Reality TV’s impact on our social constructionism perspectives

I am a television junkie. I love watching international television programmes, especially reality shows. What makes reality television so captivating and addictive is that they show case characters that go against our norms and perceived social reality.

One of my favourite shows on the channel, Discovery Home & Health, is “Jon and Kate plus 8.” This couple, Jon and Kate, have eight children which exceeds the number of children an average family usually have in today’s society. As Jon and Kate could not conceive on their own, they made use of fertility treatments and ended up with one set of twins and another set of sextuplets. This programme breaks the social norm as raising one child could already be a hassle to many and to have eight children would be eight times the hassle.

 

If you think having 8 children is absurd enough, another show airing on Discovery Home and Health is “19 kids and counting” chronicles the life of a family having 19 children.  Being a religious family, the Duggers decided to let God determine how many children they should have. I am sure many people like me would be questioning how this huge family functions. How could they afford feeding 19 mouths? How do they do their laundry? Do the parents ever get tired?

 

 

Watching “Jon and Kate plus 8” and “19 kids and counting” tackle challenges of raising multiple children is admirable indeed. Especially in today’s world, where the social construction perceives children as a liability instead of an asset.

Another favourite television show of mine is “Survivor.” The idea of being stranded on an island for and stripped off basic needs like food, water and toilet facilities might seem outrageous for most of us. “Survivor” challenges participants to break off from the modern world and undergo a series of tests.  The last person remaining on the island becomes the “Sole Survivor” and wins one million dollars.

 

 

While a handful would be willing to sign on the show, the rest might cringe at the thought of staying at a lost forsaken place even though one million dollars is at stake. It requires one to go way beyond their comfort zone and venture into the extreme wilderness. As I watch each episode, I would also start my own prediction on who would be the winner. There was one season of Survivor where teams were divided based on gender. Gender is socially constructed in a way that people have the perception that the winner emerged would be a man, since men are perceived to be stronger and tougher people compared to the women.  But the ultimate winner of that season was a lady.

 

Television programmes that challenge our perceived social reality on certain things can educate and widen our perspectives. So now all of us have a good reason to watch television, don’t we?

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20 thoughts on “Reality TV’s impact on our social constructionism perspectives

  1. Chloe Tan says:

    I looove Jon and Kate plus 8 too! I do think that the media is actually changing how we think these days, whereby we are more prone to be able to accept things that are unconventional. =)

    • yanhan says:

      Hello Chloe! Yes, there are so many more other reality shows you should catch yourself! They have pretty interesting concepts 😉 Another favourite of mine is America’s Next Top Model 🙂 You can go check it out!

  2. Jade Ang says:

    I think many people tune into reality television like “Survivor” or “Big Brother” to watch the negative aspects, such as conflict that sometimes arises from a desire to win. “Survival of the fittest”, so they call it. Many of these shows manage to bring out the worst in people. Then again, it shows us the humane and kind side of people as well.

    For instance, in “Undercover Boss”, the CEO works undercover in the lower ranked positions of his own company, his actual identity unbeknowst to his employees. The show is mainly done from the boss’ perspective and shows his mindset which we seldom get to see.

    When faced with whom they believe to be of a lower rank, the employees let go and tell their heartfelt, genuine stories. Some give their heartrending accounts of family history and the older generation speaks of their worries about getting retrenched or facing retirement. It allows us to see what everyday people go through to earn their keep.

    In that sense, reality television offers a view of our modern society, from a perspective that is rarely experienced like a deserted island or a family of ten, to both contestants and viewers alike.

    • yanhan says:

      Hello Jade! I agree with you that some of these shows reflect of our modern society that we never get to know of. Most people like to watch reality shows to catch the “drama”, I admit I do too, and I guess that “drama” aspect draws us to watch the show!

  3. mervinlim says:

    I’m not much of a TV critic, however i agree that reality TV has been one of the best things that has happened to television in several years. Taking away the monotony from sitcoms and drama, it shows us that another perspective of how people live their lives differently, in a positive or negative way. In a good way, Reality TV is able to influence viewers in a way, to see what people are doing, especially those in a lesser privileged place, which makes us reflect and treasure what we have now.

    • yanhan says:

      Yes! Reality TV shows do influence people in a certain way, sometimes the behaviour of the characters in these shows can motivate and inspire people. I was really inspired by the parents in Jon and Kate plus 8 and 19 kids and counting. 🙂

  4. Jit says:

    I agree with your statement on reality TV being able to widen our perspectives on social norms. One example is the show “Jersey Shore”. The show is basically about how a group of hardcore-partying guys and girls living together make up and break up, complete with an abundance of swear words, sleazy parties and crazy behaviour. “Jersey Shore” brought something new to pop culture, as it was something many people had never seen before. The crazy hair and dressing sense soon became fashion trends, and cartoons like “South Park” also spoofed the reality show.

    “Jersey Shore” certainly widened perspectives of different audiences, though it’s very likely each perceived the show differently. Teenagers and youngsters would have thought the show as amusing, entertaining, and to maybe to some, even cool. Parents would definitely be abhorred at such a show, probably for it being so distasteful. However, whether you love or hate the show, you cannot disagree that “Jersey Shore” has added something new to the table, and opened the eyes of its audiences to different kinds of social norms.

    • yanhan says:

      As a conservative society, Singaporeans might not be so accepting of such a lifestyle portrayed on Jersey Shore. But even so, it could be a fresh concept for some people and this might draw people to watch this show 🙂

  5. John Tan says:

    While the popularity of reality TV stems from unstagged and unedited raw footage of emotions and reactions, it is prudent to realise that such footage may not all be that educational or positive in nature, especially to the young and mouldable minds of children. The truth is, that reality TV takes advantage of the vulnerable and ugly side of contestants involved to make their shows. In the award winning reality show “survivor” one can see back stabbing, bribing or using illegal means to get to their goals.

    We must understand that the world runs on a capitalist economy, there’s competition to see who churns out the best reality TV – who can show the uglier and more vulnerable side of a human being to the public. While we sit in the comfort of our homes with the television, the media out there takes advantage of our inate human ability to empathize, to sympathize – just so they can get their show ratings up.

    While reality shows can educate and widen our perspective on the bigger picture, the real reality of it all is simply profit making from the media companies. 🙂

    • yanhan says:

      Yes that is true to a certain extent that reality shows can portray the ugly side of people. But this reflects on our society, doesn’t it? The society isn’t made up of perfectly and genuinely nice people as it seems to be and such shows like these just widen up our knowledge on the society now.

      Apart from the negativity, some reality shows educate us on certain cultures and lifestyles of different people too! Like the examples I have mentioned in my blogpost 🙂

  6. Reyor says:

    While watching television has it benefits as pointed out accurately by you, one cannot deny that it certainly has its banes as well. I like how you pointed out the gender stereotype that exists among the general public and i admit that i’m guilty of always assuming that males are “stronger” than their female counterparts. Indeed, shows like Survivors prove otherwise. This certainly changes the perspective of egoistic males like me and serves as a reminder for us to think twice before assuming that we are always better than the ladies. Perhaps, we might have to thank the liberation of social media for the gender equality as seen in many countries, i.e USA , Australia and even the United Kingdom.

    However, are we to trust whatever the television has in store for us? Take North Korea for example. Having total control over the media, the N. Korean Government restricts the entry of foreign media body and manipulate the media to spread their communist beliefs. The N Koreans therefore are constantly seeing a false picture of whatever that is happening around the world. Also, we have certainly heard of stories of how the Japanese used the local radio and television to spread their propaganda among to the locals during their World War II. A little far-fetched, you may wonder and perhaps they are. But let’s talk about the one of my favourite shows then – Man vs Wild.

    Man Vs wild is a survival television series hosted by Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel. The general format of each episode is the premise that Grylls is left stranded in a region. The episode documents his efforts to survive and find a way back to civilization, usually requiring an overnight shelter of some kind. Many of us who have watched this show before will be in awe at how Bear navigates himself through the Alaskan mountains or even how he drank his own pee in order to remain hydrated in the Sahara desert. But how many of actually know that most of the scenes were created by the production team and assistance was also given to Bear when performing the stunts? I do. I have to thank the skepticism that i have in me before i managed to find out the truths.

    All im saying is that TV is certain capable of changing our perspective. But for good or for bad? That we won’t know until we discover the real motivation of the production crew. This is the nature of social media; a double-edged sword that man can use for his good or for his malicious intent.

    • yanhan says:

      I love watching Man Vs Wild too! I do agree like you that I am quite skeptical about the stunts that he performs because it just seems to impossible to survive in the jungle with just a machete, a water bottle and a backpack full of clothes.

      But it really is interesting to see how he hunts for food and collects water from the rain.

  7. japheth89 says:

    I used to watch television shows too, but that was eons ago. However, I do believe that television does place an impact on all of us today. Especially with young adolescents, where they’re easily influenced by their friends, and also media platforms which shows the lifestyle of celebrities, or even drama series that depicts the life of a pseudo character.

    For example, during my teenage days, the coolest show on earth was “World Wrestling Federation”. Everyone was so stoked about it to the point that during school canteen breaks, massive fights would break out, and everyone would cheer for those who were fighting. Such violence shows how influential the media have become these days. It shapes our thinking, our perceptive and our views about values and norms.

    I’m not saying that television is all bad. There are also many other shows that depicts a different side of humanity, the side of perseverance, compassion and it is really heartwarming. Shows like “Undercover Boss” and “Jon and Kate Plus 8” are great examples of shows that brings out humanity to a whole new level.

    So what i’m trying to say is that watching television can be good and bad, depending on what shows one subscribes to. It can expand our knowledge about the world, especially parts where we usually do not see; Or it can corrupt us, altering our perceptions about what’s right or what’s wrong. So what kind of shows do you subscribe to?

    • yanhan says:

      Yes, there are always two sides of a coin to everything. I am stunned that canteen fights actually happened due to a popularity of that show. Maybe that is why some television shows that portray gore and violence advise viewer’s discretion before they start.

  8. Priscilia Ong says:

    I think what you highlighted about reality tv shows is very insightful as it showcases the more hidden or unspoken aspects of the social world out there. Often, we tend to take in the norms and usual routine lifestyles of the common man, failing to see how some interesting social concepts that are both unique and apparent to us unfolding before us. Through this international tv shows, we can reap the benefits of re-discovering of social reality among us.^^

  9. riseoftheinnocent says:

    I think people (especially mothers) can identify with the parents in those 2 shows of the large families, and they probably watch the show to see what kind of discipline tactics those parents on tv use as well. I’ve never paid much attention to survivor, but the concept is interesting- you see how people work with each other, betray each other, become suspicious… they behave in ways they normally wouldn’t in normal life.

    • yanhan says:

      I think reality shows sometimes push people to act in a negative way as some shows have prizes at stake and for selfish reasons, people would do anything to get these prizes. It just portrays how realistic people are.

  10. alysiaub says:

    I agree that the reality shows you mentioned were really good in widening our horizon on real-life issues like having children, and as well as the issues that arise in Survivor. And perhaps it is true that reality shows do have it’s usefulness as such and it will indeed be wise to watch some of them.

    But at the same time, I agree with what some of the previous comments about how not all of these shows are beneficial. Shows like 16 and pregnant? While it could be argued that they show the difficulties a 16 year-old faces when they get pregnant and in turn deter young teenagers from letting themselves go down that path, I don’t think the show is a very positive one. Having watched about one episode, the girls in the show don’t seem to show any regret and increased sense of responsibility after having given birth. The one I watched even showed the girl abandoning her baby at home with her mother just so she could go out to the movies with her friends because she was too stressed and burdened by having to take care of her baby. True, the unveiling of such a burden could serve as a deterrence to other teenagers, but I feel that the negative vibe the show gave was not beneficial at all. It just highlights the lack of maturity of the 16 year-old, the pitiful plight of the newborn baby who will grow up in a potentially dysfunctional family. To a certain extent, it is appalling that the show is being aired and no one is focusing on providing any aid to the family for the sake of the baby.

    True, it could have only been that one episode and that one family that gave off such negative vibes. But nonetheless, it is an example.

    Perhaps we should watch reality shows, but we have to be extremely careful and discerning what we let shape our perceptions and values in our society.

    (I love Jon and Kate + 8 btw :D)

    • yanhan says:

      I heard about 16 and pregnant too. I feel like it is promoting getting pregnant at 16 instead of discouraging it. And who knows? Maybe there are girls out there now, intentionally getting pregnant now so as to be on the show, which is a terrible idea.

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