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Reality Television Influences Society
They eat bugs, dangle from bungee cords, engage in cat fights, sing songs, choose spouses and bake cupcakes. Reality television goes back to the days of Candid Camera and it’s not going away any time soon.
Why Networks Love Reality TV
Reality television shows are far less expensive to produce than scripted television shows. They require fewer writers, less elaborate sets and unknown "actors". A network typically pays approximately $13 million per episode for a popular, scripted television show, while the cost of a reality show can be as low as $500,000 per episode. That’s a huge savings to networks.
Why Viewers Love Reality TV
Everybody loves a train wreck. It may be morbid, but all one has to do is watch traffic slow to a crawl after a car crash. Most people are sympathetic towards the victims, but they’re also glad it’s not them. Watching the trials and tribulations of reality show stars as they play out before us makes us feel better about our own lives.
Many of today's reality shows are interactive. American Idol and Dancing with the Stars give viewers the opportunity to not only root for favorite singers and dancers, but also to have input. Viewers and fans are encouraged to become active participants by voting via text messages and phone calls.
Are Reality Shows Real?
Longtime television critic, Ray Richmond, has suggested the term reality show should be renamed to the more aptly partially scripted television. Too many participants of reality shows have shared stories of meddling by show producers, creative editing and even manipulation of votes to be ignored.
Regardless of how cheated viewers may feel, and how many of them threaten to boycott a particular show, ratings still remain the same. Far too many viewers enjoy the fact that reality is often stranger (and funnier) than fiction. Writers know they just can’t make some of this stuff up.
How Reality Shows Influence Viewers
A study published by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2006, cites that many critics and academics state that reality television often elevates money, fame and beauty above more admirable human qualities and promotes meanness, casual sex, alcohol use and bad language and thus can be damaging to society.
The study also paid particular attention to how reality television effects children and adolescents who are looking for guidance in family and personal relationship issues. They cited the possibility that children and adolescents are much more likely to take reality show messages at face value than adults might. They advise that parents who watch reality shows with their children should consider using them as teachable moments.
Some critics believe reality shows are contributing to the dumbing down of society. Fans say reality shows provide some relief from the stress brought on by everyday life. The opportunity to judge and even ridicule others helps to take the focus off of personal and professional problems. Whether critics are right or not remains to be seen, but for now it seems that reality television will be here for awhile.