The term “reality” can be defined by the everyday person as “what is real and authentic.” However, reality TV shows seem to have a different idea of the meaning of reality. Reality television is misleading and fails to display the consequences of the actions committed by the stars of the shows. The events are all staged and the drama is scripted to lure audiences.
This can influence us to judge and make decisions based on what we’re watching. While reality television is such a popular source of entertainment for many people, it is important to question whether the behavior featured on these shows promote dangerous stereotypes for an impressionable audience. In my opinion, I strongly agree that reality television does indeed promote dangerous stereotypes. I have watched enough reality shows to know that they tend to convey poor messages to viewers. These types of shows can stereotype certain groups of people and make them look bad, and influence gender role expectations. All these factors can have a negative impact on a diverse group of audience.
Reality television shows are broadcasted to a vast population of people around the world. In some cases, this can be a good thing if the show has a positive message and purpose. For instance, The Amazing Race promotes self-confidence and a willingness to go forward and not back down from challenges. The Amazing Race is about a treasure hunt that is played across cities and continents, which involves 12-13 pairs or teams who race from point A to point B. The team or pair that reaches the destination first is declared the winner. The format of the game involves traveling to a mentioned location via the means available, and completing tasks or taking detours to obtain clues that would lead them to their next destination. The pair or team that reaches a particular destination last are eliminated. This show depicts the values of team work and make the participants come out as strong individuals.
Although The Amazing Race has good values, the vast majority of reality TV shows do not portray positive messages. For example, Jersey Shore shows negative environments where groups of individuals from a city or ethnicity are stereotyped. For example, Jersey Shore is about a group of people with italian descent who want nothing more than to tan, drink, and hook up. Clearly this show has no purpose or meaning but unfortunately many people believe that this is the majority lifestyle of how Italian – Americans act. This will cause families and tourists to not want to visit a place that gets a bad reputation on television. According to a poll conducted by Morning Consultant, around 72% of American adults think reality tv shows are fake and 68% thought it was meaningless. At the same time, shows like 90 Day Fiance, Keeping Up With The Kardashians etc., were the top watched shows on Sunday night. Even though most reality TV shows promote inappropriate stereotypes, this still does not stop the audience from continuing to watch and make judgements of people based off an episode they have seen.
The framework of reality television shows are mainly depicted through stereotypical roles of men and women and the expectations each one has to meet. For instance, in Keeping up with the Kardashians, women are portrayed negatively because the show promotes the over-sexualized nature of women and the need to flaunt one’s physical features to get noticed. In the show, they also make it seem like all women are self absorbed and only think of themselves, portraying women as shallow. There are multiple episodes in the show where the sisters get a cosmetic procedure done in order to enhance their facial structure or body.
This is encouraging women to get plastic surgery so they can be flawless like the Kardashians. Even though shows like that negatively impact women, women unfortunately continue to still watch them. “Women sometimes watch reality shows even when they don’t have favorable opinions of the genre partly because the pleasure of reality TV for some actually derives from scrutinizing the shows to determine how real they perceive them to be,” said Zoë Druick, a professor of media studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. The same concept of sexism applies for men. Men are mostly shown as the money makers in the household. They’re expected to be wealthy and provide all the luxury needs and wants for their family. In Basketball Wives men are portrayed to never be around their family and are accused of cheating multiple times with their partner. These ongoing stereotypes about men and women heavily influences our perception of others and encourages us to conform to the norms of gender roles.
Overall, it is evident that the majority of reality television shows do promote dangerous stereotypes. Reality television shows promotes a lifestyle that an average person cannot fulfill on a day-to-day life. Most of the episodes you watch are either staged or scripted to develop a plot line and encourage viewers to continue watching it. These negative impacts can affect both men and women physically and mentally because they compare their appearance to celebrities and influencers. Not only that, but reality television shows can target a group of individuals and put a label on them. These labels put a stereotype to the group of individuals who are actually part of that society and culture. Therefore, I believe that there needs to be moral limits to reality television show so it does not encourage or offend anyone with the wrong idea. This means that the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission should consider placing laws that regulate the type of negative content being broadcasted on air for reality TV shows. CRTC should either not allow those certain types of reality TV shows to be broadcasted or enforce laws that make sure all reality TV shows have a viewer warning in the beginning. People need to be more informed about the reality in reality television shows.
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