Channels like MTV and VH1 depend on the popularity of reality TV shows to stay in business. The way they maintain large viewership is not by providing insightful or interesting reality show – like some shows on the Discovery channel or A&E – but by creating reality TV with characters so outrageous in their words and actions that viewers love to hate them, and can’t seem to get enough of. The ‘love to hate’ phenomenon that channels like MTV, VH1 or E! have created is what has made the reality TV show industry so successful.
Probably one of the first instances of this was on MTV’s The Real World. Although I personally haven’t seen an entire episode of this show, from the bits that I have seen, its not difficult to gather that each house member is cast because of the exaggerated stereotype – race, personality, physical appearance etc.– they portray. This combined with alcohol and sex predictably leads to violence. At the time when The Real World was just starting out, what was used as promotion for this show, and those like it, were the most scandalous, and violent clips from the show. The public has formed an addiction for this type of entertainment and reality TV creators are spoon-feeding it to viewers and escalating the outrageousness of characters with every new show put on the air.
When The Jersey shore came out, MTV didn’t even try to veil that fact that the show was created for the public to ‘love to hate’. This episode of The A.V. Club’s podcast The Hater talks a little bit about the first trailer of The Jersey Shore that was aired and how it literally told the audience that they would hate the people on the show. Even one of the cast members of the show says in the trailer “If hating is your occupation, I probably got a fulltime job for you.” This obsession of hatred towards reality TV show characters is a little troubling. To base a TV show on the presumption that the more people hate the people on the show, the more popularity and revenue it’ll bring in, is disturbing since historically terrible crimes against humanity have been committed because of a hatred towards a people or race. Conditioning viewers to ‘love to hate’ people on reality shows is not a tactic I think should be used on the general public. What good things have come from hatred? Not much.
Talk about The Jersey Shore starts at 10:45. Unfortunately the last bit at the end is cut off.