What Is Reality TV's Influence on Culture?

By: John Perritano  | 

Effects of Reality TV: The Good

For Heather Havrilesky it was more than stuff. It was her father's life. Photographs of old girlfriends she never met. Books. An old driver's license. Heather's father had died, but as she writes in Salon, "How do you say goodbye to someone else's things without losing a piece of that person forever?"

Then Heather began to watch TV shows about hoarders. She decided to do something about her own problem. She went into a "cleaning frenzy, rifling through my closets and driving big bags of old stuff to Goodwill."


Such is the power of reality television. While many people think that reality TV is nothing more than a series of freak shows, some serve the greater good. A good deal of what is on TV can be very useful to the viewer. Although hoarders have been around for centuries, shows such as "Hoarders" have increased public awareness about a serious mental health issue.

While reality shows are mainly produced as entertainment, many convey important information. For example, although many say two of TV's most controversial reality shows, MTV's "Teen Mom" and "16 and Pregnant," glamorize teen pregnancy, some believe the shows act as a form of high-tech birth control. In 2009, the teenage pregnancy rate in the United States dropped to its lowest levels in 70 years. A 2015 study published in the American Economic Review found that the show likely contributed to a 4.3 percent reduction in teen births.

Ultimately, though, reality TV is all about creating content that generates revenue by captivating audiences — whether through schadenfreude or sympathy. And, at the end of the day, isn't making money what reality TV is really all about?

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