There is no questioning the fact that reality TV has exploded in the last decade. The phenomenon exploded in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the appearance of shows like Survivor and Big Brother. Many popular shows are replicated in various countries, often replicating their populartity.
Some speculate that the reason these shows generate such interest is the unprecedented bringing together of “real” individuals – who don’t portray a character – and broadcasting their coexistence, interactions, drama and conflict. Now, reality TV floors network programming and captivates millions with each new episode.
But why do people devotedly watch it? What do they learn from reality TV’s portrayal of different cultures? Do they accept everything on reality TV shows as actual reality? We asked a few twenty-somethings their personal opinions of reality TV and its effects.
Sierra Grimm, a fashionista who dreams of moving to New York City and designing her own clothing line likes shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Big Brother, The Bachelor and Real Housewives of Orange County. “I watched the Kardashians for the fashion, because it’s entertaining,” Grimm said. “Reality shows are a good way to gather friends around and have viewing parties.”
Other than that, however, Grimm does not take reality shows seriously by any means. “I think reality shows don’t really worry about whether culture is portrayed accurately, they only care about the money the show will make them,” she said. “I would never get any serious information from a reality show, I strictly watch them for entertainment and to laugh. I like seeing how they react in certain situations they are put in, because I know not all of it is real and most shows are produced and scripted to an extent.”
Sky Egelhoff, loves outdoor activities, enjoys watching reality shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor. “I love the social aspect as well as the competition,” Egelhoff said. “They do a good job of building drama and leave you waiting.”
Now, if they ‘build drama,’ is it reality? “Everything on TV is not real,” Egelhoff said. “While some shows are close, they still emphasize or recreate events in favor of the show and to make it more dramatic and interesting to the viewer.”
As far as the cultural representations and accuracy go, Egelhoff thinks reality shows “try their best, but cultural differences make for good TV so sometimes they bypass political correctness and adequate cultural representation to have a better show.”
Megan Black had similar input. “What we see isn’t reality because they pick only the most dramatic personalities and story plots, because that’s what gets views,” she said. “It doesn’t represent all cultures because it usually centers around young adults who live in fabulous destinations like LA or New York, and have money or party a lot, which kind of represents its own subculture but such a small percentage of people actually live like that.”
As it turns out, these students believe reality TV is actually far from reality, and they don’t think culture and diversity are accurately represented, or represented enough. If this feeling could apply to the majority of Americans who watch reality TV, maybe reality TV would have to find a different name.