by Manuel Muniz
While many values are left out of reality shows, the popularity of reality TV shows such as “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” or “The Real Housewives” on Bravo Network shows that our society values the characteristics displayed on these shows. While not everyone lives like the Kardashians or the Real Housewives, they showcase glamour, shallowness and material things, which all are very present in today’s America.
Even though the ladies on these shows may not necessarily be trying to convey that message, they end up projecting one anyway. They are the epitome of the American dream that only a selected few get to live.
There are numerous kinds of reality TV subgenres. For example, “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” follow a group of teenage moms through their struggles to adjust to their new lives as young mothers. While the idea behind it was genius, many glamorized the idea of being a teen parent for the sake of maybe getting shot at being on TV.
Another concept which was popularized in the early ‘90’s was “The Real World.” Seven strangers were picked to live in a chosen city, work together, and have their lives recorded, to find out “what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that intro growing up, or how bad I wanted to be casted.
There also are competition shows, such as “Survivor,” “Big Brother” or “The Challenge,” just to name a few. “The Challenge,” which is a spin off from “The Real World,” is the least complex, with a bunch of adults competing for a money prize in a beautiful location, usually overseas. “Big Brother” is more difficult, as the houseguests have cameras following them 24/7 for up to 90 days, which is only half the battle. Add being secluded and sharing a confined space with 15 other strangers, and it could turn disastrous.
By far the most difficult reality competition show is “Survivor.” Add everything a “Big Brother” player would have to endure, plus a lack of food and living outdoors on a remote island.
Another, popular type of reality TV is talent competitions, such as “American Idol,” “The X Factor,” “Dancing with the Stars” or “America’s Next Top Model.” These shows are a bit more realistic and do not depend on drama for shock value to succeed, like many of the other shows previously mentioned. Many of today’s biggest popstars and high fashion models started on these reality TV shows.
Some shows do a documentary-style portraying of professionals going about their day or performing a project during the course of a series or season. One example is “Cops,” which made its debut in 1989 and was the longest running reality show.
The final subgenre is cultural, which shows the lives of ethnic or religious minorities. Examples include “All-American Muslim,” “Shahs of Sunset,” “Sister Wives,” “Breaking Amish” and “Washington Heights.”
Reality TV is a guilty pleasure we get sucked into. It’s like an accident on the side of the road; we must look. Still, there is good reality TV. Just look deep to find it.