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A Love Letter to Reality TV: Why The Genre Deserves More Credit

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 U Mass Amherst chapter.

Oh, reality television, how I love you. The drama, the theatrics, the social implications! While the genre will most likely never escape its soaring amount of criticism, I truly believe that it is a credible modern art form.

It’s no secret that these shows are filled with terrible role models. From the amount of materialistic greed, screaming matches, and general ignorance that’s televised, I think it’s safe to say that there’s very few reality TV stars you should base your moral foundations on. While about one in four people watch the genre, 60% of Americans consider it ‘trashy.’ Which is fair! It often is! But that doesn’t diminish its brilliance.

As someone who grew up lower class in a very rural Northeastern area, it is fascinating to watch people like the Kardashian-Jenner family live these hyperbolized lives. They are so rich, so famous, so skinny, and so white. It’s absolutely jaw-dropping to view an episode and fathom just how much of everything they have. Even shows like Love Island are captivating for their filming locations, makeup, hair, and wardrobes. 

But of course, you can’t talk about reality TV without discussing the crux of it all: reality. We all know that most of the top-viewed series have a skeleton of scripting to keep it together and maintain popularity. It’d be naive to hunker down for an episode of The Real Housewives and expect pure authenticity. And it’s kind of a fun game to watch and decipher what was written, what was edited, and what was genuine. However, scripting doesn’t mean a show is inherently bad. We can’t discount the more wholesome TV that may still have a backbone of planning. Survivor, The Great British Bakeoff, and Queer Eye are all truly heartwarming series, though they follow a strong structure. It’s the theme that really counts.

Reality television shows are fun and exciting. It’s why they work so well. I don’t believe they should be viewed as model examples of our society, and it’s wildly important to understand that they truly are massively overdramatized and manipulated to increase viewership. However, this doesn’t mean that the genre should be discredited. You know what they say: “Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.” Reality TV is a disturbing medium to many of us. It’s a mirage of yelling, crying, and lying. Glasses are thrown, hair is pulled, and it’s all caught on camera for us to see — even when spliced together by conniving producers.

Yes, reality television, I love you. I’m forever enthralled by your people, your places, and your crazy adventures. A Jersey housewife flipping a restaurant table and calling her castmate a “prostitution whore”? A mother supporting her daughter’s Playboy photoshoot, yelling, “You’re doing amazing sweetie!”? Winning The Bachelor only to be told by your new fiance that he still has feelings for a different contestant? It is all so brilliant. These situations are unbelievable, and yet, here they are, playing out before your very eyes. There’s truly and undeniably nothing like it.

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Bella Giordano

U Mass Amherst '24

My experiences in journalism and psychology keep me motivated to find new opportunities where I can continue cultivating these skills. In my free time I find myself consistently creating passion projects, further exemplifying my love for what I do. You can find me cooking, podcasting, writing, or out for a run!