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“Reality” Shows ~ Sociologist’s Perspective?

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
What’s up with these shows?

I feel like the audience forgets that they are shows, selected and edited for entertainment and the participants are making a profit. I hear people talking about the participants or the episode like they/it was real.

I’ve always felt this way but tonight my SIL was talking to me about the “SuperNanny” and how she really turns families around (and I should watch ).

HELLO!!! This show is a piece of “entertainment”. They choose the families, pay them and edit the show to make it look like a success.



And, why are there so many and why are they getting so out of hand ~ the Swan, Who’s Your Daddy…DH said there is even one coming out in England about torture (the theme is ‘just like Guantanamo Bay’)

And, are the shows related ~ culturally, morally?
post #2 of 41
I agree there are way too many shows out there. I guess everyone just wants to jump on the bandwagon that the successful shows have. I guess they figure if the throw enough crap at us something will stick
post #3 of 41
Thread Starter 
I edited the title to get more of a dialogue going because I’m really interested in this.

I’m thinking about another idea and I wonder what some of you think…


Do you think reality shows (especially the ones about families (Wife Swap), Dating (The Swan) and Parenting (SuperNanny) are related to wanting to be “up in peoples’ business”, wanting to gossip and wanting to judge others?


I remember reading an article about some of the quiz shows (ones like the Millionaire) and they talked about how show thrives because they make people *feel* smart by asking all those easy questions.


Do the current reality shows do something to make us feel better about ourselves? Is this a healthy way to boost self esteem?

Or, is it just entertainment for most people?
post #4 of 41
I wonder if your right, because when I see the parenting and spouse shows I often think, hell we aren't doing as bad as we might think are we.
post #5 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaBug
I wonder if your right, because when I see the parenting and spouse shows I often think, hell we aren't doing as bad as we might think are we.
Well, if Reality TV counts as by product of talk shows, (which I think it is) then count me in the "At least I'm not like that" camp.
post #6 of 41
Thread Starter 
But is there not some sort of suspension of critical thinking if you allow yourself to believe that this is real?
post #7 of 41
I'm really interested in this topic. I really don't watch a lot of reality TV (or TV in general) but before I had my dd I watched more. I remember when the first season of the batchelor and I was glued to the set. When I came to work in the morning, my collegues and I would dissect the show. It was like a Sociological experiement. The best moment in reality TV was when the woman looked at the camera, so happy that she was on a "private date" and said "I feel like pretty woman." I fell out of my chair. She was just like pretty woman but I think she forgot about the prostitute part!!! I was mostly concentrating on the participant side of the question--why would people go on these shows??????

Sometimes it doesn't seem to matter how low we can go--there will always be people to be on shows like Who's Your Daddy and there will always be people to watch them. It is kind of scary.

I definately think that the vouyerism is one of the reason they are so popular. Comparing yourself to those basket cases they find for these shows makes you feel better about your own life/relationships/kids. There is some element of "rubber necking" like at a crash that I think exists. I once watch The Swan and it was stupid and horrible but yet I couldn't look away!
post #8 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harper
Comparing yourself to those basket cases they find for these shows makes you feel better about your own life/relationships/kids.
Isn’t it considered ‘bad’ for self esteem to come from comparing ourselves to others? Especially if they’re on a TV show?

Also, what about the belief that they’re real/reality? I don’t believe they are but in order to have the side effect of making one feel better about themselves they must believe they’re real, no?



Also, do any of you think that the reality shows are a symptom of some dysfunction in our culture? I do.
post #9 of 41
I absolutely think they are a symptom of dysfunction in our culture and I think you have already explained why. We suspend the obvious fact that these aren't "real" people so that we can feel better about ourselves when we are watching the shows. Deriving one's self esteem by comparing yourself to others (not even IRL but on TV) is not really self esteem at all, is it? Why do we feed on this so much to feel better about ourselves?

Or, enjoying ourselves while others are humiliated doesn't seem very healthy either. Or allowing ourselves to be humiliated to achieve a larger goal--find a husband/wife, break into acting, whatever, is also a bit sick, isn't it? But it seems acceptable because people on reality shows volunteered themselves to be potentially humiliated.

Are all reality shows created equally or are some more sick than others? I think I am most afraid of the extreme makeover/the swan kind of shows. But I don't know. What about the ones that are like games where people eat disgusting things for money?? It seems incomprehensible to me that people would do these kinds of things on TV and for money. What did all of these people do before there were reality shows--both the participants and the viewers?
post #10 of 41
Thread Starter 
Harper, I think I’m falling in love with you! Thank you and everyone on this thread for talking to me about this.


I totally agree with you about people watching other people be humiliated for entertainment. I could never solidify my thoughts about this but that’s exactly my issue with those kinds of shows.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Harper
Are all reality shows created equally or are some more sick than others?
I don’t know but I’m tempted to say no, mostly because some seem so much worse to me than others. ETA ~ But, I’m also tempted to say that the general culture that any reality show thrives in is a problem and that watching even the ‘tame’ ones may promote the more extreme ones…maybe?

So, do we have any obligation to not watch these shows or to speak out against them?

Also, why do you think there isn’t more articles and activism about these shows?

I know there was some activism about “Who’s your Daddy”. What about the rest? Do they discuss this in Sociology 101, I wonder.
post #11 of 41
I admit..i am hooked on a few "reality" shows....But I use that word very lightly.

I remember when one of the first "reality" shows started..Cops. Everybody loved it because it showed someone else being humiliated and gave people a sense of what the streets were like for a cop. But soon it become more scripted and the editing became more "creative" and people couldnt take their eyes away. It opened the door for so many of these shows that are on now.

I know about the "creative" editing and the contracts that these people have to sign and can enjoy the pure entertainment value of it all, but there are alot of people who think it is 100% real and that is scary.

You have to realise that when the show is centered around a "prize" (American Idol, Next Top Model, The Apprentice, Survivor) ) people will do just about anything for money (sad but true) and they sign away all of their rights for privacy while they are still in the running.

Even the shows where the "prize" is a person (Bachelor, Average Joe, etc)
some people will do anything for camera time...their "15 minutes" and the sad thing is that they usually get way too much media with talk shows, etc.

I personally could not imagine sharing my intimate family life with the world...especially shows like Trading Spouses, Wifeswap and Super Nanny. Those shows make me cringe more than any other simply because these parents are making choices for their children that I dont think are in their best interest at all. It makes me sick. And Angry

If people choose to show themselves at their most vulnerable (Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover, The Swan) for free personal training, surgery or a new set of teeth, then you are stronger than I am. I wouldnt show my cellulite to America for anything!

Thats my .02
post #12 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by beatgirl
I personally could not imagine sharing my intimate family life with the world...especially shows like Trading Spouses, Wifeswap and Super Nanny. Those shows make me cringe more than any other simply because these parents are making choices for their children that I dont think are in their best interest at all.
Actually, that’s a really good point. I remember reading that there are some legal issues with child modeling and stuff when it comes to payment. I wonder if this would apply to these shows.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a legal issue down the road.


And, I kinda forgot about the trading parent shows. I remember reading a thread here on MDC about a mother swap where one character was really hateful and even prejudice. It sucks badly if that person is your mother but passing these people around to other children for entertainment should not be allowed, imo.

Good points!
post #13 of 41
Quote:
Harper, I think I’m falling in love with you!


I think one of the reasons that there isn't any outrage (or much outrage) about reality shows is because it is a matter of free will. These people willingly go on the shows and expose themselves so what's the problem if other people want to watch?

I would imagine that sociologists are studying these phenomena. It is fascinating. Who are the people who go on the shows? Who are the people who watch the shows? Why are they watching? What are they getting out of it? When will it all end.

I remember watching the first season of the bachelor like it was a sociological experiment. How far would it go? How could people really think they were falling in love under these circumstances? Could they? Was it possible? How could some seemingly normal women subject themselves to such a degrading exercise? The most fascinating thing for me was at the very end when it came down to the woman who slept with him and the woman who didn’t. I was sure he would pick the good girl to marry. I felt a bit of triumph when he picked the one who put out. I haven’t watched it since as they always seem to get more stale and predictable in the second season.

Mark Burnett (creator of Survivor and the Apprentice) will go down in history as a TV God. I really thought in the beginning that it would be something that people would burn out on but it still seems to be going on.
post #14 of 41
Dh and I watch the Apprentice; it's our only "reality" tv. The rest of them I cannot stand. And honestly, I would not watch the Apprentice except that dh does. The first season reeled me in because it was so fun to get to know Donald Trump. I think he's culturally bereft, but otherwise a pretty smart guy. I thought he was kinda laughable. His ability to laugh at himself helps.

I also liked the first season better because it at least seemed like there was more business strategy going on, more learning going on. Last season was truely a joke. It was painful to watch and I kept telling dh, isn't it obvious that some of these hostile people have been planted there to mix things up? And they edit scenes to make it look like however they want it to look.

It's junk culture. It's nothing new. I really wish it would go away. But I've given up on broadcast tv. The tv shows dh and I do watch are on cable (except for the Apprentice and Star Trek: Enterprise, which of course is being canceled.)
post #15 of 41
Thread Starter 
So, another thought. As an “AP” parent who may disagree with some of the teachings of the “SuperNanny” is it okay to support the show by watching? Ratings are what keep these type show going aren’t they?

If you disagree with the advice (punishment, CIO) is it okay to watch even if you’re just entertained?


Journeymom, you don't think this is new? It may not be but it seems that way to me. I just can't get over it.

What’s new to me is that people are feeling this is real. It’s one thing to talk about something you saw on ER last night and talk about the characters but I get this bad feeling when people talk about the ‘reality’ shows.

Media and reality are blurred enough as it is…
post #16 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by beatgirl
You have to realise that when the show is centered around a "prize" (American Idol, Next Top Model, The Apprentice, Survivor) ) people will do just about anything for money (sad but true) and they sign away all of their rights for privacy while they are still in the running.

I think the current crop of shows isn't so much "I could win," as "I could be famous." I mean... there are a number of those people that didn't win, but if you're "TV Ready" enough, you get a prize anyway.

I think in a way, that the reality TV craze gets a lot of it's popularity from the idea they give that "anyone" can be famous, or rich... a celebrity. And, I think that it's sort of a natural progression--first we saw our "selves" on TV via video recorder, and now the 'common (wo)man' can actually be on broadcast TV. Also, we model ourselves soooo heavily on what we see on the TV, that I don't think that the "blur" between reality tv and reality itself is a cognitive disconnect.

Essentially, I dunno that "reality TV" is specifically symptomatic of a new type of sociologic pathology, as much as our way of using TV is essentially culturally pathologic--it's profit based. They give us what we "want," to sell us stuff they want us to want. It's not about enrichment, and it hasn't EVER been.

TV started out as a venue for manipulation of the population, and it continues to be so.

It's had an element of fantasy. We like to project our "selves" into what we're seeing. So.... no--reality tv isn't any more messed up than the people who watched Donna Reed or Father Knows Best back in the day and found themselves lacking. It's just now we get some options to feel superior to "real people" instead--which was already the case with some older sitcoms (Rosanne, Married with Children, and All in the Family come to mind. Or, Gomer Pyle and Green Acres, for that matter.)

So, I guess I'm just saying that the 'craze' didn't really pop up out of no where, and it's not any worse than TV has been in general since it's conception.
post #17 of 41
Quote:
What’s new to me is that people are feeling this is real. It’s one thing to talk about something you saw on ER last night and talk about the characters but I get this bad feeling when people talk about the ‘reality’ shows.
Yes, me too. You've described it right on. Otherwise intelligent, discerning people seem to lose sight of just how un-real these situations are. Dh included.

Quote:
Journeymom, you don't think this is new? It may not be but it seems that way to me. I just can't get over it.
Maybe new to tv. Though glendora makes a good case how it's not new to tv. I was referring to the idea mentioned above that these shows make us feel better, watching someone worse off than us. And the whole sadist idea, zero-ing in on a weakling. We've been entertained by stuff like that for ages, probably since we humans came along. Think Roman coluseums and Christian baiting. Entertainment for the teeming masses.
post #18 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by glendora
It's just now we get some options to feel superior to "real people" instead--which was already the case with some older sitcoms (Rosanne
But no one ever thought Rosanne was real, yk?
post #19 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by IdentityCrisisMama
But no one ever thought Rosanne was real, yk?
They thought that Valentino was a real "lover," they thought that Monroe and DiMaggio were more than a photo op, and they thought that the Manson family was gonna kill half of LA in it's sleep.

The hollywood star system has been set up since the 20's to make "being famous" mean "granted public access to your personal life." So, while "Real Situations" have never been entertainment the way they are now, they were "infotainment" for 80 years. And, in going on a show, you become a commodity--you become part of the same system that's been giving us things like "Judy and Mickey go on thier first date!!" and "a sneak peek in Jackie's Kennedy's french recipe book" and "The Go-Go's (or Bangles, I forget) sex tapes" and "Joan Crawford's adopted children are a blessing and her fulfillment" and so on, for ages. People thought that was all real for ages. Only, now, instead of becoming famous and THEN doing the "fake reality," now we have "stars" going straight to the "fake reality."

I guess what I'm saying, is if you're "on tv" you're "famous." And, since Hollywood's has been around, if you're famous "we" have an assumption that we get to play along with consuming your public "personal life."

I don't think that this new breed of TV celebrity really counts as any more victimized than the old actors.
post #20 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by glendora
they thought that Monroe and DiMaggio were more than a photo op
But they were married, no.

I'm still not sure I totally get what you're saying...interested though!

Quote:
Originally Posted by glendora
I guess what I'm saying, is if you're "on tv" you're "famous." And, since Hollywood's has been around, if you're famous "we" have an assumption that we get to play along with consuming your public "personal life."

I don't think that this new breed of TV celebrity really counts as any more victimized than the old actors.
Oh, is this what you mean? I didn’t really understand the first time.

Yes, I agree. I’ve assumed that fame or at least the excitement of being on a reality show is a major motivation for some people. Yes, definitely.

And, I agree about the ‘victimization’ of celebrities but I hadn’t been thinking of the participants all that much when I was talking earlier. I agree (with the exception of the children) that it’s generally an adult decision that I’m not going to gripe (much) with on the individual level.

What I was talking about regarding whether this is *new* is the culture of reality TV. I imagine it’s difficult to isolate exactly what is different about TV because there are so many new factors.
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