Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reflections on Reality TV

I remember when the first Real World came out and everybody under 25 was glued to that little show (at least it seemed like it to me). They were living in a real apartment that wasn't glitzy or glamorous. They were ordinary people who acted like normal people since the reality boom hadn't yet occurred. Then the boom hit and now you can watch reality TV 24/7. You can watch the Real World 72 or The Hills or Jon and Kate; pick your demographic they've got one for you. And by way of disclaimer and honesty I have to admit that I watch The Deadliest Catch every Tuesday without fail, although I soothe my conscience by telling myself that its OK because its educational reality TV.

I understand why TV channels like reality TV, its really cheap and it gets good ratings. But what is the appeal for all of us, I mean why do these shows get such good ratings. I have some hunches but they're probably not worth sharing. And what I want to avoid is a blanket condemnation of all reality TV (c'mon then I would have to give up The Deadliest Catch). But what I would like to share are some of my concerns about reality shows, and encourage us all to be more discerning about such entertainment. Now if anybody is actually reading then I have a job for you, if you can think of any positives that come from watching reality TV then I want you to share those in the comments section. Now in no particular order whatsoever here are my concerns.

- Much of reality TV appeals to our lower natures, you can see this in the sensuality that is portrayed, the skimpy clothing etc. I mean c'mon how bad is it when Bret Michaels quits his show because its gone too far.

- We become what we behold. And if we are viewing sensuality constantly we are going to become more sensual people. If we are viewing trivial nonsense constantly then we are going to become trivial people.

- We end up watching life instead of living it.

- It can create snobbishness. We watch to feel better about ourselves because these people are so awful or something like that.

- It can debase people. Much of it dehumanizing, turning people into objects, or using them, stripping them of their dignity.

- We can learn to laugh at people. We are called in the Word to love and encourage and build up, whereas reality shows teach us to laugh at people's stupidity or their misfortunes. We learn to enjoy the humiliation of others instead of mourning with them.

- We can learn to be critical people. Instead of learning to show grace and mercy, to react with understanding, we learn to tear people down and nitpick everyone.

- Reality shows often feed the wrong hungers. What we see in many of these shows are people who are desperate to be famous, many are even willing to settle for being notorious. These are not things that we should be hungry for, we should be hungry to bring glory to God, to know Jesus, to grow in holiness, or be faithful witnesses. It is difficult to imagine how reality TV feed these appropriate hungers.

- Most reality TV doesn't inspire the way a great novel or even movie can. I have trouble imagining the Hills or the Real Housewives of Omaha inspiring anyone to be sacrificial or courageous.

All right those are some of my concerns, I may have revealed some of my own snobbishness here, or maybe I am just hopelessly clueless or out of touch. Now remember you have a job, if you think I have missed the boat or if there are counterbalancing positives then you are going to have to convince me in the comments. Thanks to all who comment.

PS - My wife and I are disagreeing on whether Dirty Jobs is a reality show, if she's right that it is, then I watch two.

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