Never before in history has real-life culture and performance existed in the strange feedback loop we experience today with reality TV and real life. Modern American culture is heavily influenced by dance shows, game shows, and sports games.
General reality shows like the pioneering “Real World” series on MTV that began the trend and the famously outrageous “Jersey Shore” catapulted some of its members to stardom and launched numerous careers.
It’s Changed Our Lexicon
Some of the catchphrases used in popular reality television shows have made it into our everyday lexicon to the degree that some people who use them probably don’t even know their true origins.
Have you ever heard someone say “I’ll take what’s behind door number 3″ or “I’m voting him off the island?”
Anyone over 50 likely remembers the famous game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” in which contestants could choose to keep prizes they’d already won or trade them for a surprise hidden behind a numbered door.
Getting “voted off the island” — and voting someone off a show in general – all started with the show “Survivor,” popular in the early 2000.
Image Credit: TheViewspaper.net
Hurricane Sandy and the Jersey Shore Cast
Reality TV has also changed the interplay between television characters and what happens in their “real life” locations.
Unlike sitcoms and non-reality television shows, the locations and characters used in filming the shows are real, even if their personalities and hangouts may be trumped up to make good television.
This interconnection caused members of the cast of the “Jersey Shore” reality TV series to request financial support from fans to victims of Hurricane Sandy, which hit some areas the cast frequented on the show quite hard.
Fans could donate by texting to the Red Cross through their cell phones.
Alarm and Criticism
In addition to specific incidences, journalists and columnists are also changing their focus from an exclusive emphasis on Hollywood celebrity reporting to include more topics related to reality TV shows and stars.
This has changed the kind of entertainment news and media the American public reads and views. Journalistic critics of the reality TV trend bemoan its effect on popular culture.
Many of them claim that characters on the shows are shown as stereotypes rather than real human beings with depth, and they believe that the shows don’t usually broadcast consequences for risk-taking behaviour.
They feel that this has a negative effect on the populace, making people – especially young people – more likely to emulate the “real world” characters they see on reality TV shows.
Studying Reality TV
Research has even been conducted to find out information about what kinds of messages are being given to viewers who watch the shows.
One study researched the percentage of positive to negative things girls featured on MTV’s reality shows said about themselves during the show to determine the potential effects on young female viewers. Just for the record, the ratio is, sadly, about 1:3.
Although reality TV as it exists today hasn’t been around for much more than a decade, its existence has had a significant impact on our culture and continues to shape it in ways we can’t yet even fathom.
It’s already changed the way we speak and helped raise awareness of a variety of causes.
Whether the reality TV trend continues to stay popular and whether or not its full impact on society will be positive, negative or somewhere in between remains to be seen.