The argument for watching reality TV shows is often something along the lines of, “I can put it on and not think about anything.” But that argument poses a problem when you consider that reality TV has been shown to negatively impact your real-life behavior. One study reported by NPR and presented by psychologist Bryan Gibson of Central Michigan University found that watching reality shows can lead to “relational aggression” — specifically bullying, exclusion, and manipulation of others.
Gibson told NPR host Tess Vigeland, “We knew from past research that people who see relational aggression in media tend to become more aggressive.” He added that, “Gossiping and nastiness is prevalent on these shows, so we wanted to find out whether it affected how aggressive people were after they watched.”
So is watching reality TV really that bad? It probably depends on who you ask, but the point is that there is certainly some evidence that reality TV can impact the way your brain functions, whether in terms of your intelligence or the way you interact with others. When it comes to drama-filled reality TV, these seven shows are some of the worst culprits.
1. Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Keeping Up With the Kardashians debuted all the way back in 2007, making it one of the longest-running reality TV series. The show has been resoundingly criticized for an overall lack of intelligence from its subjects, along with an obsession with fame and money. Simply put, the kind of reality that the Kardashians display on the show is not at all in line with the reality for 99% of its viewers, which could definitely be a problem for those picking up social cues from the reality series.
2. The Bachelor
It’s hard to believe, but The Bachelor just finished its 20th season and has been on the air since 2002. Today, the show has gone global while expanding in the United States via spinoffs The Bachelorette, Bachelor’s Pad, and Bachelor in Paradise. Yes, the show where one man finds himself flooded by 25 or so eligible woman has certainly had a long run, but the series also displays a problematic vision of dating and has found itself the subject of controversy when it comes to sexism.
3. Famously Single
When it comes to reality shows, the ones that focus specifically on celebrities are often the worst. Famously Single might be the worst of the worst. The series recently debuted on E! and the premise of the show is to follow eight single celebrities who all move into a house together to try and solve their romantic issues. So essentially, they’ve stolen the idea of Real World and added borderline celebrities like Pauly D to the mix so we can watch them all get drunk and slobber over each other. Pass.
4. Dance Moms
Dance Moms is one of those reality shows that follows the parents of talented children so you can watch them be total jerks to their kids. It doesn’t help that the kids on these shows — Dance Moms included — are at an age where you can’t help but feel they’re being exploited by adults who have money on the brain. The show has also had several controversies related to sexualized costumes, so can you add yet another layer of exploitation to the mix.
5. Dating Naked
A reality show where two people date naked. We’ve come so far, haven’t we? The truth is, the reason this show sucks so much is because it’s pretty much like every dating series ever made except for the whole naked thing — because after all, sex sells. It’s just another example of the ridiculous push toward sexualization. Leaving most of us scared to think what reality TV might look like in 10 years.
6. Real Housewives
Have you ever wished that you knew what life was like for the filthy rich women of the world? Luckily you have The Real Housewives media empire to give you exactly that in seemingly every location you could think of. Here’s a list of just a fraction of the cities The Real Housewives franchise has taken over so far: Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, and D.C. Then there’s the international locations like Athens, Toronto, and Melbourne. Considering the current state of wealth distribution in the United States right now, an obsession with wealth probably isn’t a great solution.
7. Duck Dynasty
Yes, Duck Dynasty is unfortunately still on the air and in the midst of season 10. This is the same series whose star Phil Robertson has been a part of several controversies, including pointed remarks about gay people and black people, as well as speaking out against atheists. Even if these kinds of issues are not dealt with directly in the series, it’s hard not to worry about an undercurrent of intolerance at a time when we desperately need tolerance.
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