We are living in a reality TV world. Shows like “Jersey Shore,” “Toddlers and Tiaras” and (we wont’ say it) “K****** up with the K**********” not only command millions of viewers, but make stars of the "personalities" they follow. Yes, this is an age when “Snooki” is a household name.
But there is a dark side to the bright success of these "trashy" reality shows, according to a new study by the Parents Television Council. It concludes that a majority of the unhealthy, unrealistic and unpalatable ideas about sex, relationships and womanhood that have become hallmarks of reality shows are coming from a surprising source: The women themselves.
In other words, it’s not just the reality shows themselves that appear trashy.
The PTC, which is a conservative parent’s group know for their watchdog ways, observed the language used in four shows on MTV: "Jersey Shore," "The Real World," "16 and Pregnant," and "Teen Mom 2."
Their findings drew some discouraging conclusions: Across all of the shows, only 24% of what female characters said about themselves was positive. While men used complimentary nicknames for each other, like “big man” and “winner,” females tended to use disparaging names like “skank” and “trash.” The women and girls also talked about sex more, and in more graphic detail, than the males.
In the words of the study, “The most shocking finding -- or at least the most disturbing -- was the way the two genders spoke of themselves … With so much being invested and so much at stake in empowering one’s self, especially for girls, the overwhelming message from reality TV … is to be overly negative to yourself.”
The implications seem to take the concept of “guilty pleasure” TV to a whole new level, but not everyone is buying the blame. Feminist website Jezebel sarcastically said “It’s all women’s fault.” They point out the study hasn’t been released yet, but the advance information given to Fox News and its affiliates add “another layer of puritanical hysteria.”
Before you think to yourself, “Who watches that stuff anyway?” consider this: The season premiere of "Teen Mom 2" brought in 4.2 million viewers. Last season’s finale of "Jersey Shore" pulled in 6.6 million viewers, which was actually a significant drop from the season before.
So people are watching these shows, no matter the backlash. The question is, who should be taken to task for the negative vibes of reality TV? Are producers co-opting women for the cash? Could shows like the ones on MTV’s schedule actually affect female esteem? Or do we all need to lighten up and see mindless quasi-reality for the fluff it really is?