Black Female Reality Television: Why Do I Like Reality TV?
After receiving numerous correspondences about my blog article: RedefiningHERstory: “This is not MY Reality or Black Womanhood,” I was asked an important question: why do you watch reality television? I began to really think about this question: why do I really watch reality television? Could it be because I see Black women on these top rated reality shows (e.g. the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Married to Medicine, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, or Basketball Wives) that look like me and are an inspiration because they have made it? Hey, we all cannot deny that these Black women have a great platform and in that essence, they have made it.
I cannot wait to see which one of these crazy, silly and delusional reality stars are going to give me my theatrical entertainment fix for today! See, I like my drama on television… I have graduated past that stage of that type of drama being in my everyday life. It comes with age and elevating to your next level of womanhood. One day I think I will blog about reaching your next level of womanhood, but for now… let’s get back to the ratchetness!
One factor is its elemental structure. Carl Hartman, a producer of reality television shows for PBS, Discovery, and National Geographic stated that reality television as a genre has a huge following because of its elemental structure. Hartman stated that the elemental structure that producers utilize are based on the elements that one would use to create popular dramatic films, television shows and comedies.
Reality television, “…has the same dramatic beats to the story and therefore evokes the same emotions. You have all the same elements as in drama: attachment to characters, conflict and usually a great resolution” stated Hartman. Have you ever noticed that watching reality television? I have. There is plenty of drama and I found myself routing for characters while I watched their situations play out on television.
Case in point: that dang Joseline Hernandez…the alleged Puerto Rican Princess… and the drama she brings wherever she goes just gets my blood pressure up! Since, I can remember, it has always been Joseline versus somebody. Joseline versus Mimi and/or Stevie J., crazy a** Tommie or Althea… hecks she ran poor Althea off the show and her man Benzino… and ME! There is always drama surrounding this woman and I found myself routing for everyone else, but Joseline… I was outdone about how she would talk crazy to Mimi back in the days while publicly trying to humiliate her about her non-relationship with Stevie J. I mean I was simply outdone!
However, when it was revealed that she was pregnant on the last reunion and for all that fighting between her and Stevie J. to play out over social media, I began to feel something for her. I too know how it feels to be at odds with your baby daddy and dealing with all of that ignorance while you are pregnant… that is a whole blog in itself! Moving on... quickly before my pressure goes up again!!!
Enjoyment and EntertainingAnother factor of reality based television’s increased attraction can be attributed to the individual’s affinity or enjoyment of watching this type of programming. Scholars Robin Nabi, Erica Biely, Sara Morgan, and Carmen Stitt discussed in their 2003 article: Reality-Based Television Programming and the Psychology of Its Appeal that reality shows are entertaining and people like to be entertained. Through their experiences as audience members, they feel that they are a part of the storyline being presented and therefore continue to be viewers of reality television.
Basically, people are intrigued by the characters and storylines and watch for entertainment purposes. They develop a sense of community because they have identified with the characters that are being showcased. I do not know about you, but at times I find myself so invested in a reality show’s characters and their storylines that I catch myself screaming at the television, “Girl, if you don’t tell that crazy thing about herself, sh** I will!” Or “ooh if I could just get through this TV, hell I will tell her myself!”
Yep, it is quite entertaining and I sometimes I do feel like I am a part of the storyline. For example, who remembers when Phadera Parks from the Atlanta House Maidens... oops I mean Housewives was pregnant and that crazy thing Kenya Moore used to taunt her about Apollo? One again, I WAS OUTDONE… and that is all I am going to say about that!! Moving along.
On the other hand, scholars Michael Shanahan, James Morgan and Nancy Signorielli explained in 2009, that media sources such as reality television, tend to promote stereotypical attitudes, standards and beliefs which are already existent and prevalent within society’s culture. These stereotypical depictions on reality television preserve, maintain, reinforce and transmit these beliefs amongst the members of society, thus perpetuating misguided socio-cultural ideologies.
Yes, we all know that media sources play a significant role in creating, maintaining and reinforcing our culture and societal norms that are continuously represented in everyday television programs, films, commercials and other advertisements (e.g., internet, magazines and billboards). Also, we know that some of these influences' depictions can be overly stereotypical and promotes a hidden agenda.
However, as viewers of media sources, such as reality television, we must be an active, conscious and knowledgeable participant by realizing that these shows are fun to watch at times, but they do not actively showcase Black female life. So as enthusiastic viewers of some type of reality television program that showcases a predominantly all-Black female casts, let us remember that that this is only reality television and not our reality... or at least not mine!
ReferencesHartman, C. (2013). Why do people enjoy watching reality TV — especially given that it's often fake? Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-people-enjoy-watching-reality- TV-%E2%80%94-especially-given-that-its-often-fake?redirected_qid=1682358#!n=12.
Morgan, M., Shanahan, J., & Signorielli, N. (2009). Media effects: Advances in theory and research (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Nabi, R. L., Biely, E. N., Morgan, S. J., & Stitt, C. R. (2003). Reality-based television programming and the psychology of its appeal. Media Psychology, 5, 303-330. doi:10.1207/S1532785XMEP0504_01.