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Why Is Reality TV Popular & Is It Real?

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hampton U chapter.

Reality TV has been such a prominent form of entertainment in American pop culture. We’ve gotten some of the best and most memorable moments from reality TV, such as Nene Leakes’s iconic “Not a white refrigerator!” and how that moment single-handedly changed the real estate industry or every single one of Tiffany “New York” Pollard’s infamous reads. Reality TV has evolved overtime, as well. It started from prank shows to the current dating shows and celebrity shows we know now. Reality TV is no doubt very entertaining, but why do we want to watch the everyday lives of random people?

1. Gives us a Glimpse into other people’s lives

One of the appealing aspects of reality TV is that it gives viewers a chance to get into our favorite celebrities’ personal business. Shows like “Braxton Family Values”, “Love & Hip-Hop”, and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” allowed us to peak behind the curtain and watch what goes on in a celebrity’s everyday life. All of the headlines that we would see regarding celebrity gossip, fans of these shows were given a chance to witness the drama first hand before any media outlet was able to report on it.This aspect of reality TV helped make it as popular as it is now because fans are able to feel “closer” to their favorite celebrity. In turn, it helped celebrities, too because they were able to capitalize off of showing their vulnerable side to the world.

Not only are we given a glimpse into the lives of celebrities, but also regular people who we would’ve never met if it wasn’t for reality TV. For example, the women of “Teen Mom” who started off as just regular teens to reality TV stars or Eva Marcille and her journey from “America’s Next Top Model” to an actress. Reality TV shows where the cast is made up of regular people, in my opinion, are successful because it allows viewers to step outside of their own reality and into another. It keeps viewers engaged by making them think to themselves, “What would I do in this situation?” or “She’s doing way too much.” In general, people just like when they can be involved in drama without actually getting involved.

2. Brings people together

Growing up, my family and I would spend weekends and late nights watching the premiere of our favorite reality TV shows, like Real Housewives of Atlanta and Love & Hip-Hop. I vividly remember watching my mother and sister getting into heated arguments with the people on the screen and wanting so badly to say, “You know they can’t hear you, right?”. Then, going to school the next day and talking about the show with my peers. Now that my friends and I are older, some of our “Girls’ Night” events would include us watching older reality TV shows or new ones like “Love Island” and yelling at our screens just like our mothers and older sisters. History really does repeat itself.

But, on a bigger scale, reality TV has served to bring together people from all over the world. I always see shows like Love Island and Real Housewives trending on my Twitter timeline or clips from the shows on my For You Page on Tiktok. These shows have fanpages and have transformed everyday people into celebrities. Fans across all social media platforms discuss their favorite moments from the show and debate who’s the best on the cast or who should end up with who. Watching reality TV has made a huge impact on how we connect to each other because it gives us something to talk about and bond over.

But, is it real?

In my opinion, absolutely not. I feel like at this point, people can tell that reality TV is scripted to make the lives of the reality stars more entertaining. We can thank the incredible Mona Scott-Young (Love and Hip-Hop) and Kris Jenner (The Kardashians) for that. Two women that were able to take people who hadn’t been in the media for years before the premiere of their shows and turn them into stars that make the headlines of major media outlets almost every week. And, let’s be real, there’s no way that people who know they’re being recorded are going to act up and cause a scene in a fancy restaurant. No one would. And, the way Natalie Nunn hosts auditions for young women to be on “Baddies”, yet “coincidentally”, it’s either the same women from last season or some of her friends that she know will put on a show is all done to drive up her ratings. All of that, the casting itself, and the drama is made up to entertain the viewers. But, we’re going to stay tuned in because the drama is fun to watch.

Deja Jones

Hampton U '26

Hi! My name is Deja Jones and I’m a second year political science major at Hampton University. I’m from St. Louis. I love music and fashion. In my free time, you’ll either catch me drawing, sewing, or reading.