Reality TV reflective of our culture


The situation is dire. Three muscular males, with excessive product in their hair and asinine tans, hunt for a female intoxicated enough to participate in the act of “smushing” (yes, a cute catchphrase for the quite obvious implication of intercourse).

This is the show millions of North Americans (including yours truly, I have to admit) sit down and watch every Thursday night. We laugh at their stupidity, revel in their humiliation and watch, awe-struck, as their ridiculous altercations cause us to tune in week after week.

How are nations obsessed with a show such as Jersey Shore? Or Teen Mom, or My Super Sweet Sixteen or other similar shows that can only be attributed to the ”dumbing down” of the North American society?

As I contemplated my own addiction to reality TV shows, I realized this habit is based upon a deeper motivation than jstextreme boredom. The root diagnosis of reality television addictions is referred to as “Schadenfreude”: a German word used to describe people being entertained by the failure of others. We derive pleasure from other people’s tribulations and embarrassing moments, which draw us to such nonsensical programs.

However, despite our amusement watching other people screw up, can this really justify some of the reality shows produced these days? For example, has anyone heard of Lake Shore? I know you have, especially if you’re from Toronto. Although Canada has been heralded as a country not prone to the image of a self-centered, party-obsessed culture, Lake Shore is one show hell-bent on changing that. Based on a more multicultural premise than the all-Italian Jersey Shore, the core concept is the same. Put together a bunch of 20-somethings in a house and get them drunk so they’ll start some dramatic controversies as they involve themselves in lewd activities. It’s silly and unoriginal, that’s for sure. But are people going to watch it?


The extent reality television has gone to is even further than the ludicrous Jersey Shore and Lake Shore television shows. Another example is an Australian documentary maker, Justin Sisley, who is attempting to convince young individuals to appear in a reality television show in which they auction their virginity to the highest bidder. Although the show has been forced to move to Nevada after authorities said they would charge him with prostitution if the filming went ahead, Sisley has gone ahead with the project.

Which brings me to my point. Is there a limit? Is there a point where the general population wakes up and says to themselves, this is too much?

Has reality TV gone too far?

I have to say, I often watch these shows and say in complete indignation: “That has to be illegal” or, “Why is anyone even airing this?” The truth is that shows centered around bizarre situations starring real people in real environments are very popular. And people watch them. Even when they are bringing harm to themselves, teaching generations preposterous values or promoting immoral behavior, we tune in. Producers don’t do much to stop it, control it or step in, as it is, by definition, “reality TV.” It may also be due to the fact that ratings go through the roof and these shows are bringing in wads of cash.

Thing is, we can’t entirely blame the producers for not drawing the line, or the characters for acting the way they do. We are the ones watching these shows, every week, every day, for hours at end. Which is why I have to come to the conclusion that reality television is more reflective of society’s values than we tend to think. At the end of the day, we are the ones advocating the birth of shows such as The Hills or Real World.

People watch what they want, and the producers and characters like Mike the Situation and Heidi Montag are laughing all the way to the bank.

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