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FILM & TV |MUSE

Nikol Chen reflects upon the deluge of reality television and what makes us keep watching kind of voyeurism may be the reason as to why people are so fascinated with these shows. You do not usually have the chance to see the home life of stars: what they do in their spare time, how they interact with their family, the ridiculous scandals they get into. It is an escape from reality (ironic, isn’t it?) - the shows allow the viewers to vicariously live the stars’ melodramatic, theatrical lives, while they are on their sofa, arm deep into a Pringles can. Shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians let you do exactly that. Maybe you watch because they are your idols and you want to know as much as possible about them, or maybe (if you’re like me) you watch because you enjoy condescendingly judging their incredibly nonsensical actions.

But maybe it is not all that grim? Maybe we are not a generation of sadistic, voyeuristic narcissists? Another possible reason is that we’re narcissists. According to research, fans of reality television score higher on

the Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI), which reveals that those viewers have more prominent narcissistic tendencies, while those who preferred news actually had the lowest scores (Lull & Dickinson, 2016). However, it is unclear whether people with narcissistic traits are attracted to reality TV, or watching reality shows actually leads to the appearance of those traits, in conjunction with the rise of social media in the past decade. But maybe it is not all that grim? Maybe we are not a generation of sadistic, voyeuristic narcissists? Perhaps the reason reality television is so popular is that people like influencing other people’s lives and making a change. This mainly applies to shows that are based on viewer voting, such as The X Factor and American Idol. Wouldn’t you like to help a puppy-eyed kid from Middlesborough, who’s come from a broken home to achieve his dreams of being signed by a record label? Wouldn’t it feel fantastic if just by sending an SMS you could change someone’s life and feel important? You feel like you’re making a difference. And it feels bloody incredible. The show takes you on an emotional journey, only it is vastly better than some soap opera because those people on the TV, they are real.

There is no one single reason for the rise of reality television Perhaps you feel that the puppy-eyed kid could be you. The “If they can do it, so can I!” thinking also drives the rise of reality TV. Just take a look at Nicole Polizzi, a.k.a. Snooki, from The Jersey Shore. Unless choosing foundation that is several tones darker than the rest of your body is considered to be a talent, Snooki did fuck all to get to where she is now - doing appearances on shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, earning $150,000 per episode of The Jersey Shore, and securing three book deals. So, if Snooki can do it, you definitely can, right? There is no one single reason for the rise of reality television. One thing is clear, however: even though it is extremely despised, people watch it. And they watch it a lot - will it be because they love to gloat over a celebrity’s hardship, or because they want to help someone come closer to their dreams. And just like the spots on the hormonal teenager - they’re not going away any time soon.

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Profile for Pi Media, UCLU

Pi Magazine, Issue 716 - The Mind  

Our Second Issue of the 2016/17 academic year is focused on 'The Mind'. We delve into topics such as mental health, neurological disease, an...

Pi Magazine, Issue 716 - The Mind  

Our Second Issue of the 2016/17 academic year is focused on 'The Mind'. We delve into topics such as mental health, neurological disease, an...

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