networks have staked their claim in what is the first gold rush of the 21st century. The reasoning behind this shift is twofold: the genre is extremely cheap to produce, and has the potential for huge ratings. In a climate where it is not unusual for television stars to ask for a million dollars an episode, the idea of paying some no names a few thousand dollars per episode, while surpassing the big name sitcoms in the ratings, is a very appealing one. It is because of these very appealing thoughts of the almighty dollar that networks continue to peddle out what is quite possibly the most disturbing aspect of our popular culture.

Reality television, by definition, is an outright lie. The point is to get people to watch. Hardly anyone (aside from NBA all stars) will have 50 women fighting for the right to date them. Even less will have the voyeuristic experience of living in a camera and microphone filled house with 10 other people. The high ratings for such shows rely on this complete departure from the reality of the majority of Americans. This reliance on being shocking and exciting also requires the makers of such entertainment to keep pushing the envelope further and further, in order to keep attracting viewers. Who wants to watch the same show over and over again? Thus begins the natural progression from the fairly innocuous “Real World” of the early 90s to the trash TV of today.

The major problem with this continuing slide in programming is that those who view it don’t walk away unaffected. The behavior that was once a complete departure from the everyday slowly begins to become normal and accepted. Because people are social animals, we learn by imitating behavior of others. The skills that allow us to walk, talk, read, and write are all dependent on us watching and listening to someone else do it first. We are built to learn by doing what others do.

Typically, behavioral guidance is provided by family and friends, but with the increase in the number of parents working two jobs to support a lifestyle that used to take one job, today there is not as much time to be spent with children. Television thus not only occupies the role of baby sitter, but also becomes the authority figure and role model of the house. Anyone who doubts this should analyze recent examples of television encouraging hazardous behavior. Do you remember the controversy raised by the adolescents who were copying the stunts performed on MTV’s “Jackass” show? People ranging from 13-19
sustained serious injuries, after imitating stunts from the popular cable show. These young people were merely duplicating what they saw on television.

This imitative process doesn’t stop in childhood, however. It continues throughout life. How many have gotten their hair styled like a favorite actor/actress, or repeated a catch phrase from a popular beer commercial? What about the countless numbers whom have bought cars because of the stylish and trendy appearance in an ad, or bought a CD because the singer looked so nice in the video? How many people use TV characters as role models, and actually begin to imitate their behavior at work or school for laughs? It’s human nature to absorb and imitate what we see.

Understanding we’re designed to observe and duplicate behavior, it is not difficult to see the danger in mindlessly absorbing the newest reality television shows. Programs that encourage women to become absolute whores in order to attract a man, and shows that feature male contestants whose only “virtue” is the cowardly ability to back stab, lie, and cheat not only set horrible standards for television, but also set horrible examples for the people in general. These new shows tend to reduce people to mere objects, playthings to be courted and then discarded, mindless abstractions, and, at worst, animals.

A society that embraces these “ideals” would soon become so decadent that there would be no need to worry about foreign invasions, because it would collapse in on itself. And yet, with so much time being allotted to reality shows promoting the worst humanity has to offer, how could the amorality not be ingrained into the minds of those who watch it? It’s no different than the ads and shows which influence us to buy products and imitate actors. The more you watch, the more you will believe.

So what is the solution to this problem? The easiest is to simply change the channel. The best is to turn off the set. 

As Jesus Christ said, “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering it. But the gate is narrow and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are they who find it. (MT. 7:13-14) The words of the Son of God ring true as always. 

The path that is being presented to us on television (and many other fronts) these days is a very wide one. The behavior promoted, jealousy, hatred, adultery, and misery, are all billboards on that road. Its first destination is hell on earth, a police state where the governors are the masters, and the governed are the slaves. A world where the slaves are so decadent that they have no idea what their masters are doing, or worse, don’t care. So use your minds while you still have them.

It’s up to the individual to make his or her own decisions, and not be seduced by the images and actions seen on what will constitute nearly half of all television programming in the coming months. If we, as a nation, allow ourselves to be dehumanized like the fools that appear on many of these shows, we are only playing into the hands of those who wish to control us. It’s time to wake up!
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Reality Bites: Pop Culture Poison: Reality TV

By Kevin Newsom

Flipping through the television channels last week, I was amazed by the amount of “reality” programming that fills up the airwaves of prime time. Chances are, on any given night, either the broadcast networks or their cable counterparts will be offering the latest opportunity for you to watch men and women eating bovine testicles, walking on broken glass, or maybe even cheating on their husbands or wives.

Producers around the country can’t seem to get enough. It’s estimated that reality TV will account for nearly 40% of this summer’s television offerings, as each of the big four broadcast
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Kevin Newsom

Previous Columns

• Reality Bites: Pop Culture Poison: Reality TV

• The Corporate/Government Axis

• Roger Andrews: The New American Hero - Part IV

• Roger Andrews: The New American Hero - Part III

• Roger Andrews: The New American Hero - Part II

• Roger Andrews: The New American Hero