Are there actual benefits of reality television? This is a question researchers, psychologists, parents and more have wondered for years.
I have an older brother who is four years older than me. One night, he influenced me to watch Jersey Shore. Was that show super appropriate at the time and should it represent reality tv in general? No. But that is the opposite of the point I am trying to get across here.
You are probably going through a lot of emotions right now, which is normal. However, I urge you to watch maybe an episode or two of reality TV a couple times a month — it could help you in the long-term period and future.
The first show that I am going to analyze for you is Survivor. This grueling and intense competition on islands with, so far, a total of 40 seasons has had the same host Jeff Probst. One of the seasons that stood out unlike any other was season 39. Picture this: It’s Winter of 2019, and you are watching the 39th season of Survivor. There is a situation that you see is alarming but inspirational at the time. Basically, in a sentence or two summarized: in one of the episodes a social issue regarding feminism was touched upon, and the male castaways spooked a “women’s alliance.” The women in the tribe discussed double standards and societal perceptions in an intelligent manner. These female contestants educated the men on the tribe and even Jeff Probst himself. In my eyes, this was a pivotal point in the history of Survivor. Not one woman, but a multiple women advocated for female empowerment in front of many men who made assumptions about them. It was sickening to watch men think like that, but it still happens today. According to the blog Medium, Women earn on average 9 percent less than men. When this social issue is in a popular TV show or competition it was a lesson learned by men watching and females were inspired.
The second show that is relevant to why reality TV has many pros is from a show called The Bachelorette. Now this source I am going to dive deeper into was in December. In a recent new season of Bachelorette, there was a contestant whose name was Ben. The woman he was interacting with, Tayshia, brought up the topic of suicide in a discussion. According to AFSP, in 2018, there were an estimated 1.4M suicide attempts. It affects so many people worldwide and when this reality TV show is aired in front of millions of people, awareness is brought into a new light. It is inspiring to know that a show like Bachelorette can allow contestants to fully open about their personal life and make people feel more comfortable with talking about it. The amount it has changed regarding the discussion of mental health has become more prominent over the years. As a Psychology major, it is evident that everyone deals with mental health in their lifetime. It affects people in different ways, but people endure those experiences as life goes on.
The third show that is relevant to this discussion is 16 & Pregnant, along with Teen Mom 2, (same group of girls and concept), which have been present in the media and received a lot of attention for more than a decade. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, exposure to the 16 & Pregnant franchise of shows generated a 4.3 percent reduction in teen births between June 2009 and the end of 2010. This reduction can account for 24 percent of the decline over that period. Teen Pregnancy has become a serious social problem in society because at young age teenage females and males are unaware of what it is like with so many challenges and obstacles. For over a decade, the show has been present with the same ladies and it has followed the women throughout the years, with their struggles. Pregnancy at a young age can be scary but watching how the women tackle the life of being teen moms, girls can learn from their mistakes and use strategies that worked for them.
These three shows: Bachelorette, Teen Mom/16 & Pregnant, and Survivor bring attention to and discuss the topics of mental health, racism and teen pregnancy. When millions are watching each show, the audience can be inspired by hearing one’s stories. When you watch reality TV or hear about it, just know there are many tangible benefits to it.
Shows can talk about topics that people afraid to talk about.