Reality shows are anything but reality, and while much can be said about how they are also engineered to get the most views for advertisers, the real danger is what they are doing to our culture as far as our sacred institutions. The biggest impact is on the institution of marriage—for what better drama is there to see than that which is played out between dating, courtship and marriage.
1. They Trivialize Commitment
Whether it is the Bachelor, Bachelorette, Married at First Sight, or Joe Millionaire, they all have one foundational flaw—they trivialize marriage. They do this by using a sacred bond as something to sell advertisements. To do this, they have to provide something people want to see—and most people want to see things that go wrong.
During the types of shows above, the usual setup is to have either a group of people that get married as a gimmick and see how they start out, they have one person choose amongst a number of people, or they tempt people to cheat by putting them on an island filled with opportunities to break vows.
The shows that are like a lottery revolve around whether the guy/girl in question is going to choose which one of the opposite sex (surprised that the same-sex marriage folks haven’t forced the networks to have an option for a same sex contestant yet). In this time period where they’re whittling the number of contestants down to one, the couples engage in all sorts of behavior that only married couples should do—or at least those that have known each other for more than a week:
They carry on in an emotionally charged environment, lubricated with alcohol, and then the viewer is led to believe that these shows will end with some sort of proposal of marriage!
The worst of these actually does it backwards. 3 ‘Married at First Sight’ couples splitting up was the headline at Fox News, talking about a show that has couples get married at first sight, and then the viewer is watching to see if they will break this holy band or stick it out. Talk about trivializing commitment.
2. They Set Up Artificial Situations no one else can match
How many times have you guys had multiple people of opposite sex all vying for your attention and wanting to be your spouse? Ok, how many times has it been over 10 at the same time?
If any of you have either been to camp or have been counselors at a summer co-ed camp you know that emotions and hormones run high during these times and summer romances are not uncommon. At our summer music camp, we had “Puppy Love Patrol” and we watched for people being “purple”.
Now, picture a lot of 20 year olds with a lot to drink having intense emotional and physical encounters with the one person you’re all vying for, and you find the ultimate in manufactured romance. This is artificial in and of itself!
Now the viewers can look at that and compare their spouse to what’s going on in this artificial environment. Are they providing enough stimulation and amazing trips? Are they as good looking? If that guy/girl can get all that attention, why can’t I?
This is not healthy.
3. They Encourage Narcissism
Who gets the most screen time? The person that is most self absorbed. A person on these shows is in it for the publicity and the money. To do that they have to have a memorable personality. How many hours of film do you think are left on the cutting room floor of uninteresting events and dialog. The producers are telling a story, and only those that are in it for themselves will find a way to be notable—even if it is as the villain.
This is all fed by the alcohol and the non-stop discussions about who is friend and who is foe. This is manufactured and promoted. It’s all about you and whether you’re going to win, until you lose.
4. The Dating Relationship is a place to Compete and Deceive to “Win”
While most of the real world views dating as either a fun way to get together with the opposite sex or to get to know someone that you might want as a mate later in life, these shows turn this into a competition—a place to do the opposite of what you want in a life-long partnership.
- You’re encouraged to rank yourselves against others.
- You’re not viewed as bad if you don’t tell one of the contestants about the other, or lie to them about their standing as compared to the other.
- Hidden items about your life and your plans are completely expected, except when they’re something that makes you stand out.
While most of the outside world would suggest you be honest about yourself as a key to better your relationship, all of this is thrown out the window in the name of winning the money or getting the guy/girl.
5. It’s not Serious
You can tell that it’s not serious by how many people actually propose at the end. I can only think of one Bachelorette that actually married the guy that she selected and that is still going strong. Everything else has been a failure as far as that is concerned with the latest Bachelors choosing to be upfront about the idea that it’s only for laughs and the producers saying that it’s more about the journey than the destination.
On the flip side, marriage is very serious. It’s about vows, promises and keeping those promises. It’s about two people becoming one flesh and living their lives together until death. It’s not something to be entered lightly or flippantly.
That’s why these shows are bad for the Institution of Marriage and for men and women that cherish it.