March 9, 2011

Reality TV is Changing our Standards for Reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 5:53 pm

by Kyle Gooding

What is seen as acceptable for various forms of media has radically changed over the past few years.  The first rated “R” movie I ever saw was The Matrix.  At the time, and of course at my young age, I was completely enticed by all the action I was seeing, along with the allure of watching this forbidden genre.  Today The Matrix would most likely be classified as a “PG-13” movie.  Something has changed in the media and it seems like we are continuing to see a trend toward pushing accepted limits.  Yesterday’s “R” is tending toward today’s “PG” and this should make us wonder what has changed since the year 2000.

A clear example of this progression can be seen in the advent of Reality TV.  Ever since Survivor barged onto our TV screens in the year 2000, reality TV has continued to grow and progress into the creature it is now.  As each show progresses, there seems to be an equal regression away from the standards that once governed our entertainment media.  The success of these shows has opened the door for producers to make a large amount of cheap money.  The problem is that people get bored with ”real,” ordinary people very quickly.  In order for a television series to become or remain popular, the producers must institute a new twist to the same old type of programming so that the proceeding shows will not be known as “just another Survivor.”

It seems that producers have been addressing this problem not by adding something completely original to their show, but by introducing furthered controversy and immorality into their shows appeal.  They simply give the viewer more of the same old smut seen in their old shows, but this time in a more scandalous package.  With each show progressively pushing our accepted standards further and further, it has created a very weak boundary between what we can and cannot show on TV.  A big selling point for a program these days is that it is not allowed to show some of what goes on in recording on commercials, due to its vulgar nature.  And all this is just increasing the allure the genre holds over the common viewer.

It is disturbing to think of the implications of where this type of cheap enjoyment is taking us.  Most of us are old enough to remember or at least be aware of the family shows that used to popular, and that have since been banished to “TV Land”.  Since then there have, of course, still been shows that portray seemingly modern families, but they have a whole different set of values.  Some of these shows do occasionally leave us with a nice warm feeling of camaraderie with our fellow man, but most of these shows highlight and stick with problems between family members.

 Continuously showing disagreements and disrespect over our airways has had the effect of normalizing practices that should not seem normal to us.  This slow phasing in of entertainment that is barely within the boundaries of acceptable television is no doubt adding to the desensitization our media is experiencing.  Even a seemingly harmless show like Survivor promotes cutthroat competition and backstabbing, with one player even swearing on his “dead” grandmother’s grave that he was not lying, when he was in fact lying and his grandmother was very much alive.  And yet if Survivor was the worst of the reality TV available to us today, we would all probably be fine.  The real problem comes from the numerous spawn of Survivor.

  Old Versus New   

When we think of the popularity of reality TV we can truly realize how many people watch this genre.  A result of this increase in popularity is the explosion of new programs that set out to top their predecessors by pushing the limit of television even further.  Pointless shows like Jersey Shore exist to follow the lives of completely superficial people, while promoting and rewarding their immoral actions.  There are so many examples of reality TV shows that add nothing positive to our society, and these shows are originally just barely on the edge of acceptance.  As more programming is added on the coat-taills of these programs, it has the effect of making us completely forget how the original show tested our standards in the first place.  An example of this could be how The Bachelor was originally thought to be a disgrace since it turned the practice of dating someone into a competition for a money reward.  After this has come shows like The Bachelorette and Elimidate/Blind Date that all publicize and cheapen the process of courtship.

Reality TV is not appropriate for all ages and yet the pure amount of reality programming available to us means that it would be nearly impossible for children to not encounter this type of media at some time or another.  If the young people of this generation are growing up to a type of television that is being sold as reality than we should be worried about how much they take in as the real world.  Kids all over the world are growing up to shows that push a limit that these children may not have even known existed.  It is extremely easy to desensitize a generation that knows no better standards, and reality TV has been extremely popular for about eleven years now.  An example of this corruption on young people could actually be seen on a reality TV show like Jerry Springer where parents bring in their rowdy kids who think doing the things they see on TV is completely ok.

Calling a people to return to a prior time period is nearly impossible.  This is a scary notion when we think about the potential that tomorrow we could see a brand new reality television show that pushes accepted limits even further.  Once we have gone so far it is often very difficult to make a return to the appropriate path.  This being said, if we are to make any progress at all to a higher standard of programming it will start with each individual person.  If we wish to stop the progression of increasingly bold programming then we will first have to take the drastic step of not watching shows like Jersey Shore that add nothing positive to our world.  Maybe you’re reading this and you love these shows to death, but if nothing else I hope you can at least realize how much our media standards have changed in the past few years, and consider where our entertainment is headed in the future.



  1. Christine Weaver
    Personally, I couldn’t agree more! I hate Jersey Shore and many of the other reality TV shows that are like it. My research paper was on the same topic as this where I do believe that reality TV shows are getting quite out of hand and are very inappropriate to be shown on public television. I hate how Jersey Shore promotes immoral actions and what seems to be a non-stop series of pointless drama. The people on the show are extremely full of themselves but really have nothing going for them. I just don’t understand why people are so thrilled with the seemingly pointless lives of others.
    However, Survivor used to be one of my favorite shows. While the show is filled with backstabbing and lying, it is a competition. People love to watch competitions. They are thrilled to sit down and watch others compete for prizes. I find nothing wrong with competition shows, but I will agree that the level of sexuality and cutthroat competition has gone way up from when competition reality television first started. I fear that younger children who watch these shows will grow up thinking that these actions are acceptable in real life. I believe the best way to stop this is by not allowing children to watch these shows or by educating them about how these action are not acceptable.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 7:24 pm | Reply

  2. I have noticed the increase in sexual content in TV shows, even on kids stations such as Nickelodeon. I was at a family party, all my cousins were in the room and iCarly was on TV (for those who don’t know it’s a show about a girl and her two friends having a webcam show). My grandpa walked in the room right as a suspended bra drifted on screen and started dancing. My grandpa froze and asked, “Why is there a brassiere on my television?”
    I agree that television shows today are exposing children to concepts that they shouldn’t even be hearing about until a later age, but can it all be blamed on Survivor? Unfortunately television producers know one of America’s worst weaknesses: sex sells. That’s really all there is to it, in my opinion anyway. Because sex has become safer and more accessible whether as a profession OR expression of affection, almost everyone wants it, making sexy-based productions some of the more frequently watched programs.

    Comment by Kelly Seibert — March 10, 2011 @ 12:17 am | Reply

  3. Danny Meyer

    I agree with you on this one. There is no exception to the fact that we simply get bored with our own lives. I think Survivor is fine. It an enjoyable show that is similar to game we like to watch, depending on interests.There really is no harm to watching it. However, shows like Jersey Shore are ridiculous. I just don’t understand how people can be so attracted to a show where people run around and make drama and live a ridiculous life. There have to better things to do with our life than that. That’s the thing though. We need to give up trying to live in someone else’s life and focus on our own in the real world. I don’t mean “The Real World” on MTV. I mean our world that we live in today.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 11, 2011 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

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