Let's begin with MTV's hit Teen Mom, spawned from the equally popular 16 & Pregnant. While the show touts the reality of young motherhood set against the backdrop of a struggling American economy and features the routine and rare experiences of these "girls," the show is actually a soap opera/scripted drama masquerading as a reality show.
Look online for searches including "pay for Teen Mom" and you'll find plenty of evidence describing in surprising detail the contracts and salaries of these "reality stars." Last time I checked, the premise for these types of shows is supposed to be a camera crew filming the actual lives of these people, in this case the young teen mothers. But if a teen mother is earning $60,000 to be filmed for a couple months per year, where is the reality in that? Likewise, the stars of 16 & Pregnant are also compensated for appearing on the programs and most are offered reality show contracts post-show; making it appear to many naive teens across the country that it's a very lucrative business to become pregnant young and then contact MTV. Again, the fallacy of reality is disturbing.
The Real Housewives was created as an answer to Desperate Housewives, the popular ABC scripted drama depicting a group of seemingly innocent housewives and their lives in suburbia. These "real" housewives, however, are no different than the actresses they are trying to win ratings over. The most disturbing fact? Few are actually "housewives." By definition: a wife who stays at home and takes care of the house and family. In reality, nearly half are divorced, most have "jobs" (I use that term loosely), few are actually ever filmed with their children, and almost all of them are part of a "clique" in the filming city, meaning that they all know one another and are not properly representative of the "housewife" population in the area. I'm not saying all the "housewives" in Orange County, California, are as insipid and dramatic, but they're being represented as such, which, they would argue, isn't "reality."
And Basketball Wives is worse still. Only one of them is currently a "wife," while one of them is dating a football player, and most of them have never and will never have anything to do with basketball. At least try to play off the premise of the show by showing these women at some of the games, or show some of the players who are currently popular, lending some credence to the title. What's shown on television is an innocuous and vacuous waste of time and attention, is thoroughly misleading and honestly disheartening.
Now onto our crowning example. Few people remember the show The Hills, which was spawned from another MTV show, Laguna Beach, which was based on the premise that these "kids" were the true reflection of the hit scripted drama The OC. Still following? Because this is where the plot thickens... Anyway, these kids were actually instructed (read: scripted) to say, discuss and "react" to different conversations, "realities," stimuli, and to re-hash long-dead drama and situations and re-enact these for the camera, in some cases years after an event actually occurred. So while semi-famous actors were making a decent amount of money appearing on the scripted drama, The OC, these other semi-famous actors were making a lesser amount of money appearing on a scripted drama that was called a reality television show. "Ok," you might be saying, "so what's the big deal?"
When video games are more "real" than the "reality" television programs our children are watching what hope do we have for the future, for the "reality" of stepping outside and playing a game, of having a conversation face-to-face, not Facebook-to-Facebook? What hope do we have of proving something is real when none of the actors/actresses are "real?"
This Memorial Day weekend, I hope all of you made your own realities. And stick to them, live them and embrace them. The less interactive we become with one another, the more dependent we become on a digital projection to empathize and instruct us. Where's the reality is "reality"?