In today’s world, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing multiple reality TV shows splattered across the channels. It seems networks are coming out with more and more reality TV shows, especially MTV. They can range to anything from teen mothers having babies to rich housewives bickering over insignificant problems. They’re more popular than ever before, and I even have to admit myself that most of my favorite shows are under this reality genre. Without a doubt, reality TV can be categorized under today’s pop culture.
A little embarrassing to admit, but one of my first favorite reality TV shows was MTV’s Laguna Beach. I think it came out right around the time I was in middle school, and I watched it obsessively. What I didn’t know then, but what I know now, however, is you can’t really consider what you’re watching a reality. Real life doesn’t consist of rich houses, endless amounts of money, laying poolside all day, and clubbing at night… unless of course you’re Paris Hilton. To provide an example of a popular reality TV show, the following is one of the trailers from my favorite guilty pleasure: The Hills.
Does this look like reality?
My concern about reality television is related to what we read about Lasn’s argument in his book, “Culture Jam.” Could reality TV be polluting our minds to the point where it could eventually lead to a mental illness? My answer is maybe. Thinking about Lasn’s statement that “Plentitude is America culture’s perverse burden,” I think this can apply to viewers seeing people on Laguna Beach, Cribs, The Hills, or VH1’s Fabulous Life. People on these shows and more have the best cars, houses, jobs, etc., so maybe that’s putting the idea in some peoples’ minds that what they have, even though it’s all they need, might not be enough.
A show today I’m somewhat fond of, don’t judge, is America’s Next Top Model. Over the past 15 cycles of ANTM there have only been a handful of plus-size models. This conveys the idea that unless you’re super skinny, being successful on this show and in the modeling world is very slim. This may ultimately influence young girls and how they feel about themselves. They may think they need to be skinnier, and they could develop an eating disorder. If that’s not polluting to the mind then what is?
Reality TV can also be overly sexual. Shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Real World, and Jersey Shore portray this need to be overly attractive and sexual to the opposite sex. Lasn’s argument of TV sexuality can easily be applied to reality TV as well. He states that, “The truth is stretched, the story is hyped. If you look like a TV star or a model, a desirable mate will be available to you; if you don’t, it won’t.”
I’m not saying that everyone will have this internal reaction when they watch reality TV. I surely know that you can be beautiful without being skinny, and having poolside parties with cocktails on a random Tuesday is very unrealistic. But in real reality, it could affect some people, and that it is one of the dangerous side affects of the booming reality TV market today.