Reality TV is ruining pop culture

Nicole Polizzi aka

Jeff Lewis (

Nicole Polizzi aka "Snooki" has moved on from her "Jersey Shore" days and gone on to star on other shows such as "Snooki and Jwoww" and "Jersey Shore: Family Vacation."

Reality television is a large part of American viewing culture. As adults, many realize that reality television isn’t actually reality at all, but purely fabricated drama that keeps viewers hooked. Networks understand the maturity of adults so they target teenagers who have younger, more impressionable minds. These programs cloud judgement, disrupt self-image, evoke dangerous behavior, and encourage narcissistic attitudes. The effects of reality television leads to the question: is reality television ethical?

Senior Serena Hunsberger says, “Between reality TV and social media, I think we live in a society where we perceive other’s lives based on what we see on television or online. When in actuality, we only post the high points of our lives on to our social media accounts and the only scenes that make the air are the entertaining ones or the ones that don’t happen to the average person. ‘E!’ is never going to air an episode of Kim Kardashian doing her taxes.”

Jersey Shore was one of the first reality shows to gain the public’s attention. The show ran from December 3, 2009 until December 12, 2012. Although the constant drama kept viewers on the edge of their seats for years, the events portrayed only encouraged inappropriate actions, bad language and violence. These elements penetrated young minds and condoned an unhealthy way of life.

English teacher Ms. Shaw comments, “These shows promote selfish behavior by promoting unrealistic expectations with relationships and portraying irresponsible behavior. The ‘anything goes’ mentality is dangerous in a society that focuses too much on celebrities and status.”

Another popular reality television series is America’s Next Top Model, an interactive competition in which girls complete modeling challenges. The show, hosted by model Tyra Banks, claims to promote “self-confidence” and the ideal that “anyone can follow their dreams.” However, the show puts a high amount of pressure on its contestants and sponsors sex appeal, eating disorders, unhealthy body image, and aggression and bullying.

Mr. Polansky added, “I believe that the Producers and Directors of these shows market to audiences that appeal to ‘over the top’ behavior. I feel that there is a ‘formula’ to these types of shows and that they dictate to the participants how to act, behave, etc. I’m sure that some of the participants don’t want to do ‘all’ of the demands of the producers, but the game that they strive for overrides their own scruples.”

Despite the fact that many reality shows only promote bad habits and toxic lifestyles, there are some shows that influence society in a positive manner. The Biggest Loser, a reality show that encourages people who are overweight or unhappy with their self image to adapt a healthier lifestyle, began in 2004. The show supports the contestants and encourages them to live up to their abilities.

The age old question remains, is reality television ethical? Although most shows encourage bad habits and inappropriate behavior, some establish good influences and positive impacts on society.