Whether it’s bar fights and brawls in “Jersey Shore” or beach dates on the “Bachelor,” reality TV has had viewers glued to the TV for over a decade. But what really attracts viewers to these “real” shows?
“For me, the most appealing part of reality TV is all the drama that goes down. You can get a really high dose of that on TV when it doesn’t really happen much in real life,” senior Anne Panganiban said. True, reality TV shows come with drama in spades, such as last season’s “Bachelorette” winner turned out to be in a relationship while on the competition.
“These competition shows are a lot like sports, and people watch both to root for their favorite team,’” AP Psychology teacher Patricia Montgomery-Peng said. “Another reason people may watch reality TV is due to a concept called relative deprivation: if they see a person on the show does something really bad or embarrassing, they will feel better about themselves in comparison.”
Senior Cara Niewinski offers a new perspective on the appeal of reality TV. “I think the ability to see into the lives of others is what makes reality TV so popular these days. We love stalking others on social media, and reality TV just takes that to the next level,” Niewinski said.
Heightening the drama, the production editors of “reality TV [shows]can twist a person’s words or actions into the complete opposite of what they meant, but that also detracts from the realness of it all,” Panganiban said.
And the “reality” of reality TV opens up a new can of worms. For example, although the outcome of The Bachelor is not predetermined, some scenes in the show are somewhat choreographed by the producers, and many more are highly edited to point the show in a certain direction. But shows don’t always have to be completely real to be enjoyable. “I still find it entertaining even though some parts of the show are set beforehand. The only part that ruins it for me is when they change how a person seems just for the sake of the show,” Panganiban said.
There is far from a consensus on this issue though. “Being ‘staged’ sometimes ruins it and makes it lose its appeal, so the more real the show is, the better it is,” senior Cara Niewinski said.
But people’s perceptions of the authenticity of these shows may be somewhat dangerous. “When a character is on reality TV, they’re going to act as over-the-top as possible to attract as many viewers as possible. This definitely sets a different standard than what’s in the real world,” Montgomery-Peng said. This has the impact of subtly normalizing behaviors that would otherwise be seen as outrageous, obscene, racist, sexist or inappropriate in relationships.