In order to fully understand the effects reality television has on society, it is profoundly important to take a look into what reality television does to the viewer’s mind, and how invested society has become on these shows. Reality television has become a guilty pleasure for a lot of today’s society, rather it be “Extreme Makeover”, “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, or “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”. I even find myself rushing home on Sunday nights to tune into “Keeping up with the Kardashians” even though I know the majority of what happens in this show, meaning their family drama is blown out of porportion to keep viewers tuning in every Sunday. There is something about the Kardashian’s lavish, and glamorous life that society can’t stop watching. Sometimes it seems like we really understand this family especially the women in the show, and the situations that they go through; but how do we allow ourselves to draw the line between what is actually real or not? Knowing that these shows are recorded by the producer’s greed for money why do we still allow ourselves to keep watching? The producers of KUWTK( Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s) show do a wonderful job of keeping their viewers interested by seemingly airing the Kardashian’s dirty laundry, and following them throughout their pregnancies, marriages, and divorces. Author Henry Jenkins concurred by stating that, “The television networks often help to publicize such campaigns, especially when they later decide to return programs from hiatus, as evidence of their responsiveness to their viewership”. Jenkins agrees that networks antagonize the drama of reality television for the sake of reaching high ratings. The producers often bring back these different shows when something drastic occurs within the people on these shows. For example, when Kim Kardashian was getting married to Chris Humphries the producers seen this as an outlet to capitalize on the ceremony and showed the entire wedding as an episode to gain more viewers and more capital.
The people that watch reality television have some sense of belonging to the different characters on these shows, meaning that they feel like they can relate to their struggles, ups and downs. As people we crave to fit in with others especially celebrities, we secretly believe that celebrities are god’s and we try our hardest to be as close to them as possible. That is one of the main reasons why we continue to tune into their shows and follow them on social media and buy their books. But have these shows corrupted our minds and the way we view ourselves and others? To answer that, absolutely; after watching any episode of the Kardashian’s it can make you feel like you are not pretty enough, you are not small enough, or you don’t have the lavish clothes and accessories that they have. Reality television can really damage your mind, and your perception of what actual reality is, because when you think about it a lot of what happens on these “Reality” shows is far from what goes on in an average person’s life.
The image above is directly saying exactly the point I am making which is that through this show the viewers feel the need to try and relate to these outrageous rich people, and feel like their family is just like yours. Then it says that this is a show to escape from your life for a while, which is exaclty what many of the viewers do when watching. Along with that these girls are appealing to the women by what is stated in the picture but they are objectifying themselves with the way they are dressed in hopes to grab men attention to once again raise their ratings, proving that at the end of the day it is all about the money.
Thinking in an intersectional way I have found that gender and race play a huge role in reality television. For instance looking back at “Keeping up with the Kardashians” you see an extremely wealthy family that is white and of upper class and you never really see any physical altercations. Comparing that show to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” which is a predominately African American casted show there are numerous fights, disagreemnets, and back stabbing. These women are of upper class but you can certainly see the difference in characters, as compared to KUWTK’s. These females are hot headed, and feel the need to compete in a physical way whereas the Kardashians never get into physical altercations yet in still they argue but they try and keep their composure.
Moving on to a different type of reality television we take a look at “Extreme Makeover” where Brenda Weber made a good point when she stated that, “What we’re seeing in both Extreme Makeover and the present media and makeover genre more broadly, then, is not programming dedicated to individuated enhancement, but a clustering of makeover shows working to underscore collectively the imperative of high-glamour appearance—golden highlights, trimmed bodies, four-inch heels, and double D breasts notwithstanding”. Looking at other reality television shows such as Swan you see the need to be the glamorous American rather than being yourself. This show shoves your intellectuality to the side and basis who you are on what you look like especially for women. As for the viewers it makes you feel like you are not good enough, and you need to look better; meaning in weight, age, and sex appeal are big factors on this show. The hosts on the show even come out and say you need to look young, hot, and sexy, and basically say that we need to impress people by what we look like and not by what we actually have to say.
There are certain reality shows that we watch solely as a guilty pleasure, for example “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”. That show has so much drama and viewers eat that up, watching an episode of that is like watching rich people create fights, and buzz feeds about themselves. Why is that so interesting to watch? Posner makes a strong point when he said, “From frenemies on lifestyle series such as MTV’s The Hills and Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Orange County (and New York, Atlanta, New Jersey, D.C., and Beverly Hills) to flat-out enemies on dating and modeling shows, reality television presents women as being in constant competition for romantic love, professional success, and personal fulfillment”. Posner in my eyes is saying that as viewers we love to watch mainly women competing for anything rather it be money, love, or just success. That is the exact thing that happens on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” all the females on the show are constantly in competition for the biggest house, the best relationship, and the most money. Why is it that people find pleasure in watching women compete to ultimately be the better women? Why is it so hard for us women to lift each other up and have shows that uplift women and not shows that are constantly belittling the intellectual side of females? Take a look at the video below which directly shows how competitve and aggressive networks are making African American reality television shows.
To conclude, after taking a look at reality television in a feminist view I have changed the way I watch these shows, I have been constantly thinking about race, gender, class and the mobility of women and how much in my opinion has improved a lot, but still has a long way to go. In the shows I viewed the women may have crazy drama, but the women in these shows are working women who are not held down, or oppressed by men. The women on these shows still struggle, and are not perfect but in my opinion they have made many things possible for women that once wasn’t. Gender roles have swapped for example “Keeping up with the Kardashians” you see the women working and being the bread winner while the men stay at home with the kids, for example Scott Disick stays at home when Kourtney needs to go away for work, or travel period; the same goes for Kris and Bruce Jenner. These shows totally disrupt the “American” norm of females staying home while the men work, instead these women are bread winners which may also be another reason why we love these reality shows, aside from all the drama that happens. As we took a look into “Extreme Makeover” we found that this shows plays a lot into the “Ideal beauty norm” meaning that the show creates this illusion that young, hot, and skinny is what women need to portray, rather than focusing on the females intellectual side. All in all society and networks needs to find a way to have women still be portrayed in a powerful role, but not in a disrespectful role to oneself.
1. Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers Television Fans & Participatory Culture. NewYork and London: Routledge, 1992. Print.
2. Weber, Brenda R. “Beauty, Desire, and Anxiety.” The Economy of Sameness in ABC’s Extreme Makeover (2005): n. pag. http://www.genders.org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/g41/g41_weber. Web.
3. Pozner, Jennifer L. “Reality TV’s 9 Worst Stock Characters.” Reality TV’s 9 Worst Stock Characters (2011): 1-3. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/11/reality-tv-s-nine-worst-stock-characters.all.html. Web.
4. How Networks Try To Trick Viewers Into Thinking Their Awful Shows Are Critically. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.uproxx.com/tv/2012/07/critic-poster/#page/1>.
5. Green, Tom. “Reality TV–Rewarding Bad Behavior.” The Huffington Post UK. N.p., 16 July 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-green/reality-tv-rewarding-bad-_b_3606641.html>.
6. Real Housewives of Atlanta. Perf. NeNe Leaks and Sheree and Marlo. Youtube, 29 Jan. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83wvpKblaZ8>.