Aged 13-30? Brands pay to hear your opinions Sign up and get paid in £25 vouchers Sign me up
Sign me up
Articles > Entertainment March, 15, 2013

Reality TV: A ghastly plague upon modern society

James Mclennan
View Profile


7.56 / 10

Reality TV made its first appearance in 1948 in the form of the show “Candid Camera”. It was relatively harmless, merely showing people as themselves when put into mildly comical situations, for example trying to work a broken water pump. Such good natured humour left participants momentarily embarrassed but with their privacy and dignity intact. However, by 1973 with the production of a show called “An American Family” Reality TV began to head down the road that’s taken it to where it is today. PBS brought cameras into the home of Pat and Bill Loud, filming them as they went about their daily lives for seven months. During this time viewers were able to live vicariously through the families ups and downs, including when their son first declared himself gay.

Photo by Rantes

Today there are countless Reality TV shows; from “Survivor” to “Big Brother”, prime time television is plagued by an onslaught of voyeuristic TV. Some shows are clearly more deplorable than others. “Joe Millionaire” for example puts a construction worker on dates with 20 women, all of them thinking he is a multimillionaire, the objective being to see if money really does matter. MTV, a channel that used to be associated with music videos, now fields more Reality TV shows than most other channels. “Next” sets 5 often stereotypically flawed suitors up with an often glamorous bachelorette who then has the option to “next” any of the suitors during their first date and move on to the next candidate. The behaviours exhibited by participants are often perverse and not at all reflective of real world dating.

It would seem that unlike in previous generations where TV shows such as “Father Knows Best” spoon-fed young people good morals, today’s generation is instead getting an unhealthy dose of bad morals from the TV it watches. However, some would argue that today’s young people are more media-savvy than their parents and know how to handle such exposure while not becoming overly influenced by it. Nevertheless, young people are naturally impressionable and I find it hard to believe that they can be exposed to such extremes in culture at such a young age and not be affected. One show that has had an obvious affect has been another of MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen”. Before this show came on air, overgenerous parties for sixteenth birthdays were relatively uncommon, now they are widespread.

Perhaps one of the sicker ways that Reality TV is shown is when a show becomes an extreme “voyeur-fest” of judgmental viewing. “Made” has young people with dreams of greatness attempt to reach their goals through training with professionals while being filmed by a crew that tracks their progress. Sounds good right? It would be if the producers would actually pick capable people to take part. Instead they choose those who are bound to fail so that we, the audience, may laugh at them. Apparently watching an obese girl trying to become a star basketball player and then breaking down when she finds she can’t, is good TV.

With Reality TV only soaring in popularity, people are set to think more about who should get voted off of Big Brother rather than who should get voted into Parliament. So what is that compels people to watch these shows? Some researchers say that watching reality TV is a way for people to feel better about their own lives. Supposedly they make one think, “I may be having a bad day, but life is going better for me than for that bloke eating bugs.” Others brand Reality TV as “discomfort TV” rather than “comfort TV”. They say that people merely welcome the opportunity to feel discomforted by what they see on the screen. I watched some myself before writing this article and found that Reality TV is now such a big part of our society that knowing what’s going on with the subjects on the show is a conversational boon between peers. One almost needs to know what’s happened to the latest celebs on Survivor so as to take part in everyday conversation.

But just how real is Reality TV? Cast members of “Survivor” have revealed that producers guided their statements during confessionals, controlled their consumption for product placement reasons, and refused to interfere even when violence became a concern. How much is scripted and controlled in these shows to produce dramatic affect? Sometimes it’s obvious, but one is often left wondering just how much they script and yet pass off as real.

Reality TV allows us to look at others stuck in troublesome situations and judge them for ourselves, sometimes those we see are just being put on the TV so that we may laugh at them. There is something fundamentally wrong with this idea. When I watch a comedy show I know it’s OK to laugh when a character befalls misfortune because it’s a comical situation that isn’t really happening. But when I watch Reality TV and witness laughter at the contestant who is encountering genuinely upsetting misfortune, I can’t help but wonder if TV, and its viewers, has sunk to an all new low. Sadly, TV probably won’t be rising above its newfound low anytime soon. Reality TV is not a fad like many had hoped, and will continue to be a success for many generations to come until, in all likelihood, something far worse replaces it.

Rate this Article
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars

Join our community!

Join and get £10 free credit

Earn points for completing surveys and other research opportunities

Get shopping vouchers and treat yo self!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Nina

    Hey! I thought as a person that doesn’t really watch TV at all I could also reply to your (in my opinion) well written article. You use many examples to state your view on reality TV and the historical information in the beginning are quiet interesting as well.

    To be honest I only read the article because I had to in school but I enjoyed it anyways… sorta… not because I have a problem with the text itself but because of the topic. I’m not a big fan of reality TV and your critical view on those kinds of shows actually declares why. It is boring (at least to me), shows horrible behaviour and exploids people of any age. Nobody is shown the way they really are and in scripted shows (how ironic) the acting most of the time is real bad.

    I am from Germany and we have reality TV on almost every channel. Even though some parts of the shows can be quite amusing like the makeover in “Germany’s Next Top Model” or when something weird happens in a show about police officers (“Auf Streife”) I still think that watching those things is a waste of time. You can’t learn anything from it, nothing is “real”, you often disrespect the people you see there and it makes us just a little bit more dumb every time we watch it.

    So in general I would say your article is super informative well-structured and can appear to a broader audience because of the simple use of language and rhetorical devices.

    I liked reading it, good bye UwU

  2. Sarah

    Most of the arguments which concern the content of reality TV shows and the mood which should be evoked among the audience are true. We do watch Reality shows to feel better or that we have the thoughts ‘I can do it better a hundred times!’ or ‘The actors playing really bad’. But I think we forget by watching the shows that they are scripted and they are just easy produced shows which can be shown in the afternoon at the same time. So what we should expect? A good plot or deep conversations? The producer of the show just take people who either need fast money or are easy to impressionable. The people who are easy to impressionable are easy prey for people who unsatisfied with their own life and wants to ruin other lifes.

  3. Steve

    I agree with your article, because I think similar to you.
    I think there are to many Reality TV shows on the TV, so the offer is confined. My opinion is, that the film industry utilize the cheap production to make more Money. The quality of TV shows drops. I can’t believe that the biggest part of the population want see this Reality shows. The producers better can produce comedy shows like you said it’s OK to laugh about comedy shows, but it’s not OK to laugh about People who participate in a Reality Show.

  4. Peter

    I think…the text fits very well in this time today. It’s often a problem to distinguish the real from the scripted text. Nobody know whether it’s real or not.
    It’s good to say that some people watch it to feel better in some days (me too), but the most shows are embarrassing.
    In my opinion some younger viewers watch it and they think it’s normal to acting like this. That can shape a whole generation and its should be enjoyed with care.
    Xoxo Peter

  5. Tony

    And here you can see some of the reasons why I usually avoid TV and especially so called reality TV.
    I agree with McLennan when he says that these kinds of shows teach bad morals to a younger generation because it is true. Kids who are not older than thirteen stay up late just to watch such a dumb show as “Survivor” to be able to talk about it with their friends. They prefer watching nonsense over getting some more hours of sleep.
    My sister also likes to watch reality show and when I walk into her room because she is laughing so loud again I just can’t laugh about these shows. No, i usually feel more disgusted than entertained by stuff like Survivor.
    I also wonder how producers of those shows can even sleep at night because i personally would by disgusted by myself if I produced shows where people are basically exposed to the whole nation.
    “I just watch it to make me feel better about myself” might be an argument but it’s not a good one. There are many other ways to feel better about yourself than to laugh about the people on reality TV. Because it might make you feel better about yourself for quite some time but in the end you are still unsatisfied with yourself and only you can change it by changing something about your life and not by laughing about other people.
    Media has a big influence on our lifes and it can be positive and negative. But reality TV belongs to the negative ones because so many young people see it and since they are easy to influence it can shape an entire generation.
    So watch out if you watch reality TV and ask yourself if you would trade places with those people who are exposed.
    Because I don’t think so.
    It’s possible to make a change but for that we need to open our eyes and see that the quality of modern tv is basically our fault because we are the ons that watch such dumb shows.
    But we are also the ones that complain about it.

  6. Name

    I think that the author is completely right with what he says in the text.
    Reality TV doesn’t have a very good impact on the young generation.
    They get confused by watching Reality TV, thinking what they see is real because sometimes they can’t decide if something is scripted or not.

    I think that young people only watch the Reality TV shows because their friends watch it.
    It is a part in daily conversations and they don’t want to feel left out.

    It is weird that in todays generation people laugh about other people suffering in Reality TV shows. Instead they should be laughing about comedy shows, which are made to make people laugh.

    The people who do Reality Shows try to become famous by acting in them but they don’t realise that they only will get laughed at.
    The viewers only watch Reality Shows to complain about them afterwards, which is not the actual reason why they were originally published.