Reality Bites

It is hard to escape the clutches of reality television. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all indulge in a reality show from time to time, perhaps even enjoy it.

Talent shows such as the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent act as excellent family entertainment, even if the majority of viewers never tune in past the audition stages. Weight-loss shows can help motivate us to get fit or die trying (the fact that such programmes are often watched while eating an entire family-sized packet of Doritos is irrelevant). Home makeover shows can inspire us to gut our sitting room and replace it with a Japanese zen garden – in order to greater understand our ‘sense of spirituality’, obvs. But when do reality shows cease to be great?

I’ll tell you when: when you realise the muppets from Geordie Shore are paid more than you probably ever will be in your lifetime. Gaz, Charlotte, Holly and the gang are literally paid hundreds of thousands of dolla to act the general maggot on air. They drive around in Porsches, live in mansions and fork out thousands for boob jobs – when their job description is basically ‘getting mortal* and shagging anything with a pulse.’ It is a sad day for humanity when the likes of the Geordies are paid more to get their bits out than a doctor who helps save people’s lives.

Aside from the fact that these reality stars are handsomely paid for partying while the rest of us slave away from nine until five, have we ever really considered the effects that trashy shows like Geordie/Jersey Shore (and who remembers our home-grown version, Tallafornia? CRINGE) have on the younger generation?

Profanity, sexually explicit behaviour, binge drinking and smoking are all normalised by such shows, and lead teens and even preteens to believe that this is acceptable behaviour. A study completed by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2006 said “while reality TV draws viewers from virtually all demographic groups, it is disproportionately popular among preteens, adolescents and young adults”.

Reality shows can also leave young people with unhealthy expectations. The Kaiser Family Foundation maintains that shows of this nature “may provide inaccurate or unhealthy information to viewers (for example, showcasing multiple plastic surgeries or more rapid weight loss than most experts would recommend).” Yes, Holly Hagan, we ARE looking at you…

However, it is not just programmes like Geordie Shore that negatively influence the younger population. Extreme Makeover and America’s Next Top Model are also culprits. According to WebMD Medical News, reality television is contributing to eating disorders in teen girls. This is a direct result of the emphasis shows such as ANTP put on being ‘hot’ and desirable, and essentially, perfect. Studies claim that since the boom of reality TV in the early 2000s, eating disorders among girls aged between 13 and 19 have tripled. Surely this is more than a coincidence?

In addition to the physical and mental effects reality viewing can have on adolescents, many reality TV series are superficial and materialistic. This in turn, is making an entire generation superficial and materialistic. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is the perfect example of how engrossed today’s society is with the rich and famous. Would we give a toss if it was a hard-working, middle class family appearing on our television screens? Of course not. We want to know what Kim ‘started-from-the-bottom-then-made-a-sextape-and-now-I’m-here’ Kardashian wore to the MET ball this year, or why exactly Bruce Jenner is slowly turning into a woman/feline.

The sad reality is that it is very likely that more young people know what the Kardashians or the Geordies or The Real Housewives of Orange County are up to, rather than what is going on in the world of current affairs.

Alas, for the moment, it seems that reality TV is here to stay. It is part of a pop culture that is gobbled up by the masses – and they are hungry for whatever the industry throws their way. For now we are just going to have to accept that drunken idiots and over-privileged families are going to dominate our screens. It’s inevitable. Sad, but inevitable.

Nonetheless, let’s leave things on a high note, with an inspiring quote from Jersey Shore star and apparent animal rights activist, Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi:

“That’s why I don’t eat friggin’ lobster or anything like that. Because they’re alive when you kill it.”

Face palm.


*For those unfamiliar with the term, mortal = getting extremely drunk.


Jade O’Leary

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