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Reality TV Shows; Ethics in Entertainment

Updated on September 18, 2010

Better Than a Drama

Murder, scandal, divorce, suicide, and money issues. Nope, this is not a soap opera or a Nora Robert's Lifetime TV movie. This all a reality within the reality TV world. What happens on-screen is mild compared to what happens off-screen in the lives of many reality TV stars. There is not doubt that questions are surfacing about how reality stars are chosen and screened or transitioned and counseled back into the realreal world. It isn't too much different than unethical psychology experiment gone wrong.

Divorce: To date, most reality couples have moved on with life off screen, ending in divorce. Jon and Kate of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" have crumbled and grown apart despite having eight kids to think about. The show was originally an inspiration to overwhelmed families with kids and any mother. Now, reality has reared it's ugly head.

Murder & Suicide: A contestant/finalist (Ryan Jenkins), probably the most handsome contestant on VH1's "Meagan Wants a Millionaire" murdered his ex-wife in real life, then found dead by his own hand in a hotel room. The show was taken off air before mid season had aried- obviously.

Tax Evasion: First "Survivor" Winner Richard Hatch Released From Jail Early To Enter Halfway House.

Ethics: We all the saw the unethical scandal unravel in the news headlines: "Octuplet mom on welfare." " No job, living with her parents, and keeps having babies." "How did she get the money to have all 8 of her eggs fertilized?" A lack of ethics in this story so of course a network is picking it up for a reality TV show starring the octuplet mom. Do wrong and you'll get your own TV show.

Reality TV Reflects Our Society

Psychologically speaking, most reality tv shows are less ethical than psychology studies before the mid-seventies. In some of these studies, such as Stanford's 1971 Zimbardo simulated prison study had to be counseled long-term and still suffer today. Based on effects many psychological studies (also Milgram's shock study) were causing, there had to rules and regulations in place. Today's reality shows would not stand a chance if submitted to the American Psychological Association or Institutional Review Board. These committees are designed to monitor research done on humans for the safety and sanity of the individual. It seems if a researcher wants to run an unethical social study, they can do so on a reality tv program.

In light of possible consequences of subjecting one's self to voluntary psychological (sometimes physical) torture, do we dare ask if there isn't anything many people would do to ruin their lives for a glimpse of the limelight? Have we faded in our personal lives so much that we need an audience to tell us we (and our lives) are important?

We are quickly evolving into a desensitized society as reflected in what we call entertainment (reality shows). We drive more than we walk- we are in mobile bubbles easily cussing and honking at the guy next to us without a thought in the world about that person being human. We text or email our friends and family substantially more than we talk to them in person or even a good ol' fashioned phone call.

Reality tv shows can't possibly be what we seek for escaping our reality and sitting down to a relaxing evening at home. What value do these shows bring in our lives? Do we revel in the darker side of human nature. Are some better than others?


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    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      triplet mom~ When reality tv first started, it was almost innocent entertainment, but now the off-screen reality is most of the entertainment. Viewers are more interested in how much being on tv has screwed up the reality star's life for real. Sad really.

      I wrote this hub because I was totally disturbed to find out the same network that shows Biggest Loser (a show that may help people) has picked up a reality series starring the octuplet mom.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 8 years ago from West Coast

      Great hub. It makes a person wonder how bad does it have to get before money and ratings are not the top concern? Seems like reality tv is heading in a very dark direction.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      THanks for the comments! What's interesting is throughout my psychology schooling I had to conduct real and ficticious experiments and ethics was always a concern. Then I would watch reality shows, getting increasingly popular when I was in school, and wonder how they were getting away with messing with people's lives not even for the benefit of social or psychological science, but merely for entertainment.

      Ratings/money is the top concern.

    • shamelabboush profile image

      shamelabboush 8 years ago

      I think who thought of the reality show didn't caer much about ethics, they only cared about the money gains and fame... Great one dear.

    • sabu singh profile image

      sabu singh 8 years ago

      Thank you for this interesting Hub Izettl. You have raised some valid issues.

      My daughter is currently producing a Reality Show. I am sure she would like to read this.