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BackseatMom

Insiders perspective on the harm of reality tv

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sparkles

There's a 1963 short story by SF author Robert Silverberg called "The Pain Peddlers," that centers around a show in which participants are manipulated into undergoing surgery without anesthesia, while their sensations are transmitted to viewers. We're really not far off from that, are we?

With VERY few exceptions (Great British Bake Off being one), I will not watch "reality" tv. 

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EmmieJ

I remember when I first began watching reality tv that featured children.  It was Jon & Kate Plus 8, and at the same time, I'd occasionally watch the Duggar shows (who knows what number they were on then, but I think they started out with specials like 14 and Counting).  I though the Gosselin sextuplets were adorable and I watched the show regularly.  I wasn't crazy about Kate, found Jon likeable but a doofus.  And then I started seeing red flags all over the place with Kate's behavior, which did not mesh at all with my parenting style, nor with my personal beliefs on how people should behave in general. 

That led me to message boards about the show, and other reality tv shows, and then a growing awareness of how fake all these shows are.  It's one thing for an adult to choose to participate, but I am now completely convinced that children should never be on any reality tv show, period.  They do not have the life experience, development or knowledge to sign their life away like that.  It's harmful to the adults involved.  It's so much worse when children are involved. 

Once you sign away your rights and privacy (and that of your minor children), it's opening Pandora's Box.  You cannot unring that bell.  And if you will allow me one more pithy phrase, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I don't care if you are parent of the year - if you put your kid on reality tv, then you're riding down that road to hell.

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clueliss

bookmarking so I can come back to when I have time to read.

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FundieFarmer

Yiiiiikes. I hope the kids weren't egged on to fight like that...

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Cleopatra7

I think for children on reality shows it must be even more confusing, because they're playing themselves but not really in a way. How crazy is it that there are kids like the Duggars who have been born and grown up on camera? Even crazier is that a second generation is now growing up on TV.

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SledCat

Good article, @BackseatMom. I used to watch all kinds of reality tv, thinking it was harmless trash. I think Teen Mom turned it around for me. That show clearly seemed to have a negative impact on the teen kids and their own children. It is very strange to think there are some kids that have grown up thinking a camera crew following them around is part of the daily routine.

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Mrsaztx

I wish this thread was getting more traction, I find this all fascinating

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Toothfairy

Just like the kids on dance moms. Look how damaging that is. Kids don't belong on reality tv. Too many stage parents and few protections. 

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Cleopatra7

I've been thinking about how odd this obsession with being on TV is. A little over 100 years ago, stage performers were considered low class and little better than prostitutes in the case of actresses. By the 1920s, people were obsessed with getting discovered and becoming movie stars. Although many people understand that show business is a sleazy world, they are more than willing to be part of it, but to include their children. The class elements of reality TV are slightly examined in the article. The people jonesing for the show were living from paycheck to paycheck, and hoped that debasing themselves on TV would help them achieve the American dream that had eludes them thus far. Not being on tv was probably better in the long run for them, but I can see why they'd see reality TV as a panacea to their short term problems.

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ADoyle90815
3 hours ago, Toothfairy said:

Just like the kids on dance moms. Look how damaging that is. Kids don't belong on reality tv. Too many stage parents and few protections. 

I was thinking about those kids on Dance Moms, and now there's the Child Genius competition show, which was something I stumbled on, and in addition to being on TV, those parents were putting such intense pressure on their gifted children, I felt sorry for them before I changed the channel.

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adidas

I have a friend who won a reality tv show. I don't want to give any identifying information so please forgive me for being vague.

 My friend said something very similar to EmmieJ : you can't unring that bell. My friend has had remarkably positive coverage in the media, but the thing people don't realise is that s/he has been VERY deliberate and conscious about EVERYTHING ever said in an interview. For days beforehand s/he constructs, preempts and rehearses answers to questions so that his/her words can't be manipulated or twisted. Even down to syntax (eg during filming, saying "I want to stay in the competition' or 'I am not ready to leave the competition' instead of 'I don't want to go home' at elimination time, so that his/her children didn't hear it and think that daddy/mummy didn't want to come home to them). Every little thing is considered. I have never read anything negative about my friend (and being a huge fan girl I've read everything, of course ;) ) but it hasn't been by luck. My friend is very likeable, but s/he is so wary of how things can be construed. S/he only does interviews with reputable agencies and while I am understandably biased, I think my friend has done it the right way. I see other reality tv stars who are a little less careful.

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FundieFarmer

I had a friend who was solicited for My Super Sweet Sixteen. Her mother put the kibosh on that immediately. Though they would've been nowhere near as conscientious as Adidas's friend.

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BackseatMom

@adidas i think that speaks perfectly to the kids point. Children cannot make this decision fully understanding all the repercussions, and they don't have the skills to be that careful as their childhoods' are being filmed. 

It is the problem of growing up on social media times a million. Then you add in rating seeking producers, and all you can hope is that the show isn't too popular.

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EmmieJ
21 hours ago, adidas said:

I have a friend who won a reality tv show. I don't want to give any identifying information so please forgive me for being vague.

 My friend said something very similar to EmmieJ : you can't unring that bell. My friend has had remarkably positive coverage in the media, but the thing people don't realise is that s/he has been VERY deliberate and conscious about EVERYTHING ever said in an interview. For days beforehand s/he constructs, preempts and rehearses answers to questions so that his/her words can't be manipulated or twisted. Even down to syntax (eg during filming, saying "I want to stay in the competition' or 'I am not ready to leave the competition' instead of 'I don't want to go home' at elimination time, so that his/her children didn't hear it and think that daddy/mummy didn't want to come home to them). Every little thing is considered. I have never read anything negative about my friend (and being a huge fan girl I've read everything, of course ;) ) but it hasn't been by luck. My friend is very likeable, but s/he is so wary of how things can be construed. S/he only does interviews with reputable agencies and while I am understandably biased, I think my friend has done it the right way. I see other reality tv stars who are a little less careful.

Thanks for sharing a little more insight into one person's actual experience with reality tv.  Even an intelligent adult has to be extremely careful of every word or deed, but also has to have something that makes them interesting to the audience.  Too often, producers want drama, manufactured if necessary.  The article touched on how producers on these shows can be decent people yet have to compartmentalize the unsavory aspects of their career in order to live with themselves.  It just seems like a soul-sucking endeavor for all concerned.

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roddma

Interesting. There's no telling how many filmed pilots will never lead to a show because well the participants aren't interesting enough.Everyone found the Duggars to be refreshing after the other reality tv fiascoes: no parents ever fighting or yelling,.and over a dozen obedient kids who never talked back and got along great with siblings-yea right. It seemed that way even though you may think certain things are staged. I think they had a heck of a producer to help keep them going this long since most reality shows have short shelf life.

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Toothfairy
On Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 3:49 AM, roddma said:

Interesting. There's no telling how many filmed pilots will never lead to a show because well the participants aren't interesting enough.Everyone found the Duggars to be refreshing after the other reality tv fiascoes: no parents ever fighting or yelling,.and over a dozen obedient kids who never talked back and got along great with siblings-yea right. It seemed that way even though you may think certain things are staged. I think they had a heck of a producer to help keep them going this long since most reality shows have short shelf life.

Maybe because  they had a target audience. White Christian will get you anything  in this country.

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ShepherdontheRock

https://web.archive.org/web/20141008054013/http://benstarr.com/blog/masterchef-a-farewell-perspective/

This is written by a former contestant of the American Masterchef who grew disillusioned with the show when it became more and more like Hell's Kitchen. Apparently during certain seasons, the contestants edited to be the villain would receive death threats, one threatening to burn down a woman's house with her son in it.

Naturally, the process of being isolated from your family and friends, and the psychological games from producers, etc, would produce immense stress. And, as @adidas touched on, once you're in the public eye, anything you say can be construed the wrong way. I believe those on reality tv sign contracts that often specifically allow them to twist your words into something you've never said. I've watched interviews where it was apparent that several words from different sentences were strung together.

It's one thing for adults to knowingly subject themselves to this, but it makes me angry that people like JB and J'Chelle and Mama June are subjecting children with no choice to this for their own selfish reasons.

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Et Moi

I really want to do Amazing Race because it seems like a blast. Flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants international travel is kind of my thing. The loss of anonymity would be rough though.

I would never, ever put a kid on a reality show. I don't think it's fair to put somebody who is too young to legally consent to doing a show on one. Acting is a bit different because at least you're playing a character, but it's not healthy to grow up playing yourself on camera.

 

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bashfulpixie

This has made me think about my TV viewing habits a lot.  I don't really watch much with children at all (a few episodes of 19 Kids and BUB not withstanding).  Mostly travel shows and HGTV, with the occasional cooking show mixed in.  Starting to think I might need to cut back on some of that.

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RosyDaisy

Reality TV....no such thing. I'll be glad to see it's demise. Then cable channels can show programming relevant to the channels names.

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NakedKnees

It's sort of amazing how hard it can be to find tell-all stories of reality TV... my few friends who have participated signed intense-sounding non-disclosure agreements.

Here is another Masterchef piece (maybe they let their cast and crew speak out more than average). It's an interview from a former contestant and covers pretty much the whole process from her perspective: http://www.avclub.com/article/what-its-be-contestant-masterchef-220062

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louisa05
5 hours ago, Et Moi said:

I really want to do Amazing Race because it seems like a blast. Flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants international travel is kind of my thing. The loss of anonymity would be rough though.

I would never, ever put a kid on a reality show. I don't think it's fair to put somebody who is too young to legally consent to doing a show on one. Acting is a bit different because at least you're playing a character, but it's not healthy to grow up playing yourself on camera.

 

Amazing Race is quite manipulated. There are stories out there. 

I do not watch shows with kids. Period. I love Project Runway, but I won't go near the new Project Runway Junior. Kids should not be on reality shows, and kids don't need to be designing clothing lines, either. A lot of people I know who are PR fans are into it and carrying on that it is so much better than recent regular seasons. I don't care. I won't watch kids on reality shows. 

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Et Moi
3 hours ago, louisa05 said:

Amazing Race is quite manipulated. There are stories out there. 

I do not watch shows with kids. Period. I love Project Runway, but I won't go near the new Project Runway Junior. Kids should not be on reality shows, and kids don't need to be designing clothing lines, either. A lot of people I know who are PR fans are into it and carrying on that it is so much better than recent regular seasons. I don't care. I won't watch kids on reality shows. 

Oh, I'm sure Amazing Race is manipulated. It still seems like a ton of fun.

Project Runway Junior doesn't seem to be playing the mind games that the regular show does to their contestants. Nobody is getting the villain edit and the kids are all just so happy to be around other kids who like the same thing and don't think they're weird. 

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