Generation Snookie: Are We Paying for Reality TV?
by Allison Smith
Gym. Tan. Laundry. These are the keys to success — or at least are being communicated as so to the next generation.
I love a decent guido brawl as much as the next person, but what are the messages that reality television programs send to children? The vain, morally bereft generation — I begrudgingly admit to be my own — is robbing the next generation of what little innocence remains out there. Would domestic violence or intimate behavior captured by night-vision cameras pass as acceptable television programming in the ‘90s?
The recent phenomenon of reality TV caters to every carnal desire a viewer might have. Between the sexual, dating and competitive elements included in programs like MTV’s “Real World” and ABC’s “The Bachelor,” we can indirectly partake in activities otherwise unavailable to us in our own lives. In what dimension could anyone take three months off of work to go do the equivalent of speed dating in some exotic location or binge-drink their way into stardom? The fantastical elements of these reality stars’ lives have us entranced, but how is a generation that grew up accustomed to watching these scenarios going to learn how to differentiate between reality television and, well, reality? We have become obsessed with this chaos and, as incredibly entertaining as it is, it might not be conveying the most realistic message.
MTV typically aims to grab and hold the attention of younger crowds and has had great success in doing so for years. Currently, some of their most popular shows include “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” I understand the goal of the show is to encourage girls to make smarter decisions in high school, but there is an element of “everybody’s doing it” to the theme that is unsettling.
Then there’s the cast of “Jersey Shore.” These bronzed beauties have blessed us with three seasons of seriously perverse behavior and we cannot get enough of them … and that might be a problem. We’ve rewarded their wild actions with attention, money, job deals and emulation. The craze is understood by adults, but the younger crowd could see the bar fights, arrests and hot tub orgies as “cool,” acceptable public conduct.
Adults are not safe from all reality TV, though. “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” sucking us in for 15 seasons now with model-like casts, insanely planned dates and romantic getaways makes real-life courtship less appealing. This Disneyland of dating could delude an adult — or teenager for that matter — into believing any suitor not possessing the feigned grandeur of such a program isn’t worth consideration.
Reality television is undoubtedly here to stay, but I hope viewers are aware of the effects these programs could have on not only their children’s psyche, but also their own. Reality television can be a crass play or a charming utopia, but “real” is something it is not.