Why are People Obsessed with Reality TV?


Photo Courtesy of Us Magazine

Charlie Hebert, Staff Writer

The Bachelor, Survivor, Real Housewives, American Idol, and Keeping up with the Kardashians, are all examples of the reality-based TV shows that get watched, followed, and recorded tirelessly by viewers all around the world. There are masses of people who look forward to these shows every week. Why?

The answer is drama. Society is obsessed with seeing other people engage in dramatic conflicts. People love a story whether it’s a good movie, a riveting football game, or even one of the Kardashians crying about whatever they are crying about that day. People get excited about stories because they enhance their daily lives and provide entertainment.

Reality TV has become popular because the stories they present are visual and “real.” Most of the time reality TV is not just people living their lives because that would be boring. Instead, people are put in various situations and forced to deal with conflicts. Take The Bachelor for example, where a lonely and seemingly desperate man goes on the show with a pool of romantic interests hoping to find “love.” The girls all fight over him and the guy spends time with them together and individually. As you would expect, this curates drama, which is why people enjoy it and watch it in the first place.

The Bachelor, and other reality shows like it, give people something to talk about at work or school the next day. They give the audience a chance to make their own lives more interesting by peering into the lives of others. Oftentimes the people being portrayed on these shows are dealing with dramatic conflicts and situations that are being exaggerated from everyday life.

But why do people love these shows so much? Some like the for them talking points. For example, every Tuesday in our newspaper class, Ms. Hart and Wesley catch up on the past episode of The Bachelor. This is a kind of thing that happens across the U.S. in offices, schools, and anywhere else people meet. These shows also provide an exciting way for people alleviate boredom and/or despair in their lives. Watching people act like idiots on television and being dramatic gives the viewer a sense of, “Well at least I don’t act like that,” especially when the viewer is going through a hard time. Watching the craziness that unfolds on reality TV gives the audience reassurance that they are sane.

But what if the love of watching people be humiliated is not the driving force for reality TV audiences? It has been a commonly held belief that people watch these shows to watch people get humiliated and laugh at them. New research, accumulated by Business Insider in their article titled, “The Real Reason We Love Reality TV has Nothing to do with Watching People Get Humiliated,” cites empathy as the driving force for viewers. This makes sense, when a girl gets kicked off The Bachelor, the audience members who liked that girl and had been following her sympathize with her and are sad to see her go.

People watch reality shows for all kinds or reasons, empathy, humiliation, to talk about them with others, or to add entertainment to their lives. Whatever the reason is, these “real” shows can be over the top at times, and people should realize that this type of drama is not the only way to be entertained.

A lot of people will be turning to reality shows more and more because of the current quarantine situation, but there are better options. In my opinion, reality shows are filled with mindless drama without a compelling story to make them worth watching. Go watch something with a real story, like the new Tiger King docuseries on Netflix or every single LSU football game from the 2019 season, which is conveniently on YouTube at the moment. Don’t melt your brain during this quarantine by succumbing to why the Real Housewives are fighting today or why Peter didn’t give some girl a rose, find yourself something that’s compelling.