THE NAKED TRUTH ABOUT REALITY TELEVISION
By: Talent Buthelezi
Most of us are hooked on watching the lives of the rich and famous that we fall victim to one of the world’s fast growing television genres- “Reality television”. While shows such as: Keeping Up With The Kardarshians, The Real
Housewives and Marrying The Game give insight on the lavish and star studded lives of celebrities, they also have a negative emotional effect on you, the viewer.
Reality television includes a number of sub-genres, from talent searches, makeover shows, dating shows etc. -the viewer has a variety to choose from.
According to The Journal of Pediatrics, investigators have observed a link between reality television viewing and appearance. In one study researchers found that watching cosmetic surgery programs increased disordered eating attitudes in women with pre-existing conditions.
Nowadays youngsters feel a need to alter their looks. Nothando Gcwensa, a first year Cost and Management Accounting student stated, “People are vulnerable to reality television especially young children. I admit to being a
loyal viewer of Doctor 90210 and after seeing the surgeons performing surgery on the patients and the joy on the patients face after seeing the results, excite me. It encourages me to lose weight using healthy methods since can’t afford surgery.”
Previous studies have indicated that reality television programming may be related to increased focus on one’s physical appearance. Smangele Zuma, a final year Somatology student said, “In school, looking good is at the top of the agenda and everything else follows. Reality television does contribute to how women perceive themselves; these days’ people exaggerate the little things such as having a pimple, breaking a nail- just because Kim Kardashian cries every time she breaks her nail doesn’t mean that’s the appropriate way to act”.
Nhlakanipho Mkhize, a second year IT student said, “I don’t understand why people are addicted to reality television shows, especially Big Brother and dating shows. Where is the entertainment in seeing people falling in love or watching them 24/7? Wow I’m amazed at how people are bored.”
According to statistics provided by the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAAFT), based on overnight viewership of reality television shows- the genre is not first choice for South Africans. The most watched television show in the country was SABC 1’s Dance Your Butt Off consuming a viewership of 10, 2% (2 847 744) of the country’s population. The study also indicated that the least watched show is America’s Next Top Model with the viewership of 0.3% (91 189), this means that the genre is not a threat to South Africans as it might not vary their psychological state.
Reality television has faced extreme criticism over the past years. Here are a few pointers on how they destroy the lives of viewers published on The Weekly (October 2008). “Reality TV is vulgar and shoddy. By creating pseudo-celebrities it contributes to the debasement of popular taste. It is often cruel, exposing the participants to gross humiliation for our amusement. This makes it the modern equivalent of going to laugh at the lunatics in Bedlam.
The present row over racism on Big Brother shows how nasty it can be. It exploits the vulnerable, and has been condemned by the Mental Health Foundation for doing so. Popularity should not be the ultimate test of what is permissible. Public executions used to be popular and still are in some countries”.
As we mourn for countries such as America, which is also home to dozens of reality TV shows- South Africa on the other hand can rejoice as SAAFT statistics have indicated that citizens aren’t interested in the genre, meaning that only a small percentage of the country’s population is exposed to such shows, which also indicates decreased chances for inhabitants experiencing associated psychological dilemmas.