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What Is the Relationship between Reality TV and Society?

Reality TV mirrors and shapes society, reflecting cultural norms and values while influencing public behavior and perceptions. It's a symbiotic relationship where viewers find entertainment and validation, and producers tap into societal trends. As we delve deeper, consider how your own views and habits might be intertwined with the reality TV phenomenon. What impact do you think it has on you?
Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

The precise nature of the relationship between reality TV and society as a whole is a complicated issue which has many aspects. Basically speaking, the television viewing public’s desire to watch reality television indicates that people may prefer to watch more relatable people on television and gain valuable social information from the events played out on reality television. It could also be argued that reality television is a symptom of a society more interested in having 15 minutes of fame than actually expanding their mind or horizons.

Many different types of reality television programs exist, but most either follow ordinary people in their lives and jobs; renovate or makeover a person, possession, or home; or pit people against each other in some form of competition. Some reality TV shows are talent searches, where ordinary people get an opportunity to showcase their talent and chase the dream of fame. Other reality TV programs pit people against each other in a game show-type scenario. The link between reality TV and society can be understood by thinking about these different types of program.

Reality TV trends suggests that viewers are drawn to shows featuring people who are relatable to their own lives.
Reality TV trends suggests that viewers are drawn to shows featuring people who are relatable to their own lives.

Game show reality TV shows put people in difficult positions, and the viewing audience generally enjoys the discomfort the people go through, even sometimes voting for who goes through the trial. This combination of difficult tasks and social pressure allows people to judge the correct way to deal with similar social situations and take on tasks that they do not wish to complete. Some reality TV shows are more like social experiments that allow viewers to watch as a group of strangers begins to interact socially. Reality TV is interconnected with society because it gives us the ability to watch and learn from the social mistakes of others.

Some reality TV shows are talent searches, where people get an opportunity to showcase their talents and chase dreams of fame.
Some reality TV shows are talent searches, where people get an opportunity to showcase their talents and chase dreams of fame.

Talent search reality television programs present a different view of the relationship between reality TV and society. While reality TV does arguably give people relatable characters to watch, it also fosters in some people a belief that they could be famous. Contestants on talent search reality TV shows often believe that becoming a celebrity is the main goal of life, whether it is for the attention or the money. Many people have suggested that the connection between reality TV and society is that people are more interested in money and fame than in things which are actually important. This and similar lines of reasoning have led some to believe that reality TV is a symptom of the corruption of our desires and the superficial nature of modern society.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does reality TV influence societal norms and behaviors?

Dating programs are one popular kind of reality TV.
Dating programs are one popular kind of reality TV.

Reality TV often acts as a mirror, reflecting and sometimes amplifying aspects of society. It can influence societal norms by showcasing diverse lifestyles and behaviors, which viewers may adopt or reject. For instance, shows like "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" have been credited with impacting fashion trends and social media usage. However, it's important to note that reality TV can also perpetuate stereotypes and create unrealistic expectations, as it often blurs the line between authentic representation and entertainment.

What role does reality TV play in shaping public opinion?

Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.
Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.

Reality TV has a significant role in shaping public opinion by providing a platform for discussing contemporary issues. Shows like "Survivor" or "The Bachelor" often spark conversations about human behavior, ethics, and social dynamics. According to a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute, reality TV can also influence viewers' self-image and expectations of relationships and behavior. These discussions can lead to a collective reflection on societal values and norms.

Can reality TV be a force for positive change in society?

Concerns have been raised that reality TV shows can distort a child's perception of society.
Concerns have been raised that reality TV shows can distort a child's perception of society.

Yes, reality TV has the potential to be a force for positive change by raising awareness on important issues. Shows like "Queer Eye" or "Undercover Boss" have been praised for promoting empathy, understanding, and social awareness. They can challenge prejudices and encourage viewers to think critically about their own beliefs and actions. When used responsibly, reality TV can highlight social injustices and inspire viewers to engage in social causes.

How does reality TV consumption affect people's perceptions of reality?

Some criticism of reality TV deals with a focus on the sexual nature of participants and whether the depictions encourage promiscuity.
Some criticism of reality TV deals with a focus on the sexual nature of participants and whether the depictions encourage promiscuity.

Reality TV consumption can significantly affect viewers' perceptions of reality, often leading to distorted views of what is normal or desirable. According to a survey by the National Eating Disorders Association, reality TV can influence body image and expectations of physical appearance. Additionally, the constructed nature of these shows can create misconceptions about relationships, success, and lifestyle, as they often present an edited and dramatized version of reality.

What impact does reality TV have on tourism and travel behavior?

Reality TV can have a profound impact on tourism and travel behavior by showcasing exotic locations and cultural experiences. Shows like "The Amazing Race" or "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" inspire viewers to explore new destinations and cuisines. According to a report by the World Tourism Organization, popular TV shows can lead to increased interest in featured locations, known as the "film-induced tourism" phenomenon, driving economic benefits through increased visitor numbers.

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Discussion Comments

pollick
@Ruggercat68, I stopped watching a few reality shows for that very reason. I felt cheated after finding out a lot of those "real people" were unknown actors playing characters. The people on the Amish shows either weren't Amish, or they had already quit the church years before the show started filming.

I think reality shows filled a need in society years ago when they would just put up hidden cameras and let people be themselves. I thought the first year of "The Real World" did that very well. If there was a fight on the show, it happened naturally. I thought it was useful to see two people from totally opposite backgrounds figure out a way to get along.

Ruggercat68

What I like about some reality shows is that I get to see how people I'll probably never meet in real life go about their day. I get to see pawn shop owners deal with customers and Louisiana crocodile hunters check their traps. I couldn't do what they do, but at least I can watch them do it on television.

However, what I really don't like about other reality shows is that they're not based on reality. Most people spend about a half hour a day doing something interesting, and the rest of the day eating or sleeping or shopping. The producers of these reality shows realize this, so they'll set up fake conflicts or plant interesting things in storage lockers just to make the show more interesting. Half the time, I think the people are reading from a script. What good is a reality show if it's not about reality?

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    • Reality TV trends suggests that viewers are drawn to shows featuring people who are relatable to their own lives.
      By: Innovated Captures
      Reality TV trends suggests that viewers are drawn to shows featuring people who are relatable to their own lives.
    • Some reality TV shows are talent searches, where people get an opportunity to showcase their talents and chase dreams of fame.
      By: Alena Ozerova
      Some reality TV shows are talent searches, where people get an opportunity to showcase their talents and chase dreams of fame.
    • Dating programs are one popular kind of reality TV.
      By: Grafvision
      Dating programs are one popular kind of reality TV.
    • Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.
      By: imkenneth
      Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.
    • Concerns have been raised that reality TV shows can distort a child's perception of society.
      By: Joanna Zielinska
      Concerns have been raised that reality TV shows can distort a child's perception of society.
    • Some criticism of reality TV deals with a focus on the sexual nature of participants and whether the depictions encourage promiscuity.
      By: bonninturina
      Some criticism of reality TV deals with a focus on the sexual nature of participants and whether the depictions encourage promiscuity.