“Competition improves things, burning away the dross and leaving the gold. This often works with commodities like cars but not with mass culture. There competition corrupts” (Will 290), George F. Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist make an avowal to reality shows. The varieties of television programs nowadays almost cover everything in our lives, and Americans seem particularly obsessed with the prosperous TV genre called “Reality Shows.” This type of shows aims to fully record and film every action and emotion of the people in the show either in competitions or even their daily lives. Does anyone remember when he or she starts to become so thirsty for what those ordinary people do in grocery stores or why they cheat on their lovers? Our curiosities turn into the most powerful incentive of TV producers to keep contriving such shows in order to fulfill the voyeurs who sit lazily on the couch in front of television everyday. We look into three fundamental principles of reality programs to analyze the relationship between viewers and reality shows: why reality shows are so appealing to American, how those shows affect both on mentalities of viewers and in the society, and what’s the purpose for reality shows to exist nowadays.
Exciting and unusual things can easily capture our attentions, especially something that barely happens in our daily lives but occurs every episode in reality shows, that’s why reality shows become so appealing to the audience. The audience is picky nowadays, and the TV producers knew it intelligently from the beginning. Not only need to create an impeccable content of the show, more importantly, the show must be accompanied by some dramatic and intense storyline to cater to audience’s preference. Furthermore, the fad that people chat with coworkers in their break time in the office about the reality show and scorn the artificial plot that they watched last night has become a pastime of work. Even though most of the time we can tell lucidly that those exaggerated plots in the show are premeditated, we seem to enjoy indefatigably anticipating the foreseen disasters from the show. For example, American Next Top Model, a popular fashion competition show in America. The main conception of this show is to explore a super model after several different competitions and challenges. If you think that’s all about the show, you are totally wrong. The reason why the show becomes so alluring from 2003 is because people enjoy watching the lives in the luxurious dormitory of competitors in the show, and they usually form groups in the dorm and always argue with each other. The show used to be just exploring female models, but these two seasons started to include male models. Undoubtedly, as long as the show involves males and females, it always contains the sexual relationship which appealing to audience. TV viewers need something that can thrill them in front of televisions as well as color their lives, and such stagy dramas exactly give them what they want.
Nowadays, the unreal reality shows are more rampant than before, and the twisted thoughts, which convey through the shows that we watch everyday, have imperceptibly influenced our interpretations toward the reality in our minds and in the society as well. According to Harry Waters, he summarizes the research made by Gerbner to explain how the reality shows affect viewers in different groups. For the most interesting part is how Waters analyzes that most of the occupations that we see in the reality shows are entertainers, athletes, and businessmen. “A mere 6 to 10 percent of television characters hold blue-collar or service job vs. about 60 percent in the real work force” (Water 139), we can see the imbalance between the shows and the reality that will cause the misleading notion for teenagers before having jobs. One of the noteworthy reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, most of the stars in this show are famous entertainers and live a affluence life, but they still keep complaining about some trivial things. Every episode focuses on each of their daily lives, their parties, weddings, shopping, and working. Those extravagant expenses on everything gradually twist the value of viewers, making those young people to think about that being an entertainer can easily make lots of money and own a life like the Kardashians. Just like what Waters states, “You almost never see the farmer, the factory worker, or the small businessman” (Waters 140). The misleading thoughts from the reality shows barely give the truth of the real world that we have to face, and those thoughts especially root in adolescents’ minds.
The reality shows is indispensable for the mass media nowadays since we can’t live without them anymore, and we also can barely avoid them when we turn on the TV. Reality shows seem to conform to every type of TV programs include adventure shows, celebrity shows, competition shows, and hidden camera shows etc. We find ourselves deeply addicted to season after season of reality shows, and TV producers make our dreams come true. The reality show isn’t just a pure entertainment in our free time, but become a habit in our lives.
More dramatic plots are premeditated for the audience, the higher rating the show will get from the viewers. Most of the time, the debatable show receives numberless negative comments on the Internet or from critics; however, that gives the show the most powerful motive to keep on. We can’t stop watching them even though we understand the shows somehow twist our values; just like that we know the horror movies are scary, but we all pay the money to enjoy being scared, “I think that we are all mentally ill” (King 379), King make an assertion about the phenomenon. We can’t stop keeping up the next episode of our favorite reality shows; neither can we end the noxious influences of the reality shows.
King, Stephen. “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” Reading Critically, Writing Well. 8th ed. Rise Axelrod, Charles R. Cooper, and Alison M. Warriner, eds. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 378-380. Print.
Mok, Ken, prod. American Next Top Model. The CW. United States, 20 May 2003. Television.
Murray, Jonathan. Keeping Up with the Kardashians. E! United States, 14 Oct. 2007. Television.
Waters, Harry. "Life According to TV." Common Culture. 6th ed. Michael Petracca & Madeleine Sorapure, eds. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. 137-144. Print. Will, George F. "Reality Television: Oxymoron." Reading Popular Culture: A Portable Anthology. Jeff Ousbourne, ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013. 289-292. Print.