From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Honey Boo-Boo, reality TV is here to stay. What can we learn from some of television's most guilty pleasures?
Underhanded, unethical behavior and dirty tricks will get you far. This makes for good TV but in real life, no one ones to run across this type of shady individual. On shows like The Apprentice and Survivor, they call it strategy: making and breaking alliances, under-performing on someone else's project, using teammates to get ahead with no regard or respect for them as people. On shows like The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore and Love and Basketball, materialistic, catty and self-centered behavior is a given. Of course, this is how people behave.
I would be lying if I said that these behaviors never worked in the real world. The fact of the matter is that some times they do. Everyone has worked with the person who takes credit for another co-worker's work, or the one who schemes behind your back to get their way. And most of us know someone who would throw their own mother under a bus if the price were right.
However, is this the type of behavior we really should be rewarding? As our kids watch these shows, is this the type of behavior we want them to emulate - win at any cost and to hell with other people as long as you get what you want? For many people, seeing something on TV, especially repeatedly on TV, is an endorsement of sorts. It gives value to those behaviors as if to say, "This is how people really act. If just a few people acted this way, we wouldn't put it on television."
When it comes to children and teens, I think these shows can be a jumping off point for a discussion about how people in real life should behave and what consequences these kinds of actions generate for people who live their lives off camera.
On Reality TV, nice guys and girls might not finish dead last but they usually don't win either. In real life, it isn't always about winning, it's about living. And in the game of life, they normally do pretty well.