Please Watch Responsibly

The Ethics of Reality Television
Graphic for Please Watch Responsibly article including Abby Lee Miller, Gordon Ramsey, Edward Brown, and a Bachelor contestant.
Graphic for Please Watch Responsibly article including Abby Lee Miller, Gordon Ramsey, Edward Brown, and a Bachelor contestant.

Dance Moms. The Bachelor. The Real Housewives of wherever. These are all considered reality shows, and if you enjoy these, you might enjoy escaping from your own everyday life, and you aren’t the only one.

Many, if not all, of these shows contain their own amounts of drama. This is one of the main reasons people get hooked or addicted to a show, among other reasons.

In a way, reality television is like the “train wreck you can’t take your eyes off of;” meaning no matter how  horrible the situation is playing out, to be human is to be curious, and you can’t look away from the train wreck.

According to, “People can’t help but to stop and stare because it is human nature to be fascinated by tragedy and extreme conflict. It can be hypnotic to watch — even when it’s happening on television.”

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The same concepts can be applied to reality television. The person in the show can be going through the most traumatic or upsetting time of their life, while we sit and eat popcorn and watch it all unfold.

Another reason people may spend their time watching reality shows is the “relatability” factor. Someone might ‘relate’ to one of the ‘characters’ in the show, and follow through with watching it to see how their story plays out.

There is, however, the idea that people in reality shows are just characters that exist and do what they do for the audiences’ entertainment. The problem is, according to Ahmed Lugo (Sound Mixer who worked on reality shows such as Real Housewives of Miami, Pillow Talk, Los Montaners and others):

“The thing to remember is is that even though this is happening on a screen, this is someone’s real life… we often dehumanize them because we think this is not real, or they are just actors and this is not really going to affect them, or, “hey, they signed up for this it’s their own fault.”

These actors, and any actor/actress in general, are still human. The mindset that actors/actresses and those in entertainment are seen as less of a human being than the rest of people is unfortunately common, and is a mindset that needs to be unlearned.

This also begs the question, are reality shows scripted, and if they are, to what extent? This is a more than likely the most asked question about reality television. Ahmed says:

“…they are not scripted in that there isn’t a word for word script that needs to be followed. The subjects are put in different situations to see how they react and how things unfold. The producers will then try to instigate certain situations for the sake of the drama that everyone loves.”

Overall, this sounds like a sort of behavioral experiment; which, according to, it is.

“These programs appeal to the voyeuristic nature in most of us — we are getting a window into the way different people respond to varying circumstances. This is valuable information that can enable us to learn about others and ourselves. How would WE handle that same situation? And why?”

Living vicariously is also a common concept, one that could be applied to those who watch reality television.

In shows such as 90 Day Fiancé, Love Island, or any other dating-related reality show, participants are usually asked to find love in stressful circumstances, or in incredibly short amounts of time, like 90 days.

By watching these shows, one might be able to get the experience of “finding love” without actually having to be filmed, or having to be in a stressful atmosphere with competitors and a set time limit. Forming a “relationship” with the actor/actress is all that is needed.

“Reality television is, in many cases, a rapport-builder and relationship-builder,” according to

In my opinion, reality shows can be good entertainment if you find a genre you enjoy, but once it evolves from entertainment, to escapism, to a way to dodge personal problems entirely, it becomes an issue. A lack of sympathy towards the actors and actresses is also a problem.

At the end of the day, what comes to mind when talking about reality television is: “Please watch responsibly.”

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