We Are What We Watch

What Reality TV Costs Us

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhammza/)

The sheer amount of “reality television” on the air most evenings is disturbing. Even more disturbing is the fact that the vulgar, base, inane, and otherwise offensive content of these television shows passes for entertainment and many young Americans are being raised on a steady diet of this brainless garbage.

For these reasons, I was intrigued to happen upon a new book and website dedicated to exposing the insanity and danger of reality TV:

Reality Bites Back

In Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV, Jennifer L. Pozner, founder and executive director of Women In Media & News (WIMN), takes a fierce, funny, and in-depth look at how reality TV affects our beliefs, our behavior, and our culture. This genre encourages us to think less and buy more… but Pozner isn’t buying. Instead, she lays out the deep-seated biases reality TV promotes about women and men, race and class, love and marriage, sex and beauty, advertising and consumption, and more. Drawing on a decade of journalistic research, she connects the dots between reality TV’s hostile representations of women and people of color to decades of similarly harsh narratives in news media and politics.

Do you watch Reality TV?

I was an early fan of Survivor—the pioneer American reality television—back in its early days, but I don’t watch that one anymore.

I have seen enough clips of many of the newer, bolder shows mentioned at Reality Bites Back, however, to know that author Pozner is not exaggerating when she claims that our culture is at stake.

She writes:

“On The Bachelor, twenty-five interchangeable hotties compete for the chance to marry a hunky lunkhead they don’t know from Adam. Weepy waifs line up to be objectified for a living (or simply for a moment) on America’s Next Top Model. Wealthy ladies who lunch backstab while obsessing over brand-name clothes, cars and jewels on The Real Housewives Of…everywhere. Branded “ugly ducklings,” appearance-obsessed sad sacks risk their health to be surgically altered on The Swan and Dr. 90210. Starved women get naked for Oreos and men gloat about “dumb-*** girl alliances” on Survivor. Women of color are ostracized as deceitful divas on The Apprentice, lazy or “difficult” on Wife Swap and Bridezillas, and “ghetto” train wrecks on VH1’s Flavor of Love and I Love New York. And through it all, slurs like ... are tossed around as if they’re any other nouns.”

This is entertainment?

This is the best we can do?

Of course it isn’t. But until those of us who choose to watch television demand something other sex-saturated, mindless drivel aimed at the lowest common denominator ... sex-saturated, mindless drivel aimed at the lowest common denominator is exactly what we’ll get.