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The True Reality of Reality Television

By LiveToGym Nov 30, 2011 1026 Words
Persuasion Essay - The True Reality of Reality Television

The television was originally invented for communication purposes as well as education, so it is doubtful that Philo Farnsworth imagined his invention showing people eating bugs, finding husbands based on votes from viewers, or living on deserted islands. The newest fad in television programming is reality television and is evidently dominating the airwaves, appearing on many channels, every night of the week. The ratings constantly increase as the popularity of reality television continues to grow and consequently, producers become extremely wealthy by fueling the addiction. Reality television is built upon the foundation of exposing human emotions, despite the social, psychological, and ethical issues involved which negatively impact the lives of its viewers. All television shows engage in ideological teaching and reality television is no different. The first social consequence of reality television is the misguided message placed upon the importance of competition. Shows such as Survivor or The Bachelor reinforce the idea that life is nothing but a constant competition where only one person is awarded materially, interpersonally, etc. The increased value placed on competition eventually leads to invasions of foreign countries that otherwise pose no threat or cutthroat businesses that cause mergers and acquisitions which lead to a shrinking workforce. A more dangerous message of reality television is that education is unnecessary in order to be successful. Consequently, teenagers may begin to view education as less desirable and much too effortful that will not benefit them nearly as much as participating in a reality show and becoming instantly famous and possibly rich. These messages only demonstrate the lack of authenticity of reality television where viewers develop twisted views of what is fact. There is an extreme misrepresentation of various racial backgrounds for contestants on television which is problematic in a multicultural country such as Canada where visible minorities comprise 25-51 per cent of the larger urban centres (MNE 2010). For the casted members, with cameras continually on, it is likely they may act a certain way to portray themselves in a positive manner on television. In turn, viewers process and project these idealistic values outwards, onto others and themselves. As a result, the way people act, dress, and the places they go can have a direct influence on other people. Not only are viewers influenced by reality television cast members, they also identify with them to the point of emotional attachment. Reality television is most frequently watched by people between the ages of 16-24 (MARS 2003). Studies show, however, that most participants in the programs are not good role models for young adults Reality shows glorify superficial characteristics such as physical

beauty in which the cast women and men have ‘perfect’ bodies (young, toned or muscular, attractive) (Coleman 2008). This is apparent on shows such as American Idol in which a singer with a better voice may lose because they present a less attractive image than another contestant. Thus, impressionable viewers receive the message that image is more important than substance which is a dangerous message with the number of eating disorders on the rise. In addition to glorifying physical beauty, reality television also reinforces gender stereotypes. Women are portrayed as emotional, and sex objects while men are portrayed as aggressive and unemotional on shows such as MTV’s real world. As the viewers develop an attachment for a certain character, they may believe these stereotypes and for example, boys may begin to fight or treat girls as objects. Also promoted in many reality shows are the use of substances(The Osbournes), lying and manipulation (Survivor). Therefore, with teenagers being so susceptible to images and behaviours on television, reality television evidently has a large impact on the psychological needs of viewers. As scripted television becomes increasingly more violent, reality television is evolving to be a meaner, more competitive, and hurtful version of “reality” to please an ever-expanding audience. Early reality shows were harmless, but current shows like Survivor can be considered morally and ethically reprehensible. Participants can be harmed physically or humiliated while performing various tasks or failing to win the reward. Often, the challenges require no mental intelligence and instead are designed to embarrass the contestants. Producers constantly increase the emotional stakes to gain higher ratings by allowing viewers to watch real people suffer anger and anguish. People receive pleasure in others’ misery, so viewers are entertained by the constant drama occurring on the screen. Eventually people become desensitized to these serious issues and concerns of violence and sex do not affect youth as it should. Most often, reality programs are a social experiment on humans, in attempt to witness how far people can be pushed in all forms. Additionally, the programs are highly edited in order to compile a more entertaining show, regardless of how inaccurate people are portrayed. the end, the show airs only

a tiny fraction of the total footage it gathers – typically distilling 18 half-hour programs from more than 18,000 hours of videotape(Andrejevic 2002). Therefore, reality television may be twisted entertainment for viewers but at a grand cost to the pride and well-being of the contestants. The Greek philosopher, Plato, wrote in The Republic that imitative poetry is potentially such a great danger to society that it could cause its collapse (Plato Republic 595a). Similarly, reality televisionattempts to imitate life which may also pose some serious problems. The concern in reality television is that it negatively affects the viewers socially, psychologically and ethically. It is evident that reality television can affect viewers’ values and lives for the worse, but it is unknown whether this programming will fade into history or continue to evolve as unique genre of television.

Works Cited Andrejevic, M. 2002. The Kinder, Gentler Gaze of Big Brother: Reality TV in the Era of Digital Capitalism. New media & society. 4: 251-270. Coleman, R. 2008. The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, media effects, and body image. Feminist Media Studies. 8: 163-179. Plato. The Republic. Book X. “Media Portrayals of Ethnic and Visible Minorities.” Media Stereotyping. Media Awareness Network, 2010. Web. 30 March 2010. “Reality Television.” MARS Survey. 2003. Web. 4 April 2010.

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