouring anything they can

find all over her room. When the victim still appears to not be fazed, they opt for a more

direct approach. One of the aggressors runs to the kitchen and grabs bottles of

condiments and other such substances while the other hits the bathroom, each appearing

in the bedroom once again, this time both hands equipped with “weapons.” They hurdle

themselves at the girl and begin pouring and heaving things at her, until she is dripping

wet and covered in unknown substances. The girl finally retaliates when she grabs a

bottle of bleach and throws it at the other two, where it lands all over their clothes and

hair. Not one of these three girls went home that night, which may be appalling after such

a vicious attack on other human beings. In fact, the two assailants spent the entire season

terrorizing other housemates, in hopes of kicking out the most people in the show’s

history. This example depicts not only how desensitized people have become to the pain

of others, but how it is now embraced as entertainment. It is not healthy to be amused

when others are humiliated and degraded, but that is exactly what reality t.v. has brought

our nation to believe.

Materialism and superficiality are other reoccurring themes we see in the world of

reality t.v. Materialism is described as “the preoccupation with or emphasis on material

things” ( The accentuation of having the best and most expensive items

on the market would be materialism. We see a lot of this on shows such as The Real

Housewives of New Jersey. One of the participants, Teresa Guidice builds a new home

during one of the seasons. She goes from store to store, focusing on having...
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