Can we even call reality television Hollywood? The recent popularity of shows like “Basketball Wives” and”The Real Housewives of _____” has my head spinning in circles. Here we have women flaunting their supposed wealth, relationships, and bodies on television, while creating a negative stereotype of women everywhere. Meanwhile, we have the Kardashians, who should basically have their own network because they’ve monopolized E!, VH1, and MTV. Between competition-based shows like American Idol and what I like to call “wanna-be-celebrity” shows (i.e., Real Housewives), where is there room for real TV? In addition, many of these shows are centered on the lives of women; women who I wouldn’t want my teenage daughter, little sister or niece modeling their lives after. The success of reality television has certainly spiraled out of control.
Reality television first came to life in the 1940s with unscripted shows like Candid Camera and popular game shows that would eventually lead to phenomenon such as The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune. The game show genre has been the longest-lasting and most respected sub-genre of reality television. In the 90s, we were introduced to a more serious sub-genre of competitive reality television, with hit shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor. These shows were considered family entertainment as they focused primarily on skill, intellect and laughter. However, toward the beginning of the new millennium, we saw a huge surge in the “I-wanna-be-a-celebrity-and-get-my-15-minutes-of-fame” shows. Unlike previous popular reality television, these shows perpetuate sexual exploitation of both men and women, poor behavior and attitudes, verbal violence (usually woman versus woman), exploitation of wealth, and teach absolutely nothing to an entire generation of future leaders who are watching and tweeting about every move or word of NeNe Leakes or Kim Kardashian. What has television come to?
It has come to my attention that reality television trumps great primetime television in both promotional value and ratings. I don’t know about you, but I grew up on reruns of “The Cosby Show,” “CSI,” and “Jeopardy!” I ran home to turn on the 6 o’clock news only to be comfortable and in my seat for “Wheel of Fortune” to come on so I could exercise my brain. I learned about the cruelties and beauties of the world via “48 Hours” and “20/20.” Most importantly, as a future actress (unknowingly), I was inspired by the primetime and Sunday night television shows that featured real actors exercising and embracing their craft, week after week, for the world to enjoy. Now, the obsession of reality television has become blasphemy! The fact that great primetime shows get canceled after one season, while “Flavor of Love” and “Jerry Springer” go on and on is absurd. What are our young people learning? When I watched TV as a young girl, I was learning how to act. These days, young girls are watching “Bad Girls Club” and learning how to act up.
In conclusion, we can continue to blame the media for corrupting the minds of our young girls and boys. Television, what used to be an outlet for art and creativity, is now a haven for filth, exploitation, and lack of educational resources. However, we must also blame ourselves (especially as women) for keeping those Real Housewives of _______ on the air year after year, promoting and perpetuating the disgraceful behavior of these women on Twitter and Facebook, and letting our little sisters and cousins watch along with us. It’s time to cut the “ity” out of reality TV and restore and revive the industry.