Really Good But Not Really Real: Reality TV

Today I’m going to do a little bit of rambling on reality TV. Let me just say I am a big fan of reality television. I simply love the trashiness of it all. Is it real? Yes and no. Yes, because these are real human beings interacting with each other in an “unscripted” environment. No, because the events and personalities are extremely outlandish and intentionally ridiculous.

Reality TV is a genre. It is mislabeled just like many other products out there: organic cigarettes, vitaminwater, green tea vodka… Much like mysteries or comedies, it is a type of programming.

A year or so ago, I came across this clip that very easily displays characteristics within most reality TV programs. (He has made another montage for the 2009 year, which you can find on the same site).

While this is obviously a very lighthearted approach to this whole conversation, it brings up a few issues we as critical thinkers (and myself as an active thinker in gender studies/feminist theory) should consider.

1. But OF COURSE women are the dramatic ones

Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but there were about a handful of men included in the clip. There are plenty of reality shows which have only men or are co-ed, yet the clip makes women appear to be at the core of every heated incident.

2. A friendly, emotional woman is automatically subversive and will only be pushed around

The whole concept of the “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” is a reinforcement of the whole idea that women are not trying to build meaningful relationships with other women. There is a prize to be won (money, fame, a man), and we women know better than to let our emotions get in the way. (Amirite? Ugh)

3. The continuous portrayal of women as backstabbing, tacky individuals

This is a particular topic of interest for me. When I was a junior in college, I did a term paper on aggression and social dynamics amongst high school students. It introduced me to a whole new range of concerns and topics relating to human development amongst teens. In a more recent research project, I delved more into this subject and found it absolutely alarming how much a popular teen magazine consistently hinted at using caution when proceeding with female friendships.

That’s all for now. I could go on, but I have a feeling (read: 110% confident) this topic will be one I will be pursuing with great frequency.

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