Is Reality Television turning us against each other?

 

The Real Housewives of [insert city here], The Bad Girls Club, and Basketball Wives. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of these popular reality television shows? I’m pretty sure it’s not that these shows portray secure, independent, and confident women. You’re probably thinking about all the drama, the catfights, the table flipping, and the apparent public humiliation that these cast members cause each other for the sake of ratings. In the past five years this new crop of female dominated reality shows has emerged all over cable TV.  And as they get more popular, they get a lot more melodramatic.

Now full disclosure here, I do watch these shows. I myself am sucked into the black hole that is reality television. I can’t lie, they are entertaining. But lately I’ve been wondering, is this all just harmless fun or is this really exploitation of women? It feels we are no longer celebrating the achievements of women, we are just showing them at the worst moments. And are these shows making it acceptable for us to behave like this in our real lives?

My first example, The Real Housewives of Orange County seemed to of started out as a portrayal of both working and stay at home moms trying to balance kids and home in an affluent area of Southern California. I remember the first season was somewhat tame. The show mainly showed their interactions with their families and friends, but the fighting with each other – that was minimal. Now since the first season of this show in 2006 there are six more shows added onto the franchise. But it seems that the initial narrative of the show has changed. The show no longer focus’s on family but on the drama the producers and the women cause between each other. Not to mention the fact that a lot of them seem to be living way beyond their means, and the ones that actually do have the money appear to throw their cash around like its candy. I would think in this wallet strapped economy we live in with so many people struggling just to survive this isn’t something we’d want to glorify. But it’s all about ratings right?

Most recently, the season 4 premiere of the Real Housewives of New York City was pushed back. Andy Cohen, the senior vice president of original programming and development for Bravo tweeted “We decided yesterday that our best bet was to give ourselves a little breathing room,” and “I would rather get the show right than rush it to air.” But it is rumored that the show was really delayed because it was too boring and didn’t live up the drama that went on in Bravo’s most recent Real Housewives hit – Beverly Hills.

I would think that as women, we would be appalled by the behavior of these women. 99% of their arguments are about the pettiest things. These women are nothing more then adult bullies. Targeting a weaker woman and banding together in a herd mentality and going on the attack. From Danielle in New Jersey, to Kelly in New York, to most recent, Camille Grammar in the Beverly Hills edition. On the outside it may seem like these women are drama starters and even somewhat crazy. But I wonder would they of been driven to behave like that if they hadn’t been on the defense in the first place.

I now move on to my second example, The Bad Girls Club which runs on The Oxygen Network. As written on the official website "Bad Girls Club brings drama to a new level with a cast of young women who are powerfully bold, outrageously funny and endlessly entertaining. The series brings seven new 'bad girls' together in a house where the women recognize that their outrageous behavior has hindered their relationships, careers and lives. They claim they want to change, but will living together help them move forward and turn their lives around - or will chaos rule?”

Really? Is that what the show is about? I watch it and I’m pretty sure it’s about seven unbalanced women who like to get drunk and fight with each other over everything and anything. And I can say that as a woman in my 20’s, I have never witnessed this kind of behavior from my peers. Where do they get these women from? And why would they be so proud to be a “bad girl?” This is another show that follows the herd mentality. A bunch of the girls will gang up together against another. And it’s not even the physical violence that offends me as much, it’s the verbal abuse. These women call each other reprehensible things like sluts, whores, fat, ugly, etc.

Why are we fighting with each other? Why would we degrade each other with names that put us down and cause a lot of insecurity and pain in our lives? As women, don’t we have enough hurdles in life, why must be cause more?

My last example is Basketball Wives. It’s produced by Shaquille O’Neal’s ex-wife Shaunie. The show takes place in Miami, Florida and it follows around a group of women who have either been married to or have dated Professional basketball players. This show really bugs me for a very specific reason – these are women who it appears have achieved nothing in life except the luck to of been involved with a wealthy professional athlete. Is that what it takes to gain fame these days? All they do is strut around in their overpriced clothing complaining about each other. One of the cast members sticks out to me the most, and that is Evelyn Lozada. All she appears to do is sit around sipping cocktails with her sidekick Jennifer sassing the other women. Whether it’s to their face or behind their back, it doesn’t matter to her. She seems to have this air of toughness to her, she’s very confident in it. But to me that is not confident. It’s insecurity. Why as a grown woman must you spend her time talking trash and starting fights because they heard someone is talking about them behind their back? I mean, who does she think she is? This woman has a teenage daughter, what kind of example is she setting for her? That every time someone says something rude about you they should get a glass of water in their face? Where has our civility gone?

Of course there are a lot more shows that do this, not just these three. The fact of the matter is that the media is now producing all these female centric reality television on this model that is all incessant bullying and degradation of each other. But of course you can’t say that the producers and cast members of these shows are guilty. We the watchers are guilty as well. These shows wouldn’t be on the air if it was not for us. They are like car crashes, they are awful to look at but you cannot really help yourself. But why do we do it? Why does it interest us so much?

I go back to being a teenager and dealing with girls who picked on each other over the silliest things. Do these shows bring us back to a time when we were younger and more immature? Is it the familiarity of it that keeps us coming back? During our youth the concept of bullying tends to be a more acceptable behavior. Adults chock it up to “kids being kids.” It’s generally brushed off as being harmless. But for anyone that has been bullied, like me, it’s not harmless. And I can just imagine what young girls think when they watch shows where adult women fight with each other. A lot of arguments can be made about the influence that these shows have on teenage girls. But it is very important that they are taught that when someone hurts you, you mustn’t react back aggressively. The best revenge is to live well and succeed. Not to fight and throw around insults. That kind of behavior will get you no where.

Another thing I wonder about these shows, why are we so driven to watch a show that portrays women as being just shallow creatures. Obsessed with what we are wearing, what we are driving, who we’re dating, and what everyone else thinks about us. Where are the successful women with impressive careers and families? Where are the women who spend their spare time not fighting but giving back to society by helping the less fortunate? I know they are out there. These are the women that should be shown. Not these soulless, empty women who choose to spend their precious time on this planet putting down each other for the sake of fifteen minutes of television stardom.

Women have come a long way in the last hundred years. But there is still a level of inequality between the two genders. The depiction on reality TV of the modern day woman is pure hyperbole. These depictions are embarrassing and they should no longer exist in our society. These aren’t actors reading words off a script, these shows are represented as being ‘reality’. I see no reality here. I only see mean girls tearing each other down. And that is not real in my world anymore. I will not allow it to be. 

I am now making a pledge to stop watching these shows. For the sake of women everywhere. Will you?

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