Not So Real Reality

Allison McNicholas, Staff Writer

Why is it that people are so fascinated by the lives of reality TV stars? It is most likely because reality TV is not actually real. Since when did multi-millionaire divas who make their fortune off of arguing on public television become reality? People are attracted to reality TV because it displays situations that are so far-fetched and unrealistic for the average person. Many use reality TV as a plug to forget about the stressors of ordinary life. Sure, watching people act foolishly in everyday settings can be pretty entertaining. However, childish behavior and immoral actions of reality TV stars are beginning to have negative consequences on society.

Eighty percent of Wheaton Warrenville South High School students reported they watch some form of reality TV every week. Since the late 1940s, television shows covering people’s unscripted lives have grown immensely popular. Reality TV covers situations ranging from emotional dating experiences, to stressful court cases, and everything in between. These shows are intended to depict the entertaining “real” lives of ordinary people. Although they pride themselves on catching life’s impromptu moments, reality TV programs have begun portraying people in an unrealistic light.

Most fans of reality TV admit to watching at least an hour of reality TV each week, yet believe this genre of entertainment has negative effects on our society. Fifty-six percent of Wheaton Warrenville South students watch at least one hour of reality TV each week. One Wheaton Warrenville South student reported that they watch between five and six hours of reality TV each week, specifically “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”. This student does not believe that they act like those on reality TV, but has observed their peers mirroring some of the behavior of the overly-dramatic actors. Given the fact that many reality TV stars are self-centered and spoiled, this is not a change people hope to see in society. Many watch mindless, foolish shows to escape the stress of life, but are unaware of the negative impact this form of media has on their personality.

Skeptics of reality TV believe this kind of entertainment is creating a false sense of real life for viewers. They see a future of insensitive people with misaligned morals and motives. Contessa Schexnayder of Brain World Magazine worries that reality TV will portray unethical situations as societal norm. “Reality shows have a capability to desensitize us to situations and events by which we once might have been appalled,” stated Schexnayder. She is one of many critics that foresees an increase in corrupt behavior as reality TV normalizes this immature behavior. 

Wheaton Warrenville South junior, Buddy Moore, feels like reality TV, “makes society as a whole more like dramatized television.” Moore reported that he, too, notices the characteristics and actions of reality TV stars spreading into the lives of ordinary people. The appreciation many viewers have for reality TV may lead average people to take after the personalities of their favorite TV stars. It appears as if as little as one to two hours of reality television per week can have lasting effects on viewers. 

Holly Peek, M.D., M.P. H., of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, is convinced that the self-centered, phony personas of reality TV stars particularly affect younger viewers.  “Reality TV typically reveals inappropriate behavior within peer groups, often promoting interpersonal drama, aggression and bullying,” states Peek. She believes that reality TV is especially harmful for malleable minds, as it provides adolescents with ideas of how to gain more attention from others. Adolescents may begin to view the absurd and contrived behavior of reality TV stars as common, acceptable ways to act.

Some fear that society is facing a moral dilemma as the number of reality TV fans increases. Viewers young and old may be adapting to the egotistical, artificial manners of their favorite stars. Before we know it, society may begin to feel like a reality TV show. Shocking scenarios and actions may become standard ways of life. Young adults may look up to reality TV actors as role models. Perhaps what many view as a guilty pleasure is contributing to several of society’s moral and behavioral issues.