Reality TV in America
When I channel surf on a regular weekend afternoon, to see if anything will catch my attention to watch while the children are sleeping, these are usually my options: okay movies, random sports, okay tv shows, and so much reality tv. When people think of reality tv, they automatically think of the Kardashians, the Real Housewives, or the Bachelor, etc. None of these were playing because it was a weekend afternoon, but there were still numerous amount of less popular reality tv shows that people sometimes don’t realize are reality tv. Here in the US we are bombarded with constant obsessing over how other’s handle their lives. Reality tv is that portal of looking into someone else’s life without it having an impact on our own, and people love that. If they didn’t, reality tv wouldn’t be as popular as it is.
To begin with, one definition of reality tv “is the genre of programming in which the everyday routines of ‘real life’ people [..] are followed closely by the cameras” (Glouner, Flores, Tomback). This definition mostly refers to the celebrity reality shows, such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Another definition is: “television programs in which real people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative”. This definition fits the other kinds of reality tv, which some people don’t initially think of as reality, that there are. Some of those kinds of reality tv shows being: prank-reality (Punk’d), game shows (Jeopardy), talent hunts (American Idol), and makeovers (What Not to Wear). These shows usually are about someone or something new each episode, unlike celebrity reality where the main focus is the life/lives of someone or a group of people.
According to an article by three authors, Glouner, Flores, Tomback, the first aired family-life reality tv show was in the 70s called “An American Family” with the Loud family in Santa Barbara, California. This show became popular because “[the] Loud family quickly captivated the hearts of America because it showed [the viewers] a version of their own reality” (Glouner, Flores, Tomback). Viewers found themselves identifying with this family, not realizing that majority of the time, their “life” is scripted and dramatized because the real environment of a family is naturally boring. If people were to watch this family on an average non-scripted routine day, viewers would almost immediately tune out, due to the lack of drama and excitement.
Reality tv is a contradicting tv genre because it lacks the aspect of reality, though that very word is in its name. Through many exposures and reality checks, people have come to realize that reality tv is highly choreographed and scripted because there is no way someone’s life is or can be that dramatic every single day. Even shows like 16 and Pregnant have a lot scripted aspects to make and keep the viewer engaged in the life of this 16 year old that found out she was pregnant is going to have a baby. I have personally known teen parents and though their lives were hard and tv dramatic at first, once things got situated, which regularly be well before she even started showing she was pregnant, things came back to their natural flow. The “drama” wouldn’t spike again until after she had the baby because she was trying to adjust to her having to care for this infant who now depends on her to survive, which is hard even for adult women who have to adjust to this new motherhood lifestyle. So for drama to last all throughout a girl’s pregnancy and after, is highly unrealistic.
Even though reality tv hasn’t been part of America’s tv programing since between the 50s and 60s, and didn’t rise in popularity until the 70s, today, it is one of the most popular tv genres. People crave for drama to what seems like realistic life events, but in order for the entertainment industry to keep up with that viewers want, they seem to have produced and promote a “false sense of reality in American society” (Glouner, Flores, Tomback). People forget that what they are watching is not the actual reality of what happens in a famous family or when meeting a person that can be a potential romantic partner. The over dramatized and enhanced reality of reality tv gives a notion that though these events are staged and scripted, they still have a false potential of being real. The majority of Americans strive everyday to have an apparent lifestyle and/or attitude of reality celebrities, like the Kardashians, though a lot, if not all, is fake. The amount and kinds of expectations and influences that reality tv has created today would be interesting to discuss and learn about in class.