The concept of reality television is not new; in fact it has been in existence since the early years of television. It was around the year 1999-2000 that this genre of television shows experienced a boom and attracted a mass audience, which is still increasing. People enjoy watching such shows because creators claim that they are not scripted - these are real shows, real lives, real people, and real emotions. But are they real enough? Or is it just a high-profile drama with a brilliant story, presentable characters and scripted emotions that appeal to television viewers?
How Reality Shows Affect Audience
People who realize the impact of such TV shows believe that these shows are a waste of time. There was a time when TRP ratings were dominated by intelligent programs and channels like Discovery and National Geographic. But now, reality TV is all over the place. Almost every channel has a reality series on a celebrity's personal struggles or a group of people living and bad-mouthing each other. It is not that all reality TV shows are a waste of time; shows like The Biggest Loser, MasterChef, Top Gear, America's Funniest Home Videos, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, etc. showcase interesting content, which is not offensive. And there are other shows like Big Brother, Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, Wife Swap, Jon & Kate Plus 8, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians which promote reality TV in different manners. People are heavily influenced by both kinds of shows but parents are worried about all the negative traits that some shows highlight as they influence young adults and teens pretty easily.
Reality TV mainly airs moments that were considered private at one point in time. Now, everything is public knowledge, and every show goes one step further to demolish the walls of privacy. Viewers watch reality TV contestants at their most vulnerable moments and become voyeurs who feed on their emotions, misery, and problems.
Lots of violence, profanity and performing publicity stunts is not always reality. Today, kids are witnessing the harsh realities of life at a very tender age. Fights, sexually explicit scenes, and uncontrollable drinking and usage of drugs are what makes the core of reality TV today. The truth is, some reality TV shows are a bad influence on young minds. These pure souls are just learning to disassociate reality from fantasy, and reality TV shows distort the differences and make it much more difficult to distinguish between the two.
Reality Shows that Generated Negative Publicity
This television series focuses on teenage moms and their struggle to balance multiple responsibilities - being young full-time moms, completing education, pursuing a low-income job, and managing turbulent relationships with their peers and especially with the child's father. Many parents are unhappy with the bad influence of teen pregnancy shows as they promote the idea of being pregnant at a young age as a shortcut to enjoy TV fame.
This is the most popular reality TV show on television today; it has more than 10 different versions and is broadcast in various countries. People from all walks of life are locked inside a plush house for more than 3 months. Profanity, abuse, violence, and name-calling are common instances in the house of Big Brother. Sexual relations between inmates is also seen in the European and American versions of the series. These shows are broadcast at prime time, and are watched by people of all ages. Not only does this affect youngsters, the commotion and chaos in such a show has a negative impact on all its viewers.
In the Indian version of Big Brother, the introduction of Sunny Leone (a pornographic actress) has sparked various protests in India. This has also increased the traffic on websites featuring Leone's videos. This has nothing to do with adults surfing these websites but parents are more concerned about kids using the Internet. Many psychiatrists believe that in a way, reality TV is making people, especially teens and kids, more curious about Internet pornography.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Perhaps the most famous reality TV show in the US, the plot is about the famous Kardashian family and how they deal with everyday issues. The most popular member is, of course Kim Kardashian who has been in the news for a while for the wrong decisions she has taken in her personal life - the marriage and the divorce which many of us thought as a publicity stunt to boost the TRPs of the show. The show is heavily panned by the critics but people love it and it enjoys a dedicated fan following. Many behavioral experts say that young minds (especially girls) are often influenced by what is shown in these shows, and they forget that most of the instances shown are scripted.
Jon & Kate Plus 8
This reality TV show is based on a couple and their 8 children. Jon and Kate Gosselin signed up for this show in 2007 and since then have been under the microscope. The show centers on the everyday struggles of this large family. Since it started airing, the show has received complaints from various non-profit organizations because of the use of children by the couple to gain popularity and earn money. Some have even questioned the authenticity of the show and feel that artificial sequences have been added to make the series more dramatic and appealing. The hardships of balancing 8 kids and a celebrity life caused the couple to split up, and the show was canceled after 5 seasons. Many viewers feel that such shows encourage couples to have more kids as it makes them a topic of discussion. The show was also criticized for exposing kids to the camera at such a tender age, and prevented them from having a normal childhood.
Why are television channels allowing such TV shows to air? According to statistics, the cost of producing an episode for a reality TV show is cheaper than an episode of a dramatic series. Also, the TRP factor plays an important role. Every network wants to have a reality TV show as this keeps people coming back for more. A kid or a teen may watch a reality TV show and may try to enact the same at home to see the consequences. Young minds like exploring things and they will not hesitate to try something that they are curious about. Each of these shows portray something which is unrealistic and unaccepted, but audiences don't realize the impact of these shows. Sure, there is entertainment but the viewers unknowingly have to pay a heavy price for it.