Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reality TV: A social experiment

Back on my soapbox and my concerns for the future, today's topic is reality tv.

Now hold on, my dearies. I have not gone all righteous on you and abandoned my own personal love for this genre. In fact, if viewer's choice awards were reversed and the shows got to vote on their favorite viewers instead, I like to think I would at least get an honorable mention from a handful of the slimiest reality shows. In fact, I once earned a gift card from VH1 for sharing my opinions about the shows I Love Money and Rock of Love. Little did they know I went and spent it on real, live books! Oh, the irony.

So now that I have stated for the record that I flat out adore reality tv and find even the people who should be receiving substance treatment on Jersey Shore to be heroes in my quest for escapism by Thursday night, I would like to express some of my fears for the future generation. I admit that as a thirtysomething professional with advanced education and a life dedicated to eradicating violence in intimate relationships, I have actually used some of the catch phrases from the creme de la creme of reality shows to try to start a fight. Having seen a lot of fight scenes and heard the language used to escalate them, it all started to sound normal in my head. Thankfully, on these shows, post-fight, everyone goes back to being friends and such is the ending to my tale, too. My point is that if it could sink into my head, what is it doing to teens who don't know what life before dating competition shows was like?

To expand, I'm slightly less familiar with all of the "extreme" kinds of shows but, of course, have seen a few here and there. How do these looks at the private lives of strangers impact still forming minds? Will my niece or nephew become hoarders? Or extreme couponers? Or will the world watch as they struggle to lose weight? While it's great to break down barriers of shame, certain behaviors that people in the past may have kept under wraps are now being glorified. I love Teen Mom (sorry) and I've lost more than a few hours to Storage Wars but with the distance of adulthood, I watch in awe that people put themselves out there, not with any assumption of normalcy.

It IS really interesting to get to see how other people live and think, sure. But combine this voyeurism with the public chronicling of Facebook (from yesterday's rant) and how do kids today learn about boundaries?? How do they know what is private? Sacred? What is worth looking at just to see and not to take a picture of to post online? As the national treasure Betty White said when she hosted SNL, 30 years ago when someone wanted to show you a slideshow of their vacation, you groaned whereas now we look at other people's pictures without even letting them know we have done so.

What a funny world we live in, right?


  1. I worry about the issue of boundaries too. They are definitely being eroded with things like reality TV, Facebook, Twitter, even blogs. On the one hand I love seeing how other people live, but on the other hand, some people go way too far in sharing. I'm just going to raise my kids with a clear knowledge of manners and classiness. Well, I hope so anyway.

  2. I don't have a TV, so I can't comment too much. But, what kid is going to watch hoarders when they can watch jersey shore instead?
    I'm pretty sure I'd choose hoarders for them. But--- I hate with a passion all reality TV. So, I'm not too worried for my children specifically. Children in general, yes.

  3. I have two female cousins, 21 and 18, who don't get what the big deal is with Chris Brown. They honestly believe Rhianna "must have done something to deserve it." And it's not because they hate Rhianna.

    They're from separate sides of the family, so they don't know each other and came to this conclusion independently. I know their parents, and it sure didn't come from them, so I'm gonna go ahead and blame MTV. I don't know how, but it's got to be their fault.

    1. Clever lady, the Chris Brown/Rhianna conversation is one of the hardest for me not to flip out about. I think the conclusion your cousins have come to is not unique among teens and that's such a scary belief system. I WILL get to the root of why they think that way and I WILL go out and change it. But for now, ya, my beloved MTV can be the scapegoat.