People are generally uncomfortable with the idea that they are being watched. Active surveillance is generally thought to be a suspicious activity, whether it’s by a stalker, a random video camera, or even the government. Even so, within the past decade, there has been a huge increase in demand for the media to produce reality television. Reality television is literally just surveillance of a person or a group of people in order to capture reactions with each other in certain situations and observe their daily lives.
The Real World is a reality show series that has been aired on MTV for 21 years, with it’s most recent season (EX-plosion) incorporating observations of reactions between ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s MTV’s longest running program and is associated with the creation of the reality genre on television. The show is meant to target young-adults by featuring concepts such as sexuality, romance, politics, substance abuse, and religion.
The main criticisms of highly viewed reality shows such as The Real World are such that one might not legitimately call them reality, as average people do not live in luxurious spaces, get taken to exotic locations for free, and party every night. Despite this obvious separation from reality, the question remains, why do so many people watch reality tv?
The fact is that people are generally curious as to how other people live, what other people think, what other people do, and if there are any similarities with their own personal lives. Reality television, even it is scripted or exaggerated, allows young viewers to connect and validate everything in the lives, ranging from their feelings, opinions, and interactions with other people to the clothes they wear and the food they eat. More recently, MTV has made an effort in include personal help for young adults with issues similar to those the subjects of the program face. The Real World: EX-plosion, in addition with the regular program, has provided support, help hotlines, and discussion groups for victims of violence, deaths of family members, issues with sexual identity, and unplanned pregnancies.
Among the criticisms of reality tv, it is hard to argue with the fact that even though many people are personally uncomfortable with being observed, they have no problem with being the one observing others.