Why Reality TV is the Root of All Evil
The False Reality of Reality TV
Based on the title, I’m sure you can tell I have a flare for the dramatic. While you more than likely went into reading this post with the assumption that I’m a holier-than-thou millennial with an extreme bias against reality TV, that’s not the case at all. Instead, I’m a millennial who embodies the spirit of a mundane middle aged woman who watches Bravo by night and Wendy Williams by day to see what she has to say about the latest episode. But, thanks to my liberal education, I’m beginning to think reality TV isn’t the harmless entertainment I once thought it was.Yes, I’ve taken WGS courses (Women and Gender Studies for you less-than-liberal folks). And yes, feel free to make fun of me for it. I don’t care. Don’t think I’m advocating for you to stop watching reality TV, because I sure as hell won’t. Just take a read and think about the power reality TV has on our generation.
Today, our shiny new president gets sworn in with a not so sterling reputation. Donald Trump. As a politician (if you could call him that) I have nothing to say, because I would like to get a job after college and sharing my 19 year old political opinions on the internet is not wise. Now, as a reality star, I can say a lot. Because I know a lot about reality TV and I know a lot about his run on the Apprentice franchise. As host of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, I can honestly say at the time I loved him. He was a big orange billionaire, who on occasion made passes at his daughter. It was funny...at the time.
...Now The President
Fast forward to November 8th 2016, when everyone on CNN was in a panic and everyone on Fox was in celebration. The Donald became our president after a campaign full of Twitter wars and arguments. I hardly watch the news, usually because I’m busy watching WAGS on E!, but after the election I felt it was my civic duty to inform myself. Someone who could say it more eloquently than I (and I don’t remember their name), made a point on CNN that I couldn’t shake. He said that Trump used the ‘reality TV villain’ persona to get a following...and it worked. So I thought about it. Roosevelt used the radio, Kennedy used TV, Obama used social media...and Trump used reality TV to his advantage. That’s incredible. Reality TV is a medium that’s fairly new. It gained popularity in the early 2000’s with shows like American Idol and Survivor, and Trump rolled with it.
Just because Donald abandoned Trump Towers for the White House, NBC wasn’t going to cancel Celebrity Apprentice. Instead replacing one aggressor for another, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wrap your mind around this, celebrity turned governor of California turned host of Celebrity Apprentice because the old one is our president?! I only watched the first two episodes or so, but I noticed something. If you aren’t familiar with the series, they put the contestants into groups and they do business-related challenges. Generally, they split the teams into men vs women. I always felt like the women generally lost more and that more of the men made it towards the end. When I decided to watch Schwarzenegger’s season, it seemed as if this remained true. So, why do the female contestants fail more often than the men?
Are women just less qualified to be in a business setting? No. That’s ridiculous. But, it would certainly seem this way based off of the show.
Let’s look at this season's contestants. The women's team has 3 reality TV stars. The men's had 0. The men’s team is a diverse group of singers, athletes, comedians, TV hosts, etc. I don’t want to downgrade the female contestants, because Laila Ali and Lisa Leslie are incredible athletes, Brooke Burke-Charvet is CEO of ModernMom.com, and who doesn’t love Carnie Wilson’s song Hold On? But, the women’s team is not nearly as diverse in backgrounds as the men’s. It’s not that the women are less qualified in the boardroom, it’s that the teams are unfairly stacked in the favor of men. Reality stars clearly have enough sense to make a decent fortune on exploiting themselves, but the 3 to 0 ratio isn’t very promising for the success of the women.
Promoting Negative Racial Stereotypes and Gender Roles
This is a recurring theme in reality TV. Reality TV promotes negative racial stereotypes and gender roles. Shows like, The Bachelor and the Real Housewives Franchise show women and minorities in unfavorable roles. The Bachelor is all about ditsy waitress types vying for the attention of a semi-asshole guy. Not to mention, every bachelor has been white except for Juan Pablo, who is also known as the most hated bachelor of the franchise. Before the women step out of the limo, they already are set on marrying a man they haven’t met. Sounds a bit like old-timey marriage arrangements, huh? The Real Housewife franchise is offensive just in the name. I understand that it’s a play on Desperate Housewives, but the word ‘housewife’ comes with plenty of negative connotations. Essentially, the show revolves around middle aged women with credit cards fighting. It would be refreshing to see women build each other up, but that doesn’t get ratings. Why is entertainment at the expense of women and minorities? For shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta and others with a majority black cast, the stereotypes represented are even more damaging. Same can be said for Little Women: LA, I don’t think little people throwing glasses at each others head (real plot line in the show) is representative of their community. The same goes for the portrayal of flamboyant over-dramatic gay cast members. I will say, in both shows I’ve seen the women use the platform for good, but generally it’s not much of a plot line. In Little Women: LA, Terra Jole gets cast on Dancing With The Stars, the first little person ever to be on it. The accomplishment is overshadowed by the other women getting jealous. Phaedra Parks and Sheree Whitfield of Real Housewives of Atlanta have both spoken out on the show about racial issues, but of course on a trip to DC in season 8, this is overshadowed by drama with Kim Fields. You don’t have to take my word for it, but next time you see Teresa Giudice flipping a table, just think about it.
The Death of Creativity
I firmly believe that reality TV is also killing creativity. I know that’s a very heavy statement, but just work with me. Reality TV is fairly easy and cheap to produce compared to other shows. Why have a group of smart, creatives slaving over a script on salary, when instead you can throw ruthless fame seekers into an environment and have them scream at each other (which is much cheaper and easier)? Bravo was originally a channel for fine arts and film, but now being predominantly reality TV, they’re really killing it financially. It’s frustrating that individuals with no talent other than being dramatic have indirectly replaced jobs of creatives. The real kicker though, is the people that are supporting their superficial ‘careers’ are lower income hard working individuals. While you’re working 9-5, living in a subpar suburb, the Giudice family is living in a New Jersey mansion because they committed fraud. Sure, they went to jail, but they’re still living in a mansion...and you’re buying her fake Italian cookbook. Well, not you specifically. I’m not attacking anyone that watches reality TV, because I do too. But it comes at a price. As for loving the reality TV villain, I’m with you, but it explains why one got elected president.
The Exploitation of Real People
I think the most shocking fact, is that these reality TV stars are willingly exploiting themselves. Yeah, they’re getting a decent paycheck for 42 minutes a week of humiliation, but is it worth it? I suppose to them it is, but it’s disturbing. Watching middle aged women slut shaming each other (real plot line in Real Housewives of New York City) is equivalent to modern day gladiators. Alright, maybe that’s another slight dramatization. But being entertained by others real pain and shame is morbid. Reality TV is certainly staged, but I can only imagine that the emotions are real to an extent. Kim Richards is really an alcoholic, Gene Simmons really cheated on Shannon publicly plenty of times, Taylor Armstrong’s husband really did commit suicide. That’s some heavy stuff and I have willingly encouraged and thrived off of the drama.
It All Comes at a Price
I understand that I’ve made some loaded statements about reality TV. There are shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy that have been beneficial to the LGBTQ community. There’s also shows like American Idol that have given us Jennifer Hudson...I mean where would I personally be in life without Dreamgirls? I’ve spent majority of my life being entertained by reality TV, but as mentioned it comes at a price. You single handedly boycotting reality TV won’t do anything, but I encourage you to be conscious when you watch it. And, spend some time reading a book or watching a documentary...or better yet leaving your house. Because the false reality reality TV presents is not benefiting you.
Stay Classy (and read a damn book)