Reality TV and its Cultural Myths

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Photo via The Huffington Post

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Reality television producers often construct their shows around ideology that our society gets from other popular culture. For example, The Bachelor and other similar dating shows depict what’s known as “The Cinderella Myth,” says Jennifer Kramer, author of “IT’S OK THAT WE BACKSTAB EACH OTHER: CULTURAL MYTHS THAT FUEL THE BATTLING FEMALE IN THE BACHELOR.” The Cinderella myth is the idea that women compete with other women based on beauty and wanting to be the wife of a charming, successful man. It insinuates that marrying the man who “has it all” will promise happiness. It suggests a possibility of success for the woman and the challenge of capturing a man’s love even with the competition of other beautiful women. It sends the cultural message that this is an acceptable, possibly realistic, way to find the perfect man. Viewers who are very into the show may use these ideas as guidelines for their own dating lives, which could in turn be disappointing. You can see the reversed roles in shows like “The Bachelorette,” I Love New York,” and “A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila,” where men compete for women. Producers will often choose the contestants based on whether they have clean backgrounds, are attractive, and hold a typical “American” beauty standard. Producers also choose people that are willing to give up their privacy and they then find out their weaknesses and fears to play off them to enhance views. “These shows preserve the cultural plotlines that have kept them in power… if enough women watch the show, they perpetuate the myths that keep women backstabbing each other instead of challenging the man who is cheating on them and the double bind that continues to limit their power.” (Kramer 212)

The narrative of a female identity is represented “My Super Sweet 16.” The young girls in the show represent the “daddy’s little girl” role. They are spoiled and sassy, mom is the evil one, and dad is the nice one because he can’t say no to what his little girl wants. “A prime example is the maxim “Daddy’s Little Girl,” thought to epitomize the ideal father-daughter relationship. In this relationship, the little girl is the perfect daughter while daddy is the ultimate ever-loving and forgiving parent […] The phrase Daddy’s Little Girl creates a box all little girls are put into. To play the Daddy’s Little Girl role, a girl must be pretty, quiet, and submissive, a thing to be admired,” says Terri L. Russ, author of “IS DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL A BITCH OR A PRINCESS?: NARRATIVES OF FEMALE IDENTITY ON MY SUPER SWEET 16.” It shows an unrealistic lifestyle for young girls in the United States, and it makes it seem that this lifestyle is more prevalent than it truly is (cultivation and social learning theory). People interested in the show are fascinated by this cultural phenomenon of a rich person’s lifestyle that they’re not a part of. It’s showing young girls that it’s O.K. to behave like a brat on a day that’s all about them. Reality shows depict women as decorative, overly sexual, dumb, bitchy, and emotional. The framework of reality shows show much more about our culture than I ever realized.

Sources found in:

Lind, R. A. (2010). Race, gender, media: considering diversity across audiences, content, and producers (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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