THE TRUTHS OF REALITY TV
A cautionary warning for America’s guilty pleasure: Reality TV may be further from the truth than we ever thought
By Gwynn Vaiciulis
We all have our guilty pleasures, and I'll be the first to admit mine: reality TV. This is not a rare guilty pleasure, as many of my friends also celebrate "Bachelor Monday" every week with me. While these shows are entertaining and addicting, regardless of being categorized as "reality," these shows are far from real.
A recent statistic has found that Americans spend 1/3 of their free time watching television, with 67% of that being reality shows. While this does show the obsession with reality TV, it does not display the impact this obsession can have, especially on younger women. Another statistic had found that since 2000 when reality television began increasing in popularity, eating disorders in girls ages 13-19 have nearly tripled.
When watching reality shows, it's easy to start thinking that everything we are seeing is real. We start comparing ourselves and our lives to the people on the screen before us. Many of these shows aim to cast women who are very thin and, on the surface, seem to lack any imperfections. These shows also do not represent people of color or the LGBTQ+ community.
Often what is shown on these shows isn't real and is often scripted or planned. One show that the producers incredibly influence is The Bachelor. While those who currently work for The Bachelor would likely never confirm the speculations, previous contestants and employees have shared insight on what the filming process is really like.
The producers have been said to manipulate the contestants to ensure the most drama (and therefore highest ratings) possible. It is even said that the producers track the contestants' menstrual cycles to be sure to interview them when she feels the most emotional.
Additionally, the producers try to form strong bonds with contestants hoping that they will open up to them. "The end game is getting a contestant to open up. To do that, the contestant must feel like they can trust you," said an ex-segment producer.
However, the producers' most significant power is their influence on who stays and who is eliminated. Every season, there seems to be a "villain," a contestant who creates drama, and the rest of the girls tend not to like. More often than not, the villain stays for most of the season. This is likely when the producer's influence is peaking, as, without the villain, there would be far less drama and, thus, lower ratings. "We would say, 'We'd like you to keep this one because she's good for TV, and this other one we'd like you to get to know better,'" said ex-producer Scott Jeffreess. Lastly, many of the things said by contestants or even the bachelor/bachelorette were fed to them by producers.
"I was saying lines verbatim from producers because I'd been sitting in a stupid room for an hour and just wanted to go," said Chris Bukowski, a former contestant who has been on the Bachelor and its spin-offs five times. "You would say something you totally didn't even believe or want to say, but they just keep asking you and asking you and asking you — just like you're being interrogated."
Reality TV pressures audience members to compare themselves to an appearance that is not real and is essentially just a story created by producers, like any fiction show. Now, I'm not saying to stop watching reality TV, as we are all obsessed (myself included). All I'm saying is that when watching, be sure to keep the truth in the back of your mind that reality TV is far from real.