Values Portrayed on Reality Television

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Values portrayed on Reality Television

April 25, 2011

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Values Portrayed on Reality Television

Reality is a genre of television wherein the situations, dramatic, comedic or otherwise are non-scripted and the people involved are ordinary “real” people and not professional actors. Even though you may not be a fan of television, you cannot deny that reality TV is here to stay and yes, there are genres of Reality television where positive values are portrayed.

In an article found on the Pro Quest database, television critic, Mary McNamara postulates, “… even if we were to mistakenly dismiss reality shows as having no intrinsic value, there is no denying their influence on television in general. And considering that television still remains the most ubiquitous, influential and powerful medium in the world… any shift in its structure or content is worth academic consideration.” (McNamara, M. 2011). The article goes on to explain that reality television is extremely predominant in our society as exemplified by a recent SAT test that included questions about reality television (Para 1).

Of course reality television is not a new phenomenon, in fact, the 1948 TV series; Candid Camera (A pioneering series which created artificial realties to see how ordinary people would respond) is arguably the first reality television show (Slocum, C.B. 2011). Due to the success of Candid Camera, television shows like What's My Line (1950), I've Got a Secret (1952) and To Tell the Truth (1956) became part of the regular evening line up (Para 2).

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The early nineties MTV changed the face of reality television by introducing a new show format, where a group of young adults in their early twenties, were selected by producers and put into a furnished, home in a city, while cameras rolled twenty-four hours a day, capturing their every move. This show, called, THE REAL WORLD, would set a precedent for the subsequent as well as the current tone of reality television in America. It seemed that MTV struck a cord with viewers, people watching felt invested in the “real people” thus they continued weekly viewing. Maybe it was the precarious situations that the housemates were living in, seven strangers all from very different walks of life, being exposed to one another’s diversities, be it socioeconomic, cultural, religious or even sexual identity. Many versions of the Real World followed, each time with new seven new strangers placed into an apartment in a new city, however it was The Real World San Francisco (circa 1994) that showcased the most arguably polarizing real cast members seen to date on television. It was the relationship between Pedro Zamora- a HIV positive, gay, Hispanic, man in his early twenties and “Puck” a Caucasian, twenty something, rude and crude bike messenger, that captured the attention of everyone from MTV’s teen audience, to President (at the time) Bill Clinton.

Pedro’s gay/HIV story line and his subsequent death from AIDS got the country’s attention and whether people liked him or disliked him, Zamora’s story brought an awareness of HIV and AIDS to a generation and put a face to the disease for many

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middle Americans who prior to The Real World San Francisco, would have never “known” a gay/HIV positive man. The show also struck ratings gold.
The draw to producers and networks to create and air reality shows is largely due to the low production cost, smaller production crew, fewer set costs, no paid actors- reality television is less expensive than traditional script and actor driven television to produce (Slocum, C, 2011, Para 11).

In a recent online article, author, Julius Debuschewitz, remarked, “…these shows have become ever more outrageous, with most of them offering no educational value whatsoever. The majority are crude and sensationalistic.” (2011, Para 10).

Critics like Mr. Debuschewitz, often postulate that although the...
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