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The Reality of Toxic Television


If the Roman’s had  reality television do you think they’d still be the dominant system today?

It would seem that reality television is an early warning system against the tsunami of moral morass sweeping our world today. There are some who look at reality television as toxic. I think of it as a clarion call to our destruction.

In 1992, television changed forever. That’s when the first season of the now infamous reality television show The Real World aired on MTV. Amazingly, the show is in its 18th rendering.

New DVD Release of RW Season 1

New DVD Release of RW Season 1

I remember seeing the first one. I was instantly addicted to it. Mostly because it was the first time in my television-viewing history that I remember seeing a black girl like Heather who seemed like me. She was into Hip-Hop. She was a big girl. She had a tough exterior but seemed sweet. I didn’t particularly like her humongous gold earrings and her typical “ghetto girl,” attitude but I chalked it up to her being from New York and that was O.K. I was also intrigued by Kevin Powell. He had a quiet intelligence about him that I admired. But I did wonder why the man was so angry all the time.

Curse MTV Who Began it All

I spent all weekend watching the children MTV Real World beget.  There’s Tyra’s America’s Top Model, Flip this House, Flip That House, The Amazing Race, The Biggest Loser, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, High School Reunion, Big Brother and the list goes on.

I don’t watch enough of reality television to render a judgment on whether the creators of MTV’s the Real World should be celebrated or cursed. But I do know that there is a second-tier, nefarious version of Reality Television that makes my skin crawl. I’m speaking of a list of reality television shows that claim to be about romance but really are about sex. Others drop the pretense all together and just show people behaving badly as entertainment. There’s no option for redemption, no try for change just a series of episodes of real people behaving as if they’re trying out for Dante’s new chapter on hell.  In particular I’m thinking of the last episode of “The Bad Girls,” a reality television program on Oxygen I believe. They all tend to run together.

Bad Girl Becomes Good But Reality Makes Her Bad

Anyway, I’ve only watched two episodes of this show – by accident. And in that I saw one of the girls actually behave with some thought, logic, compassion and self-reflection. Basically five of the girls had straight up beat down one of the show’s members. The girl was annoying but we all understand when you young and you hit someone you go to the principal’s office. But when you’re grown and you hit someone you go to jail on assault and battery charges. Anyway, most of the girl were expressing glee in causing physical harm to a girl who albeit was annoying but didn’t deserve a physical attack. Two girls were sent home. And one girl seemed contrite. At the end of the show however, the girl who expressed contrition and growth ended up in a disgraceful beat down of her own of the annoying girl.

I felt like I was witnesses the fall of the world. I know that seems silly. But the reality lens is a mirror into our world. If we were all doing our jobs as parents, mentors, educators, role models and Christians there would be no need for reality television. We wouldn’t have to watch those who hover around the last rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for our entertainment. We’d have an educated, groomed, mannered society where intolerable behavior would be learned and avoided by all. Instead we pop our corn and snuggle up on our couch to watch the destruction of our society  in HDTV.

bag-girls

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