Authenticity in media/reality television?

The film Brand New You: Makeover Television and the American Dream, is a documentary by Katherine Sender about reality television in America, specifically the shows that aim to help you ‘better yourself,’ and to be the best version of yourself that you can be. This documentary raises a primary question about the effects that these television programs, as well as other mainstream media sources have on members of our society. This film creates a platform of criticism for shows such as The Biggest Loser, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, What Not to Wear, and The Swan specifically, however it is not limited to these; there are hundreds of shows like these that are in contempt with this documentary. All of these shows share something in common: they all tell us how we should look, how we should feel, what our measurements should be. Overall, shows like these act as blanketed criticism for people all over the country to conform to standards up to par with celebrities or supermodels.

I would argue, to a certain extent that some of these shows have a more positive spin than others, such as The Biggest Loser for example. I have not seen many episodes of this show, however from what I have seen it seemed to be more positive and uplifting for the contestants. The show seemed to be more about the individual members’ goals, and achieving said goals for a stronger sense of self and security. Contrasting that with a show like The Swan, however offers a very different form of reality television. Granted, I have never seen an episode of this show, I am familiar with its premise: generally, an unattractive female is selected and picked apart to “fix” her appearance (with makeup, dress, and even as far plastic surgery) to ‘beautify her’. This show seems to me to be very negative, morally and ethically empty, and fake.

I think that this critique is very valid, and compelling. I know many people are enjoy these shows, and can sit by watching for hours on end. I have never understood the attraction to reality shows, with the possible exception of Pawn Stars, (for some strange reason I love that show) because they are very bare to me. I prefer to avoid media content whose primary goal is to tell me what I should look like, how I should appear, how I should behave, in order to ‘fit in’. Commercial entertainment represents the ideal of authenticity through mass appeal of their notion of ‘beauty’. One of the foremost programs that comes to mind when thinking about authenticity is The Bachelor. This show follows a man with a dozen (maybe more?) women whom he must filter through until he meets his one, true love. It is a bogus display of romance, appearances, and is most certainly not how reality occurs.


One thought on “Authenticity in media/reality television?”

  1. I agree 100%. Reality TV makes me sick. I can’t understand how people watch it as if it is not completely staged. You make an interesting point with the majority of shows on Bravo…almost all of them are built on image. I am so happy you mentioned the Bachelor, this show without a doubt it the least ethical I have ever seen. It gives a false sense of hope to people who are on the show about what love it. It is deeply upsetting to think of all the young men and ladies who watch this show and base their opinions of what they should look for in love on this show. I think this leads to a huge problem in the media industry. There should be more restrictions on what gets aired.


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