Reality TV research essay

Four different reality television show genres were identified in this study. These genres include dating, makeover, epistyle change, and competition. 21 1 participants completed surveys regarding their agreement or disagreement with certain statements relating to these genres and how frequently they watch shows from the four different genres. Results identified existing correlations between the amount of reality television viewed weekly from a particular genre and the viewers’ opinions about statements relating to that genre.

Research from this study indicates us port of the notion that reality television affects the perceptions of its viewers. 2 Introduction Although it is arguably the most controversial television genre of all time, laity television has captured the attention of America. From jungle competitions to home makeovers, and singing contests to romantic warfare, reality television is sure to offer even the most particular viewer a compatible form of entertainment.

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This genre also gives audience members an opportunity to view and participate in worlds or events that they might not take part in otherwise. Gray (2008) explains that “no American will ever sit down with his or her fellow 300 million nationals,” but he alleges that reality television is the closest that Americans may ever come to that (p. 02). According to Furlough (2004), “Reality TV appears to have been embraced by audiences, and has become a popular and inexpensive form of entertainment” (p. 344).

Still, Furlough cautions that this popularity has been obtained “despite widespread critical disapproval” (p. 344). Given the title of this genre, it is fair to say that the television audience anticipates certain criteria to be met in a reality television series. When speaking of reality television, Hill (2005) claims, “Viewers expect particular types of factual television to offer them visual evidence of real life” (p. 9). However, the interpretation of real life in the form of a television show can often distort reality into a misguided representation of the real thing.

In turn, this representation has the potential of considerably altering the viewers’ perception of that reality. Cassavas and Fastest (2003) support this notion, and they argue that this misrepresentation of reality can in fact affect reality itself as well. Both Cassavas and Fastest recorded their own personal narratives about being introduced to reality 3 television, and both authors concluded that television influences reality just s much as reality influences television.

Problem Unfortunately, misrepresentation is a common theme in many reality television series, due to the need to make the show appealing and entertaining for the audience. According to Emitted (2004), there are several methods employed to accomplish this: Reality dramas such as Real World, American High, and The Bachelor (2002-) all rely on shorthand techniques of montage sequences, musical cues, and strategic casting of character types to maximize dramatic pleasures for audiences who are used to the pacing and style of fictional storytelling. (p. 197)

The heavily edited nature of these types of reality shows is a key contribution to the distortion Of certain social constructs and the perpetuation Of common stereotypes. For example, in order to create a particular type of character, such as a vain and dispassionate female contestant, the editors may choose to only show the video clips of that female when she is looking at herself in the mirror or doing her makeup. Truthfully, she may only look in the mirror twice a day, but if the show only airs once a week, that gives the editors a least fourteen video clips to work with.

This female contestant could be the cost engaged and intelligent person on the show, but the audience members will not perceive that if all they see is a video montage of her in front of the mirror. There are a few scholars who have studied these edited components in reality television, but they have not looked at how these components impact social constructs. Patting (2003) expounds on the unrealistic aspects of reality television by exploring the creation of a show through the placement of particular individuals in 4 particular situations.

Patting found that the selection of each shows participants is a very precise and intentional process, because each cast happily includes a strategic mixture of gender, race, and age. By doing this, the show provides at least one character with whom each viewer can relate which increases the likelihood that the viewer will continue to watch the show. Patting also discovered that the shows footage is carefully edited down to the most dramatic and tense moments, which allows the show to construct each characters role through the clips that are chosen.

In this sense, the show does have a script because the pairing of conflicting personalities in front of an omnipresent camera lens combined with the premeditated design f each episode’s challenges will inevitably lead to days of documented conflicts that can be manipulated into a story. Godard (2003) also looked at the construction of reality television stories by examining how the communicative interactions between participants on reality television shows are edited into a story format that exemplifies everyday conflicts in an atypical arrangement.

The conflicts that he observed were similar to conflicts that one might expect in everyday conversation, but they were presented in pieces and often not presented in the order that they occurred. He concluded hat while the interactions themselves are natural, many details such as casting, event sequencing, and editing make them unnatural productions. This is a significant issue, because a misrepresentation of reality viewed by such a vast audience can considerably alter modern social constructs such as gender, race, or sexuality.

Pushchairs and Mendelssohn (2007) found that the majority of reality television viewers watched reality programs as a form of entertainment, but they perceived the interactions on the show as real. For this reason, the audience would perceive any 5 stereotypical material as real also. Pushchairs and Mendelssohn also included that viewers with low levels of interpersonal interaction turned to this genre in order “to fulfill voyeuristic and companionship needs” (p. 355). This is an even more concerning issue because these viewers are being taught how to socially interact with other people including the opposite gender from these shows.

The purpose of this study is to identify whether or not watching reality television is affecting the audience’s perceptions Of certain social constructs. Previous research shows how certain constructs are portrayed in reality television shows, but it does not gauge how much viewers agree or disagree tit these portrayals or compare it with how much reality television the viewer watches. Literature Review Previous research indicates that current viewers not only believe that reality shows are realistic, but they specifically watch reality shows because they think they are observing real live drama (Barton, 2009).

Barton (2009) conducted a survey with 689 respondents in order to better understand why viewers wanted to watch reality television. Out of the four factors tested, Barton found that perceived reality was the highest gratification for viewers. Oversee and Woods (2007) did a similar study and found that their artisans’ motivation to watch reality television stemmed from participants’ desire to identify with a “real” character. The fact that viewers believe that what they are watching is real is of great concern when considering the messages conveyed in reality television show content. This quantitative study will generate ideographic knowledge that will extend classical research from the critical tradition by applying two well-known theories to the world of reality television. Scholars of the critical tradition confront issues relating to the gain or loss of privilege or power due to race, ender, class, sexuality, religious affiliation, or any other inherent characteristic of a person’s identity (Littleton & Foss, 2008). According to Griffin (2003), these scholars “consistently challenge.. .The control of language to perpetuate power imbalances… And] the role of mass media in dulling sensitivity to repression” (p. 31). Both of these issues can be applied to modern day reality television and the affect it has on social constructs, and there are two classic theories from this tradition that deal such constructs. The first is Standpoint theory. Littleton and Foss (2008) claim that Standpoint hero “focuses on how the circumstances Of an individual’s life affect how that individual understands and constructs a social world” (p. 92). The second critical theory’ that this study will extend is queer theory’.

Many scholars are credited with significant initial contributions to this theory, and Littleton and Foss (2008) summarize the intentions of these contributions: Queer theory attempts “to make strange, to frustrate, to counteract, to delimiting, to camp up-?heterogeneity knowledge and institutions. ” Queer theory seeks to ‘trouble” the categories of sexuality and identity by showing them to be social constructions created in discourse rather than essential, biological categories. (Sullivan, as cited in Littleton & Foss, 2008, p. 93) This quantitative study will contribute to this notion of sexuality as a social construction.

It will examine the viewers’ perceptions of discourse and behavior in reality television programming that perpetuate this idea. 7 Makeover Since a gay man or lesbian often act in manners that reflect their opposing gender, the aforementioned analyses of the gender construct ties in very closely with the following analyses of the sexuality construct. Although one of he reviewed articles below discusses two reality television series, Boy Meets Boy and Playing it Straight, the majority of the reviewed literature relating to the sexuality construct centered around the hit series, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Ra mosey and Santiago (2004) argue that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy represents gay men as strictly feminine based as their small stature and stereotypically feminine careers in comparison to their heterosexual acquaintances on the show. They also contend that the star of the five gay protagonists, Carson, is detrimental to the social construct of homosexuality u to his flagrant homosexual humor. Ramsey and Santiago (2006) argue that this humor causes the audience to laugh at homosexuals as opposed to laughing with them.

Sender (2006) asserts that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy exploits gay men in that the gay protagonists: Make straight guys more marriageable at a time when same-sex marriage IS not a constitutional right in the U. S. , make them more employable when GIG-BAT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] people have no federal employment protection, and expand consumer markets in the service of large corporations that may or may not care about their GIG-BAT employees and nonusers. Sender, 2006, up. 146-147) Wastefulness and Laconic (2006) claim that even though Queer Eye for the Straight Guy seems to celebrate the sexuality of its gay protagonists in juxtaposition to the heterosexual guests that appear on the show, “Queer Eye’s ritual formula reaffirms the 8 naturalized conventions that simultaneously privilege the (mainly white) heterosexual male while disbelieving (mainly white) gay males” (p. 430).

Wastefulness and Laconic explain that the show does this by placing the heterosexual males into a role where they are the center of attention during ACH episode, while it places the gay protagonists in a minor and secondary role, “eventually exiling them from the straight world their clients continue to inhabit” (p. 431). They further argue that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy implies a role of servitude, gay men serving heterosexual men, in its title in that the skills and abilities of one sexual orientation should supposedly benefit the other.

Bennett (2007) also studied the representation Of homosexuality in reality television. He explored two romantic reality television series, Boy Meets Boy and Playing it Straight, which challenged the layer to discern whether or not the participants competing for his or her affection were gay or straight Bennett explains that this discernment was derived from something known as “Goddard,” which he defines as “the ability to identify a lesbian or gay man with no previous knowledge oftener sexual orientation” (p. 409).

The player obtained this identification from socially recognizable cues, such as a high-pitched voice or obvious feminine traits. Both shows attempted to prove that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between a gay man and a straight. However, their attempt to do so interfered tit the integrity of what was presented in the show by “employing a wide array of male representations and creating a sense of equity among the players. Producers visually insisted that all people–gay or straight–were equally incapacitated when it comes to this cultural ‘radar’ (p. 10). By limiting players’ appearances and behavior to an ambiguous level and deliberately attempting to deceive 9 the star player, the show was not a valid assessment of whether or not a man or woman’s sexuality can easily be distinguished through their nonverbal signals. Dating An applicable version of this theory is Feminist Standpoint theory. According to Wood (2005), Feminist Standpoint theory analyzes “how patriarchy naturalized male and female divisions, making it seem natural, right, unremarkable that women are subordinate to men” (p. 1). Wood states that Feminist Standpoint theory is grounded in the Marxist assertion that a person’s identity is influenced by what he or she does, so male and female roles are derived from traditional male and female activities. These traditional roles and activities are highlighted in the several of the following reality television programs, and they contribute to the distortion of the real life ender construct. Many contemporary scholars have already augmented these classic theories through the study of reality television.

Although some have studied the affect of such programs on social constructs, they have not specifically focused on examining the audience’s altered perception of these constructs or which edited and scripted aspects of the programs have falsely affected them. Cameo and Yep (2004) analyzed Abs’s hit series, The Bachelor, and assert that it “normalizes heterogeneity relations in contemporary US society’ (p. 338). According to Ingram, “heterodyne refers to the asymmetrical transformation of the sexes, privileging men and exploiting women, in the institution of patriarchal heterosexuality” (as cited in Cameo & Yep, 2004, p. 39). Cameo and Yep establish evidence of this premise in The Bachelor by presenting the 25 objectified and beautiful women that compete for one man’s affection. They also show how that man has the 10 ultimate power in the show because he chooses whom he goes out with and whom he sends home. Cameo and Yep claim that these heterogeneity roles are normalized in the show through the free .NET discussions of what makes a good wife. Bond-Mapping, Cavern, and Juror (1999) investigate the representation of the female gender in reality crime television through their examination of the popular series, America’s Most Wanted.

The authors claim that females in the show are represented as weak, needy, and easily victimized, and they are often depicted in scenes or interviews as subordinate to the males around them. Bond-Mapping, Cavern, and Juror assert that the episodes involving crime towards women are very often exaggerated, and therefore, the show perpetuates the idea that women need to live in a state of fear while being dependent on men for protection. Lifestyle Change Furlough (2004) focuses on the representation of the female gender in the show Wife Swap.

She claims that the men are often an afterthought in the show, while “the female participants are often represented as “pushy, domineering or stupid” (p. 345). She states that the show accomplishes this by showing only selective and dramatic clips that attract the audience’s attention while highlighting the most negative aspects of the families’ interactions. According to Furlough, the show simply reinforces the belief that women should play the role of caretakers and homemakers, and women Anton be a successful mothers and businesswomen at the same time.

Furlough concludes by accusing the show of being “decidedly unconcerned with how gender is negotiated, contested, and reconfigured across media forms” (P. 346). 11 Matheson (2007) offers a different perspective about the show Wife Swap. She claims that the show intentionally distorts both traditional gender roles, the man as the provider and the woman as the caretaker, due to its presentation of atypical families as conventional examples of a societal norm. She also argues that the show represents working women as selfish and terrestrials because they supposedly sacrifice the needs of their family in order to further their career.

She states, “In this context, women’s work outside the home is always positioned as a choice, one that is fundamentally in conflict with a wife’s traditional family responsibilities” (p. 45). Aberrant (2007) also explores the roles of women as wives and mothers in Wife Swap, as well as three other popular real¶y’ television programs: Trading Spouses, Nanny 911, and Superhuman. Household claims that in Wife Swap and Trading Spouses, there is a battle between two female gender codes.

According to Household, “The traditional code exaggerates differences between men and women and ‘establishes asymmetric rules of interaction;’ the modern code is egalitarian and calls for ‘rules of equal deference’ where ‘differences are deemphasize (as cited in Aberrant, 2007, p. 52). Due to this ongoing battle between gender codes, Aberrant concludes that Wife Swap and Trading Spouses make it impossible for the woman to fulfill the social expectations of both roles because she cannot be a good caretakers mother and an independent working professional at the same time.

According to Aberrant, he second two shows, Nanny 911 and Superhuman, “exploit anxieties and conflicts inherent in modern family life, and also hyperboloids the ‘mother’ by focusing on how the mother plays the most central role in the practice and ethics of domestic careening’ (p. 53). Aberrant defines the female 12 role representing the total welfare and stability of the family as “hyperventilation” of the “mother” (p. 52). Competition The potential of absorbing stereotypes and ideas from reality television have the potential of negatively impacting real life.

Thacker’s (2003) found that the show Survivor promoted a cynical view of the office environment. Thacker’s claims that many viewers found the winner to be undeserving and ruthless, and they seemed to project these feelings into the workplace where the pitiless are often successful in climbing the corporate ladder. Hypotheses This study will specifically evaluate how reality television shows affect their audiences’ perceptions of reality. This study is designed to test several hypotheses specific to four different reality television show genres.

In the first genre, the dating genre, consists of any reality TV shows where romantic relationships are the main theme. This includes shows that set artisans up on blind dates, select participants to compete against each other in order to marry a certain bride or groom, and shows that document dating relationships in general. Examples of dating genre reality shows are The Bachelor, Next, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? , and Blind Date. This study will test the following hypotheses: Hypothesis 1: People that watch reality TV shows from the dating genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe in love at first sight. 3 Hypothesis 2: People that watch reality TV shows from the dating genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe people prefer attractiveness to intelligence or having a good personality. Hypothesis 3: People that watch reality TV shows from the dating genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe being attractive, famous, or rich is a prerequisite to dating a beautiful person. The next genre, the makeover genre, includes reality shows that record the dramatic transformation of a contestants physical appearances.

Examples of makeover genre reality shows include What Not to Wear, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and The Swan. This study will test the following hypotheses: Hypothesis 4: People that watch reality TV shows from the makeover genre n a regular basis are more likely to believe life is easier for beautiful people. Hypothesis 5: People that watch reality TV shows from the makeover genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe getting a makeover impacts an individual’s quality of life.

Hypothesis 6: People that watch reality TV shows from the makeover genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe getting a makeover will make you more attractive. In the third genre, the lifestyle change genre, the reality shows are about drastic changes in how the contestants behave or breaking lifetime habits. Some examples of these changes include quitting smoking, hanging parenting styles, and losing weight. Example shoo,n. RSI from the genre include Superhuman, Wife Swap, and It’s Me or the Dog.

This study will test the following hypotheses: 14 Hypothesis 7: People that watch reality shows from the lifestyle change genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe lifestyle changes can only be accomplished with the help of a professional or professional products. Hypothesis 8: People that watch reality TV shows from the lifestyle change genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe lifestyle changes are not worth the effort. Hypothesis 9: people that watch reality TV shows from the epistyle change genre on a regular basis are more likely to believe women cannot be successful at business and mothering at the same time.

The final genre, the competition genre, encompasses any reality show where the contestants are competing for a large prize, which usually involves money. Example shows from this genre include Survivor, American Idol, and Big Brother. This study will test the following hypotheses: Hypothesis 10: People that watch reality TV shows from the competition on a regular basis are more likely to believe nice guys finish last. Hypothesis 1 1: People that watch reality TV shows from the competition on a jugular basis are more likely to believe beauty and youth are essential to succeeding in the entertainment industry.

This study Will also test the following hypotheses about certain stereotypes that do not apply to a particular genre. : Hypothesis 12: People that watch reality television are more likely to believe that homosexual men display flagrantly feminine qualities. Hypothesis 13: People that watch reality television are more likely to believe that men and women cannot be friends. 15 Hypothesis 14: People that watch reality television are more likely to believe that reality television is realistic.