Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dangers of Reality Television

I have a bit of a confession to make. I'm kind of a big fan of reality television. Since we don't have cable T.V., I'm fairly limited on the number of shows I can watch, but I do enjoy the genre. Going back nearly twenty years ago with the first season of MTV's The Real World, I've probably watched dozens of seasons of reality shows over the years.

I love watching real people in real situations (I also watch a lot of documentaries) and reality shows give a glimpse into the lives of everyday people. I know that since the cameras are present that it's not really that "real", but it's the closest that we can get on T.V.

Even though I enjoy reality shows (Survivor and American Idol are the only ones I watch regularly these days), I've had a growing concern about the shear number of these shows and the effect that it has on its stars and the viewing public. After the immense popularity of the initial season of CBS's hit show Survivor gave life to the genre, there seems to be reality shows that cover nearly aspect of life. What seemed like a fad has become a staple of television.

Unfortunately, a limited number of these shows have much of a positive effect on its viewers. For every show that inspires and gives hope (like an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), there are probably a handful more that cater to our basest desires. Furthermore, the price that some of these participants pay as a result of starring in these shows is evident. Especially when it comes to marriage and family, starring in a reality show may not be the best idea.

The recent tabloid accusations concerning the marriage of Jon and Kate Gosselin (stars of TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8) demonstrate the stress that living life before the cameras can place on a couple. Although the Gosselins were not famous before the popularity, it would be hard to argue that their show hasn't contributed to their martial strain. Among those that were already celebrities, the list of failed marriages shortly after the success of reality shows seems endless -- Nick & Jessica, the Hogans, Carmen Electra & Dave Navarro, the Barkers, Britney & Kevin and on and on.

Although some of these marriages might have been considered on shaky ground even before their lives were put on display for everyone to see, I doubt that being on T.V. helped matters. As one that truly values the sanctity of marriage, I have to wonder whether I'm contributing to the problem by watching some of these shows. Granted, the reality shows that I watch don't revolve around family life but, still, I have watched some of these in the past.

It's easy for us to cast stones towards those that willingly sacrifice marital and familial stability for fame and fortune, but none of this would happen if we didn't tune in. As long as there are viewers, we will still be offered fare that has the potential to put families at risk. It's up to us as viewers to support the shows that are positive and ignore those that aren't.

As a point of application, I'm curious what your favorite uplifting and wholesome reality shows are? Feel free to comment...

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