America and Reality Television – How Reality TV Has Changed the Pop Culture Landscape
Even if you don’t watch shows like Big Brother, The Bachelor, or The Real Housewives, you have to admit that these shows are part of a wider cultural phenomenon: America’s obsession with reality TV. Since Survivor debuted in the late 1990s, a lot has been written about reality TV, from how “real” it actually is to whether or not it’s a sign of wider cultural narcissism.
Despite all the negative assessments, reality TV has dominated the airwaves for nearly two decades now. What’s behind its appeal?
Let’s get the obvious appeal out of the way first – people love drama, and reality TV has loads of fighting, backstabbing, and every other form of drama any viewer could ask for. Fictional TV thrives on drama just as much as reality TV does, but reality TV has the added benefit of being about real people, making the drama that much more personal and juicy.
People like reality TV for the same reason they like sports – the thrill of competition. Just because no one is passing a ball doesn’t mean that reality TV isn’t just as much about rooting for a team, reveling in victory or defeat, and armchair quarterbacking every decision the participants make.
A large part of the appeal of reality TV isn’t the shows themselves – it’s the interaction with other fans. Many reality shows have dedicated online fandoms that love to freak out about the show even when it’s not on the air, giving fans a chance to connect with people around the world.
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