Reality TV Can Promote Dangerous Stereotypes

By Samantha Ryan

samantha.ryan@spartans.ut.edu

MTV reality series Jersey Shore changed the way people watch reality television. What was supposed to be a docudrama about eight young New Jersey natives partying in a seaside house for the summer became one of the most successful MTV reality shows in history.

Jersey Shore became a global phenomenon, premiering in nearly 180 countries. Not only did it become known worldwide, but classes and conferences are now held at different universities about the show.

Some journalists refer to it as, “the most notable show of all time.”

The initial plan was to place these young men and women in a house filled with alcohol and cameras, and hope to capture some binge-worthy drama. Not only was the show unscripted, but the cameras were filming at all hours of the day. 

Cast member Nicole Polizzi, known as Snooki, said in a Rolling Stone article, “They have cameras everywhere, all the time … you’re always being watched. It messes with your head. But that’s why we go crazy. That’s why we fight with each other. That’s why we drink. The only time we’re not on camera is when we’re in the shower, and that’s why we all take three-hour showers, just to get away from it all.”

Rather than scripted, the behavior of the cast is enhanced to portray real-world behavior. Unnecessary film and scenes are intentionally cut out to leave the viewers with the most entertaining and exciting drama, increasing the ratings. Doing this may give the impression that this is how they act all the time, and how everyone like them may act all the time.

Though this led the show to massive success, it introduced different stereotypes. To remain successful, you have to exaggerate the so-called, “reality”. Violence and inappropriate behavior are heavily evident to keep the viewers interested. 

Doing this may give off the impression everyone from that area behaves this way. It can quickly become extremely offensive. Because this show portrays itself as reality, many viewers eventually accept the behavior as normal. This can become dangerous because not everything the cast does is acceptable in the real world. As entertaining and hilarious as Jersey Shore may be, the actions are not supposed to be taken seriously.

Jersey Shore’s median age audience is rounded at 23 years old. They’re probably  recent college grads, and possible party- goers. The main pool of viewers is the same age as the majority of the cast in season one. Many that watch the behavior on this show are influenced by what they see. Since Jersey Shore is deemed as the “reality” of these normal people, it may influence the viewers opinions on the way they should be acting at this age. 

Sammi Sweetheart and Ronnie are known for being the most toxic couple on Jersey Shore. Not only was this relationship verbally abusive, but emotionally and physically as well. Young viewers witnessing this relationship can get the impression that abuse is normal in a romantic relationship, in which of course, it is not. This can become dangerous when they decide to put up with this behavior in their real-world relationships.

Though Jersey Shore can promote inappropriate stereotypes, I believe the purpose of this show was nothing but harmless entertainment. Many people are easily offended, and the world is a sensitive place. 

Although, the intent of Jersey Shore was not to cause harm or imply aggression, the intent was to throw some young partiers in a house together and see what content they could capture and hopefully gain an audience to entertain. The inappropriate behavior and obvious poor decision making is unavoidable in this case. It may not be the best example, but it’s what makes the show so popular, the drama keeps it entertaining. 

Although reality television was not created to introduce dangerous stereotypical behavior, it can be deemed as harmless entertainment to one, but dangerous encouragement to another.

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