The Benefit of Reality TV

Sanjana Sathrasala, Reporter

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Kim Kardashian. Whether this name brings disgust or joy, we have all heard of her and automatically connect it to her reality TV show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Admit it, you have indulged in watching the show, curious about the lives of the family that never fails to make an appearance in tabloids. From Kylie Jenner’s lip injections to Kim giving birth, nothing is off limits on reality TV. While the catty fights and trivial dramatizations may seem insignificant, there has to be a reason for its increasing audience. Does reality TV have benefits?

According to Cynthia Frisby, a researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia, reality TV has a positive impact on its viewers. Frisby surveyed a random sample of 19-29 year olds to measure their mood. The participants then watched an episode of “Joe Millionaire,” a reality TV show that focuses around 20 women flying to France in hopes of falling in love with a millionaire, when the man is actually a construction worker from humble beginnings. Frisby then surveyed the participants on their mood once again and found that watching the show resulted in a positive increase in mood. Shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Real Housewives” have the same effect.

Frisby explained this by saying, “Audiences know that when the curtain comes down and the lights come on in the theater, everything is back to the way it is. That’s what reality television does for the regular viewer. These shows are distracting from today’s tragic events and give viewers an outlet for watching others overcome hardships, escape danger, live in a rain forest, learn to survive under the roughest conditions and yes, find love.”

Besides bringing a positive mood, reality TV shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” have showcased the hardships of becoming a young parent. In 2009, teen pregnancy dropped to an all time low in the past 70 years. Just the year after, in 2010, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy administered a survey in which 87 percent of respondents who watched “16 and Pregnant” felt that they were educated about becoming a parent at a young age.

Reality TV excels in showcasing the lives of others, which can be extremely beneficial when raising awareness for mental illnesses. For example, the show “Hoarders: Buried Alive” on TLC, gives an inside look into a disorder that had very little attention before the show aired.

While the surface of these TV shows may seem superficial in content, the underlying widespread movement of information can educate and help people around the world.

There is a whole separate genre of reality TV that includes shows like “The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent,” “The Biggest Loser,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Project Runway.” All of these shows feature people striving to reach their dreams of becoming a singer, dancer, designer, cook or something else. As reality TV gains momentum, more people are inspired by the participants they see on these shows, validating that hard work leads to success. This in turn motivates others to follow the footsteps of the participants and reach their goals as well.

Reality TV is often the most frowned upon genre of television, a stigma of unintelligence attached to it. However, the reaping benefits of watching are exactly the opposite. So the next time you succumb to your guilty pleasure of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” remind yourself that it is intellectually stimulating and beneficial to you.

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The Benefit of Reality TV