Tag Archives: reality tv

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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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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