Reality Tv: A look behind the scenes By: Deunte Banks

Have you ever heard the saying that too much of anything can kill you? According to an analysis published online by the “Scientific American”, overindulgence even with something so essential to life such as water, can have a detrimental effect on your well-being in the long run. Similarly, I have decided to conduct an analysis of how an overindulgence with voyeurism in reality TV can potentially harm us as a society in ways that we can’t even imagine. In my analysis, I will explain why we, “American’s” have become so obsessed with this phenomenon. Also, I will explain how these shows can be harmful and what all of this means for young people and future generations going forward. According to an article published by Psychology Today, “the desire for status is just a means to get attention. And more attention increases one’s sense of importance: We think we are important if others pay attention to us and unimportant if ignored.” The claim of this article is that people in general, enjoy watching reality television because we seek a need to belong. Whether it is to a certain social group, religious affiliation, fandom or something more important like our race, class or ethnicity, we all have that need. However, just belonging isn’t good enough. The structure of reality shows paint a false picture, one that allows us to naïvely believe that in our society, ordinary people can become just as important as celebrities. A perfect example would be the number of videos users post to YouTube, in hopes that their video will be the next video to go viral. These shows, cause us to view the world around us far differently and much more materialistically than we did in the past. YouTube-Charlie-Bit-My-Finger-Parenting

The next topic that I will discuss is how these shows can be harmful. According to Oullette and Hay, reality TV is “A resource for constituting households, neighborhoods, and other spheres of everyday government.” They describe their use of the word constitution by stating “…the term constitution refers to television’s role in enacting and shaping (constitutions) spaces and populations.” Basically, the point that they are trying to get across can be summed up by an old saying that my grandmother used to say to me, “We believe what we perceive.” Here’s a clip from a popular website that supports my claim

This video is disrupting the traditional production of a reality TV show. They are disrupting because of the ways in which they chose to display the video. From the different camera angles and certain individual camera shots that you’d generally find on reality shows, to the clueless background music and the ways in which they follow the cast around 24/7 and seem to do a lot of one on one, isolated, testimonial shots.  The creators are sort of culture jamming in a sense. What I mean is that upon viewing this, I instantly noticed the connection to a reality show like “Honey Boo-Boo” and the book segment we read “White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness,” by Matt Wray. This video depicts the typical life of a southern white trash family. In this re-enactment, they are bringing to light or using forms of sarcasm to make the rest of us aware of what reality TV shows lead us to think and believe about certain types of people in our society. These shows are harmful because they help to reinforce hegemony; allowing us to subconsciously classify, stereotype and negatively judge other members of different social groups, solely on the ways in which producers have decided to have them cast in a so-called reality show. The last thing that I will discuss is what all this means for the up and coming generations. If all you know and see around you is drama, competition and more drama, then what will you begin to associate yourself with? The answer is simple, drama and competition. Reality TV shows constantly display a need for both. Whether it is a show about finding love, surviving or making cakes, somehow the same trends are constantly recurring. What this means is that our youth will naturally adapt to the type of mindset that is known to be associated with the military. This is A “Be all you can be and trust no-one” type of mindset. Here’s another video clip that I chose to insert that reiterates that dog eat dog mentality our soldiers are accustomed to, when trying to survive on the battlefield.

According to Stein’s article, Success just for being you “Celebrities represents the notion of individualism today perhaps more than ever…coverage of bad behavior and relationship sagas also feeds modern-day morality tales.” These shows make the roles of each individual seem authentic and real, causing young people to believe that this is how their world around them should function. This is not true; all of those reality shows are scripted and carefully crafted in order to give off the illusion of authenticity. From the costumes/ clothes, to the fights and drama-filled moments that we, Americans have grown to lust for, just about nothing happens by chance, it is usually designed. An example would be from the recent contracts of the cast from The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Like anything in life, I believe that Reality TV should be consumed in moderation. The reason is because too much overindulgence is always a bad thing. People fail to realize that those shows aren’t real and they become susceptible to the dangers that lie in their subliminal messages. After researching and reading articles, I have come to believe that these shows are designed with far greater purposes than to follow one’s life and introduce us to a character supposedly from the real world, one that we are supposed to be able to relate to. I believe that the purpose of a reality TV show is to give people the idea that a lavish, fast paced life, filled with drama, competition and loads of consumption is what makes celebrities happy and in turn is our backstage pass, allowing us to get a glimpse into the lives of people that we are supposed to want to be like.


Ballantyne, Coco. “Strange but True: Drinking Too Much Water Can Kill”. Published June 21, 2007. Accessed. Nov. 21, 2013. Web.

Morrissey, Tracie Egan. “Real Housewives Contract Allows Show to Fictionalize Footage”. Edited Sept. 24, 20013. Accessed Nov. 21,2013. Web.

Quellette, Laurie and James Hay. “TV’s Constitution of Citizenship.” Better Living through Reality TV. Ed. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008. Pg 171-173.

Reiss, Steven and James Wiltz. “Why America Loves Reality TV”. Published Sept. 01, 2001. Edited Dec. 14, 2010. Accessed Nov. 21, 2013. Web.

Sternheimer, Karen. “Celebrity Culture and the American Dream.” Success Just for Being You. Ed. Walsworth Publishing Company. Pg. 214-216.

Way, Matt. “Not Quite White.” White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness. Ed.  Duke University Press. 2006. Pg. 1.

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