The Hollywood Blog
By Adam Margolis
Reality TV Psychology shows can actually be much more counterproductive to not only the people on these shows, but also for viewers who follow them. Recently I worked on a reality show (to remain nameless) that is very much like the show Big Brother. Six strangers are placed in a small house together and forced to deal with each other to overcome personal struggles and differences. The show’s Host is a well- known television Psychologist with a tremendous following. His methods are harsh and some might say rude, but this therapist is widely respected. The purpose of the show is to help people, but the way these “patients” were treated was more like a set of tortured lab rats. Not only were the housemates provoked, but their patience was tested with some very questionable methods. The exercises presented to the housemates seemed to be better at creating “good TV” (as they call it) rather than helping people with legitimate issues. There is no reality to this “Reality Experiment”.
Reality programming has firmly planted its roots in the manure that is American television these days, and many make no excuses for being ridiculous (just turn on VH1 for some examples). Manipulating peoples states of mind, especially people who admittedly have mental issues, is in my opinion one of the most immoral practices imaginable. After watching these people for 5 days, I was convinced that most of them would have been better off in serious, 1-0n-1 therapy…but this makes fairly boring television. So a producer is faced with a moral question, “Do I cause a train-wreck, knowing that it will make the Networks happy or do I look for other work where I can spare people from humiliation and discomfort?” Obviously, the former. Producers will say just about anything to pacify an angry reality star, only to laugh at their gullibility behind the scenes.
One woman was crying and wanted to leave the show after a failed experiment. The natural human response, when seeing someone so upset, is to console them and/or cease the offensive behavior. In the world of Reality TV…This is considered GOLD. Tears, outbursts, train wrecks…this is what sells. I have been ordered to continue rolling on crying contestants who have politely asked (or in some cases not so politely) me to stop taping them. In one occasion, a young kid that I was shooting at a reality show audition was skipping down the sidewalk when he tripped and hurt himself. My instinct was to get the camera off of him, spare him the embarrassment and help him up…but as soon as I did this, a producer nudged me in the back asking me to capture every second of this kids misery. I felt horrible. Apparently, people enjoy watching other people’s misery.
Relating to characters on reality shows like this one helps people to feel better about their own lives and problems. Maybe someone will learn to deal with their own issues by watching someone else learn and suffer on a reality show. However, how can anyone learn anything serious if every person, problem and situation is manipulated with the intention of Good TV and not ACTUALY HELPING SOMEONE. Life is crazy, but it is not a TV show. Public Humiliation may not be the most effective way for these people to better themselves…and those reality stars who enjoy the publicity have other problems that are probably not even being addressed on their respective shows.
Until people are ready to accept the truth about their own lives and problems within their lives, there is no way that anyone can be helped. Until we are ready to do that, we will just enjoy living vicariously through those who have to be thrown out of planes to overcome a fear of heights or those who have to sleep in a bed of spiders to overcome a fear of bugs. Maybe we can try taking a woman who has a fear of being cheated on and have her boyfriend sleep with someone else on video…because of course that will get her to overcome her initial fear.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.