Reality TV: The death of us?

In the wake of Russell Armstrong’s suicide, many people are wondering about the affect that reality TV has on those who are portrayed in these shows. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Russell Armstrong, he was the husband to Taylor Armstrong in the first season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. During this season, Taylor was very open with her marital problems and looked very unhappy in her marriage to Russell. In July, Taylor filed for divorce saying she endured “ongoing verbal and physical abuse” during the six year marriage. Russell was dealing with financial problems in addition to his marriage falling apart, which is said to be what drove him to take his own life.

Taylor Armstrong on the Wendy Williams show discussing Russell

Sadly, this isn’t the first person to commit suicide after being on a reality TV show. Most of us can remember the lady who killed herself in front of Paula Abdul’s house after being rejected from “American Idol”. We later found out she was an Abdul-obsessed whack-job, but still, there are roughly 10 other people who have committed suicide after taping their reality shows.

What does this say about reality TV? That it drives people crazy enough to be suicidal? Absolutely not. I do not believe that negative attention or public scrutiny resulting from being on a reality TV show could possibly be the sole factor in one’s suicide. Hear me when I say “sole factor” so you don’t think I’m a cold-hearted bitch. After doing some research, I found that a good number of these people also suffered from mental illnesses ranging from depression to bipolar disorder prior to appearing on TV. Take a mental illness and a couple jabs from America’s people… also throw in a public break-up and maybe some money troubles and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. You never know exactly how sensitive people will be to the public humiliation they endure on reality TV so these television shows should not be frowned upon or looked at as though they are the only cause.

My advice to those venturing into the reality TV world: make sure you’ve got yourself some tough skin, that your brain isn’t out of whack and lastly, don’t get in a bathing suit unless you’re completely comfortable with your body in it (fat jokes are the worst).

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North vs. South… Or are they really as different as they seem?

Living half of my life in rural Massachusetts and the other half in metro-Atlanta, I consider myself a mixed breed. A little bit of southern charm and a little bit of aggressiveness. On a daily basis, I can go back to my northern roots and drive like a complete Masshole then come home and get ready to go out wearing my cowgirl boots. Over the years I have been able to observe how different the Northern and Southern culture in America really is. Southern folk  actually do seem more friendly and people in the North seem to always seem to be in a hurry. Some of you would say that I am basing this off “stereotypes”, but let me make it very clear that I have experienced both cultures and can most definitely pinpoint the distinct qualities of the majority of people living in both locations. The most interesting of all these “stereotypes” placed on people from both the North and the South is the type of guys. Surprisingly, I’ve had many first hand encounters with two seemingly different types: “The Southern Gentleman” from the South and the WASPy guy from the North. But do their differences outweigh their similarities?

The first stereotype comes straight from the bible belt: “The Southern Gentleman”

You know the type. Or at my age (23) guys may seem to be “The Southern Gentleman”, but really they just want to get in your pants. Just envision those guys 10 years from now. “The Southern Gentleman” holds the door for you, is perfectly attired, and he is romantic and chivalrous. Every woman wants to feel respected by her man, which seems like what “The Southern Gentleman” strives for. But in modern society women can sometimes feel belittled or inferior when a man treats them in the “traditional” way. Many women want to be in the workforce, not home with children and preparing meals. So this brings up the question, is treating a woman “traditionally” respecting her? If it’s not, then “The Southern Gentleman” is actually not a gentleman at all. I have dated quite a few “Southern Gentleman” and definitely do not fit the cookie cutter traditional Southern female mold. I’m more of a “pick up your pace, I can get it myself and ew grits are gross” kind of girl. Which proves that although “The Southern Gentleman” is attracted to someone different than who they think they’re supposed to be with, once the fascination with a girl who has never hunted a day in her life (fact) fades, they always go back to the Southern belle their parents would approve of.

The next we have the blue-blooded “WASP” from the North

These are your high society White Anglo-Saxon Protestants that live in Manhattan, vacay in the Hamptons, and have houses in Aspen, St. Barts and Martha’s Vineyard. Yes, these people actually exist. I will never forget an ex-boyfriend of mine from college telling me his grandmother upon hearing I was from Massachusetts told him I must be “blue-blooded with family money and to stick with me”. Huh? Anyway, I’ve watched enough of “Gossip Girl” and “Real Housewives of NYC” to know that these people… Actually exist. Once again, the WASPy man is traditionally dominant in the household, but unlike “The Southern Gentleman”‘s chivalry and romance, these guys repress emotions. It’s not uncommon for television shows to depict these types of men, they seem stuffy and unapproachable… and usually have affairs with their secretaries or something. I had a trust fund WASPy boyfriend (different boyfriend) who was from a particular city where anyone not from there or part of the Yacht Club was welcome… not to get off topic but like, WHO CARES. Needless to say, that relationship lasted up until the “meet the parents” part.

A common trend among both of these guys is that their expectation of the woman they choose to be with is based on certain criteria established long before they were even born. Both men assume it is their responsibility to take care of their wives financially and have their wives take care of them physically (not entirely in a sexual sense, more as a prepare meals, clean the house, etc). In today’s modern world these expectations are not nearly as strict as they once were, but prove to be dominate when choosing a mate.

In conclusion, “The Southern Gentleman” and the WASPy guy are different in a variety of ways but at the core they generally operate the same way. Call me cynical but it isn’t rocket science. I think I’ll stay single and wait on a guy from the MidWest to sweep me off my feet.

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Could Reality TV lead us to The Hunger Games?

Spoiler Alert!

For those of you who have been living under a rock, The Hunger Games is the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The story takes place in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem. The Capitol is the all-powerful government that controls the 12 districts that make up Panem and hosts the annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a televised event where the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death as punishment for District 13′s rebellion (which is non-existent… or so we think) and to show that not even children are above the Capitol’s power. The story follows Katniss Everdeen, District 12 tribute, throughout her journey to and in the Hunger Games. Also from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, who boldly claims his love for Katniss upon entering the Hunger Games.

I could go into more detail, but I do want people to be able to read and enjoy the book. What I wanted to point out is the blatantly obvious similarities between the Hunger Games and popular reality TV shows. Now I’m not saying that eventually we are going to start letting people kill each other on live TV, but I am saying that what we consider entertainment now is slowly progressing towards the unethical practices that are displayed in the book. There are 3 major similarities that stood out to me right away:

1. You have to look pretty for people to like you

Katniss Everdeen, along with the other tributes, was assigned a personal fashion team and stylist before being presented in the Hunger Games arena. The full body makeovers they receive are supposed to make the tributes look more appealing to their audience and potential sponsors (who can purchase essential items that can be delivered to them during the Hunger Games).  Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Every year countless hopefuls on shows like American Idol are told they have a great voice, but need to look better to win over viewers (sponsors) that will give their vote (essential item) to them in order for them to succeed throughout the competition. For example, Carrie Underwood’s transformation from down south country girl to Hollywood beauty:

2. When things start to get boring, torture people

In reality shows like Big Brother when nothing is happening the show is dull and people won’t watch it. To fix this, the latest season of Big Brother put a twist on the games announcing that there is a “saboteur” among them. The saboteur could be any one and contestants are forced to watch their backs at all times. This kind of sudden twist is also seen in the Hunger Games when tributes are not fighting and there aren’t any deaths. For example, the gamemakers throw in tracker jackers (genetically altered wasps whose venom causes people to go mad) to keep the tributes on their toes.

3. A “showmance” guarantees audience approval

A “showmance” is a fancy word to describe a fake reality TV romance.  In order to stay alive, Katniss and Peeta (although his feelings were real), formed a relationship sham in order to help both of them while in the Hunger Games by pleasing the crowd. No one wanted to see the two “star crossed lovers” kill each other, which gained them sponsors and ultimately allowed both of them to miraculously survive the Hunger Games. “Showmances” occur regularly on reality TV shows, such as Jeff and Jordan from Big Brother 11. Although these two used their fake romance to last in the competition (Jordan won the 1/2 million dollar prize), they actually started dating after the season ended (sounds a lot like how Katniss and Peeta end up).

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Girls Gone Viral

The viral video. If you are clumsy and do something embarrassing/funny that just so happens to get caught on tape, uploaded to YouTube, and watched by millions of people, the viral video is NOT your best friend. For example, Scarlett Takes a Tumble:

On the other hand, a creative viral video made by a PR Firm to promote a product or service is an extremely effective social media marketing technique to reach mainly a younger demographic. This demographic receives most of their information through social media and blogs. Whether or not a video goes viral reveals whether the demographic is engaged in the consumer product. Project Zimzala, the local non-profit I volunteer for targets young people who don’t usually participate in fund-raising events and has recently decided to promote our upcoming event trough a viral video (it should be pretty witty, I will post it as soon as it’s made!). This goes to show that viral video campaigns are increasing in popularity because of their effectiveness in raising a company’s/organization’s visibility among their target audiences.


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He said, She said

As graduation has finally arrived for me, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my college experience.  Looking back, I realize how much time I spent socializing with my friends… Actually, just about anybody who would listen to me talk. A result of all this socializing comes the one word everyone says they hate but somehow partakes in it: gossip. Why do we do it? Where would we be without it? Why is it so intriguing?

I’m not saying everyone gossips as much as a group of college-aged girls do, but I am saying that at one point or another everyone has gossiped. My theory is that individuals participate in gossip to form bonds and relationships with other people. I can remember plenty of times chiming into a conversation about another person in order to establish myself among the group. To use my knowledge about another person to my advantage. To climb the ladder of social hierarchy. The one thing is that when this situation would occur I would not knowingly think to myself, “You want a relationship with these people, talk about someone else so they respect you”. It was instinct. It was a natural.

I’m not proud of gossiping in the past and it’s not something I make a habit of doing, but I can recognize why it happens. It’s human to do everything in our power to be accepted by others and gossip is one method in achieving those relationships. We will even purchase gossip magazines to fulfill our needs and watch so-called reality shows that are all centered around people gathering and talking about other people.

I watch Gossip Girl every Monday night. For those who haven’t been studying communication for the past 4 years, the show can easily influence girls to participate in gossip, but it also shows the ugly consequences. Many people would say that this show glamorizes gossiping, but I beg to differ. Every time one of the characters sends a Gossip Girl “blast” about someone to get ahead, the reverse happens.  Throughout the episode where the following clip comes from the different characters have each sent GG blasts resulting in… Well, a pretty interesting graduation ceremony…

Obviously, the mysterious “Gossip Girl” is at the top of the hierarchy and through sending GG blasts the characters attempt in overthrowing the hold she has over each of them. This only causes them to gossip and send “blasts” more and more, putting them on a path of only destruction.


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But is it Facebook Official?

Facebook “relationship statuses” have ultimately changed the world of dating. On a daily basis I hear people asking, “Well, is it Facebook official?”. Since when does having a boyfriend/girlfriend mean you’re expected to announce it to an entire social media site? Now, I have been on the other side of the fence where I was completely consumed with whether or not the guy I was dating would put “in a relationship” on his profile. I started to realize my obsession with a “Facebook relationship” was territorial in the sense that I truely believed if other girls saw he was committed then they’d back off. If he was in a relationship status with me, he would never cheat because “hello, it’s Facebook official, there is no way that could happen!”. For the most part, a rinky-dink Facebook relationship was not going to stop a girl from talking to my boyfriend or prevent my boyfriend from being unfaithful, IT’S JUST TEXT..WORDS.. AN INCOMPLETE SENTENCE. It doesn’t nurture or maintain a relationship, that is done through your personal face-to-face interactions with one another, which in my opinion makes a Facebook relationship status completely insignificant.

Why you should not put your relationship status on Facebook:

  1. Nosey people. People use Facebook to procrastinate, some even stay on the site for hours at a time. This gives others the chance to monitor your personal relationship because it is on your profile for the entire world to see. In my personal experience, I’ve learned that the more people know/talk about your relationship, the more drama.
  2. Public scrutiny. Based off of nosey people, public scrutiny is next on the list. Example: “OMG, Did you hear about how John was talking to Mallory back and forth on his status update? You know his girlfriend, Jill, had to of seen it… and Jill is still with him! She is so dumb”. Enough said.
  3. Break-ups. What is worse when newsfeed announces that you have gone from “In a relationship” to “Single”? Then to rub more salt into the wound, Facebook gives everyone the ability to “like” or “comment” on your recently changed relationship status. Relationships are between you and your boyfriend/girlfriend, it is absolutely unnecessary for anyone to have the opportunity to give thier two cents on your break-up. The emotional connotation associated with having to remove a relationship status is quite silly when you actually think about it.

What I am getting at here is that a Facebook relationship status should not sum up your real-life relationship or how you feel about yourself. Facebook should never define how official your relationship is, that is something that you decide. Like I said before, it’s only a group of words.

Call me old fashioned, but lets go back to the days where giving a girl your letter jacket and getting a malt with a guy at the local diner was enough for people to be content in thier relationships.

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You’ve been ICED!

On college campuses throughout America “bros” (and even girls when they have evil boyfriends) have been getting “iced” in a guerilla marketing campaign is called “Bros Icing Bros”. What exactly does getting “iced” entail? First, you’ll need to understand what it is: a game where the antagonist cleverly hids a bottle of Smirnoff Ice and must figure out a way to get the victim to unknowingly find it. Then the victim will have to chug the drink on his knees. However, if the victim happens to be carrying a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, he can reverse the attack and the antagonist will have to drink both bottles. For example, the antagonist hids a Smirnoff Ice in a cooler and says, “Hey bro, can you hand me another drink from my cooler”. The victim says, “Sure” and opens the cooler only to find he has been “iced”. He then has to get down on his knee and chug the bottle wherever he is.

Smirnoff denies being behind the elaborate viral marketing campaign saying, “Icing is consumer-generated, and some people think it is fun”. In June, Smirnoff shut down the “Bros Icing Bros” website which allows “bros” to upload photos of themselves or friends being “iced”. Despite this, Smirnoff has been raking in icing-related sales. “Bros Icing Bros” tapped into a demographic that would not typically consume a fruit-flavored malt beverage: The “bro”. The “bro” is considered to be the typical masculine male that would be viewed as socially unacceptable if seen drinking a Smirnoff Ice or refusing an “ice”. New York Times has called the game “the nation’s biggest viral drinking game”.

Although Smirnoff wants no part in “Bros Icing Bros”, “icing” does not seem to be losing any steam. Even without a website, “bros” still find ways to share thier most hilarious picture of someone being iced through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. In my opinion, this campaign is extremely successful in reaching a demographic that would never buy Smirnoff Ice and whether or not Smirnoff likes it (which they probably secretly do, I mean, they are making more money through “icing” than they were before!), it’s most likely here to stay.

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