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Why Reality TV is Destroying America

Updated on December 31, 2014

What Happened to the Role Models

It wasn't that long ago when stars were respected and in some cases revered. They shaped the culture of the country and left lasting impressions on our youth. The idea of no such thing as bad press was laughable, as nobody famous wanted to get caught in a bad situation, doing so would be detrimental to their career. Actors like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart are forever ingrained into the American psyche. There movies were legendary and are still showing on televisions across America to this day. They made their money by relying on their God given talents and a good script; not on shock value or nudity. They not only spoke out against bad behavior, they took it one step further by presenting themselves as a role model. There were no drunken brawls, no profanity laced tirades against the paparazzi and no having to adopt children from Africa to gain recognition. It was a simpler time back then but at least back then things were not so backwards as they are today.

The Fall of Family Friendly Progamming

While it wasn't reality television that killed the role models that once inhabited Hollywood, as the decline come somewhere between the 1970s and early 1990s. The movie and television industry was beginning to change, edgier programs were created to bring about controversies that would in turn lead to higher ratings. People wanted to see more skin, more blood and less plot. Stars lives began to become more public with the birth of the new paparazzi. Pictures of stars in provocative situations sold papers and gained ratings. Even the news media turned from reporting actual news, to instead, placing their effort and time into biased reporting, along with those "Gotcha" moments that tend to cause senators to lose their re-election bids.

Before the likes of Jane Fonda stars were actually proud to be American. They supported the troops and didn't mind expressing their support publicly. Such an odd thought now to think that there was a time when stars actually stood on their principles, instead, of being for whatever they feel will give them street cred with the political correctness police.

Over time, television series and movies which were once geared to deliver the family friendly content that brought in Oscars, started to fall victim to the times. More movies became rated R and cursing on television was something that wasn't frowned upon anymore. By the time of the mid-1990s sitcoms were rewarded for breaking down barriers that had not been crossed before. Talk of sex was encouraged and became the norm. At one time, ABC cancelled their more popular family friendly shows and replaced them with shows that were fit for adults.

Homosexuality back then, while not looked down on was not encouraged in television or movies because of the controversy it might bring about. That all changed by the turn of the 21st century when Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy took hold and for a time ruled the airwaves. Times were changing and previously social outcasts were now the darlings of cinema and television.

Reality of the Worst Kind

America got its first taste of reality television in the early 1990s with the MTV groundbreaking drama, The Real World. The real life struggles of the average person was something new and intriguing. To the best of the audience's knowledge it was the first unscripted show on television, making an anything can happen atmosphere that brought in millions of viewers each week.

When Survivor first aired in 1997 audiences were captivated by the first reality game show. It seemed to have the perfect mix of explosive personalities and challenges making it unique for its time. Unfortunately, Survivor was the mother of all reality shows and by it all reality based shows were based. These clones have bordered from the strange RuPaul's Drag Race, to the idiotic My Sweet Sixteen.

Most of these shows have blurred the lines between fiction and reality making it harder for those who grew up in the age of reality television to understand that what they are viewing isn't real. Sixteen and Pregnant has become one of the most harmful shows to our society to ever be allowed on television, as MTV has made a point to glamorize teen pregnancy at every turn. Young, impressionable, teenage girls have not been exposed to the real dangers of not only having a child out of wedlock but being but a child with a child. MTV have made these poor souls into heroic figures as they fight to create lasting relationships while keeping food on the table. However, what MTV doesn't put as a disclaimer at the beginning of the show is that these teens are now rich and making money off of being pregnant. Sadly, most pregnant, single, teenage girls are not afforded the benefits of being reality stars. Instead, they have to face the hard truths and the reality that their life and the lives of those around them are possibly ruined forever. It is a struggle that should be portrayed as a means to deter young girls from making this life altering mistake, not as a plausible alternative way of life.

These flawed characters are abusing their powers as famous, noticeable figures by exploiting those who look up to them. MTV claims that the show is meant to be a warning to young girls about not having safe sex but during the commercials for this show the network seems to be promoting the very behavior they are saying that they are trying to prevent. This isn't the first or the last time MTV has or will encourage our children to behave in a less than admirable way.

Over the years the network has found success in portraying drug and alcohol abuse in a positive light. Most of their shows revolve around minors or young adults partying all night, having unprotected sex and finding themselves in violent altercations directly related to their out of control lifestyle. In just the past few years MTV has received bad press when a few of their reality stars have turned up dead or have entered rehab. Only then does people ask for reflection on the troubling effect that fame and addictions have brought upon these young adults but that mindset soon passes over as people love watching train wrecks.


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    • dianetrotter profile image

      G. Diane Nelson Trotter 2 years ago from Fontana

      When I first started watching television, Ricky and Lucy slept in separate twin beds. I'm completing retirement January 16, 2016. I will be writing articles that address why students in the inner city are not learning. They come to school with a cellphone in their hands. Any time I want them to write, I must provide a pencil. They are failing all subjects but must have their cellphones on and in use in the classroom.

    • Brett Hoover profile image

      Brett Hoover 2 years ago from Livingston

      Your right about the shame part. My wife is pregnant with our first child and I would be forever embarrassed if my son was on such a program. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be a child growing up knowing that my mother had at one time been on TV for all the world to see and brought a number of guys on the show with her to do a dna test to find out who is the father of her child. That is ruining a life before the child is even born by simply shaming it to death.

    • dianetrotter profile image

      G. Diane Nelson Trotter 2 years ago from Fontana

      I totally agree with you on reality tv. Nothing is worse than Maury and other shows where idiots go out to air their dirty laundry in front of America. The fact that someone has to go on nation-wide televition to do a dna test because she doesn't know who the father is is almost criminal. The children in the respective families have to live with the shame. We must pray and ask the Lord what our missions are in this society.

    • Brett Hoover profile image

      Brett Hoover 3 years ago from Livingston

      Shows that inspire or ones that are uplifting I am afraid are becoming endangered. Now television tells the wrong message to teens and young adults. I couldn't believe that Sixteen and Pregnant show started off saying how hard things were for these teen moms and then the first advertisement was safe sex for teens. That baffled me as these are children not adults and this network is basically telling them to go have sex. I miss the days when movies and television shows inspired me to better myself instead all they do now is inspire our youth to fail.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

      It is sad, but many people really do love watching train wrecks. I, for one, love watching shows that are uplifting and leave me feeling rejuvenated and rewarded for watching them. It's difficult to find shows like that anymore.