- Category: Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)
- Published: 04 February 2015
Reality shows are considered lazy, thoughtless TV and are usually filled with a bunch of ordinary people with no special talents. Even if you don’t watch reality shows, or want to admit you watch, everyone knows what each of them are about and what type of impact they are putting on today’s society, but is that impact really as bad as we think? Does this so-called “true TV” send positive messages to their audience, or do they influence viewers to follow in their footsteps?
In 2009, MTV got permission to film the pregnancies from six different teenage girls for 16 and Pregnant in hopes that it would allow viewers to learn from these girls mistakes and to be careful. They wanted their viewers to see what a struggle being a teen mom can be and wanted teens to wait to start a family until they were self-established. MTV also created a spin off series called Teen Mom. Both of these shows followed real life teenage girls throughout their pregnancy and showed viewers what it was really like to have a child.
Sure, these reality shows infamously presented the audience with these teenage girls who became “famous” and got paid a ton of money just because they were teen moms, but studies showed that teen pregnancy rates dropped enormously since the premiere of 16 and Pregnant.
Both of these shows can be seen as “glamourizing” teen pregnancy, but statistics don’t lie. Shockingly, teenagers who watched these shows realized how much of a struggle being a teen mom really is.
According to a CNN writer, Jacque Wilson, “Between 1991 and 2008, the rate dropped steadily at an average of about 2.5 percent a year. In the past four years, it had dropped even more dramatically at a rate of about 7.5 percent per year.” The decreased rate changed in 2009, which is when both 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom both premiered on MTV. Although parents may not like their children watching reality shows like 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom, they may actually be sending a good message to their viewers.
In 2009, another reality show by MTV also premiered. Jersey Shore ran for six seasons and consisted of lots of hair gel, suntan lotion, skimpy clothes, hooking up, fighting, drinking, and of course, fist pumping, but did this show send a bad message to its viewers? Jersey Shore definitely was not a good role model show for teenagers to watch.
The cast drank and partied way more often than they should have, they had sex with people they did not even know, they threw a few punches thinking that would solve their problems, and these are not the messages that should be sent to young viewers.
The cast got paid to have sex, to fight, to drink, and to party. Sure, the teen moms of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom got paid as well, but they had to go through the struggles of pregnancy, giving birth, and some even being a single mother. Some of them did not get to finish school and their entire future is ruined because of bad choices. They made their mistakes and they sent out the message to their viewers to be careful and to make the right decisions in life. Jersey Shore on the other hand was full of drinking, partying, and having fun, and they are getting paid for it.
While 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and Jersey Shore have infamously been morally questioned by the media, to label all reality shows as “bad” is unfair.
Other popular reality shows like The Bachelor, Survivor, The Biggest Loser, Big Brother, and The Real Housewives can either send positive messages or distort our thoughts. It all depends on how you view it.
For example, The Bachelor might send out the message that there really is someone out there for everyone. On the other hand, it is also saying that anyone can fall in love in Paris or Rome.
Does Survivor send the message that if you put your mind to anything, you can accomplish it? Maybe it is just a bunch of idiots eating spiders for money.
The Real Housewives could make one woman want to marry rich and motivate another to be a success story on her own. And so on.
Again, it all depends on the outlook you have on reality shows. Some reality shows are simply just for pleasure or laughs while others are trying to send a wholesome message to their viewers.
One thing is for sure: reality shows are almost everyone’s guilty pleasure. While some of them send obviously appalling messages, it is all about perception. If you don’t read into them too much, not all of them are as bad as we think.