Last night on “Basketball Wives” (yet another Reality Show i tried for the longest to avoid, and now I’m hooked) Tami popped the F**K out of new cast member Meeka over some High School bull. Sure, these catty fights are entertaining, but somehow last nights slap was a little uncalled for and over the line. However, it was bound to happen since that show is like a revolving door of Drama with each cast member instigating small things into big ones constantly. This has become so standard in “Reality Shows” that you get the idea that their only purpose is to entertain the masses with negativity, violence, trash talk and basic despicable behavior.
It’s funny that this new low comes from Tami, because 18 years ago she was on the second season of MTV’s “The Real World” which was the first reality series. Thinking back all those years ago (*cries, I can’t believe I vividly remember something 18 years old) the main purpose of the show was to expose it’s participants to others from different cultures and backgrounds. It was a clever way to get viewers to learn something about people unlike themselves, and hopefully destroy some prejudices. And for the most part it worked, you had southern country boys befriending gay city boys, black girls with zero patience for white guys ending the season being the best of friends. Sure there were disagreements and fights, but sometimes you’d go a whole entire season with only one big fight, sometimes none at all.
Than, people started expecting fights and executives probably saw that those rage and alcohol induced altercations drove up ratings. And after about the 11th season, the whole purpose of the show was lost. It became less about exposing and breaking down stereotypes. It was more about finding Model looking cast members, surrounding them with alcohol and watching the sparks (and fists) fly. By than, the Reality Show concept had reached outside of MTV and into the mainstream. And of course they adopted the ratings bringing concept of debauchery over decency.
Now 18 years later we have “The Bad Girls Club” (fight every week) “Basketball Wives” (fight nearly every week), “College Hill” and any “Real Housewives” show (only interesting when there’s a fight). This season MTV has even added a “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” titled “Rivals” picking all of the people in past seasons who have had an issue with each other, which is the perfect recipe for useless violence. And of course the huge phenomenon that is “Jersey Shore” which basically consists of people getting drunk, hooking up and fighting each other week after week. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg, and is there any type of point to any of these shows?
No! There’s nothing to learn from these shows, except inventive ways to talk trash. Of course there are Competition based Reality Shows that teach it’s viewers something or at least exposes them to different things, like “Top Chef” “Project Runway” “So You Think You Can Dance”. Even “RuPaul’s Drag Race” exposes people to the under world of Drag (and they are smart enough to put all the catty stuff in a 30 minute “Untucked” show), but these Guilty Pleasure Reality Shows have no real value at all. Maybe some introverted people do get off on people who aren’t scared to say what they feel, but often times what these “characters” say on TV doesn’t need to be said.
Aside from the terrible behavior exhibited on these programs, another thing that has become increasingly annoying is the producers and editors input. It’s so easy to tell nowadays when a situation has been manipulated to cause a ruckus, or when editing is used to make something appear more of an issue than it really is. There used to be a question mark on shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and “The Hills” where people weren’t sure how much, if any, of those shows were scripted. And these days, you can basically assume that most of them are set-up in some ways. Another big thing that takes the whole “reality” aspect out of it, these people on these shows are Fame Whores. It might not have been clear 10 years ago, like when “Flavor of Love” premiered you actually thought “wow, these women actually WANT Flava Flav!?” but about three seasons in you figured out a big majority of the girls were just there for the exposure. And clearly the thing that is going to set you apart from the other girls or guys in the show is having a loud mouth, or being ultra-feisty or being a huge slut. So if the show isn’t scripted, or highly manipulated by the producers, than you still have those fame hungry people who will show out just for attention. Which makes the show and those heated arguments even less real.
And it’s really sad because you can see the younger viewers of these shows are influenced by this attention grabbing behavior. I just read a blog post earlier today asking a question I’ve always wondered, why people in chat rooms and social networking sites are so mean. (check out Matthew Smith’s blog post “The Troll Effect: How the internet makes it easier to be angry“) I don’t doubt that this younger generation may be getting their bitchy and catty attitudes online from shows like “The Bad Girls Club” and “Jersey Shore”, they see people on those shows gain attention and notoriety for being mean and devious so they follow suit hoping to get some attention themselves.
It’s just a really sad evolution of the concept of Reality television. I won’t knock all of the reality shows though. Since around 2000, when “Survivor” premiered, Reality television has really taken over and there’s a huge variety of different shows to watch. However, the most popular ones seem to all center around bad behavior, and in so many ways they aren’t even really REAL anymore. It’s really tragic that a medium that starting out trying to change the world for the positive, is now using negativity to help the world further go to sh*t.
If you happen to be addicted to some of this trash, don’t feel bad (I’m an addict too). Do try to ween yourself off though, after watching a full season “The Bad Girls Club” where nothing really ever happened but yelling and fighting I had to force myself NOT to ever watch it again. You know that once you tune into one full episode you’re hooked so try to resist temptation and save our kids decency.