Invasion of the Sentient Carrot People

By, Rigo Pedraza

Reality television shows can have a huge affect on our lives, even for people like myself who watch almost no reality t.v. Why is it that I can name these shows off the top of my head without having ever seen a single episode of any of these shows? Why do I know who Snooki is, even though I’ve never seen the show The Jersey Shore? Reality t.v. has become so successful as network moneymakers, that they have begun to (how do I put this lightly?) infect and crossover into other shows. An example of this (which might also explain how I know what I know about the Jersey Shore and its “colorful” cast of “characters) is when I watch a late night talk show and one of the guests happens to be someone like Snooki. At first when I started to see these Jersey Shore people on the late night talk shows I thought that humanity had made first contact with an alien race of sentient carrot people and that these gaudy-looking guests were the emissaries sent to bring Earth a message of peace and friendship. But then they started talking and I said to myself: “Oh they’re not aliens, they’re from New Jersey.”

The affect that reality t.v. has on me is that it makes me rather angry at the characters, the networks who produce these shows, people who actually watch these shows, and humanity. I recently heard that The Situation person from The Jersey Shore made about six-million dollars last year. So I asked myself another question: “What the actual f**k?” How can someone who just works out all day and hit on women make millions of dollars while I’m actually going to school to get a degree and an actual job that will benefit and contribute to society? Perhaps I should get ripped and act like a douche bag then I’ll get tons of money as well.

Yet, as each of the articles that we had to read before doing this assignment noted, reality t.v. can have incredibly negative effects on women/girls and minority groups. These shows either tell women that they must look a certain way in order for someone like The Situation to ask them out, or how minorities in these reality shows are either marginalized (and therefore should not be paid attention to) or turned into some sort of minstrel-like character. Because of these problems presented by reality shows, I would suggest that we cannot learn anything of any sort of constructive value. In the Time article the writer says that reality shows portray good human emotions (in particular American Idol) and good qualities like confidence and perseverance. Yet these get overshadowed by the many instances of narcissism, petty feuding, violence, ignorance etc… All three of the articles were unanimous in agreement in that these reality shows are bad influences on children.

But if we would not want our children to watch these reality shows because they are bad influences, then why would we want to watch them? Are adults somehow immune to the bad influences of reality shows? Adults most certainly are not immune to the bad influences of these reality shows. In fact they are probably more susceptible to being influenced by these shows because the shows are geared towards adults and are geared toward advertising/selling goods and services that adults would want (kitchen appliances, cars, alcohol, fashionable clothes etc…). In the Bitch Magazine article, it is said that these shows are in fact partly created by companies and advertisers to push their goods/services, these shows then in effect become 30 minute to hour long commercials selling just about everything through clever product placement throughout the shows.

Reality t.v. to me is somewhere between being hegemonic and production-centric. It is hegemonic in that it will absorb/incorporate culturally resistant forces (i.e. “guidos” from the Jersey Shore, real housewives etc…) into the status quo thereby rendering whatever resistance those types of people had to the “mainstream” culture inert. Reality shows are production-centric because as was said earlier, these shows have the involvement of big corporate sponsors in every aspect of show production. This means that whatever meaning these shows have or may have had, has been already determined well before the first episodes air, thus eliminating any shred of potential for cultural or artistic opposition.

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