Do reality shows destroy our culture?
Vajazzles, ‘Tashing on’ and dull tones of Simon Cowell are some of the things reality TV has kindly given us,alongside an insight into the lives of people from some of the United Kingdom’s largest cities. According to reality TV a good selection of well-educated people in the London suburb of Chelsea while away their time totes shortening words and people from the large country of Essex like to give their skin a perfect tangerine glow before hitting the clubs. Of course shows such as Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex and Geordie Shore never give the impression the entire populations of these areas act like the characters but inevitably the stereotype does rub off. Being from an area near Newcastle-Upon Tyne myself I often mention this in conversation only to be met with, ‘Oh Geordie Shore!’. It doesn’t offend me at all it just saddens me that the first thing that comes to someone’s mind about my city is not the glorious Georgian architecture of Grey street or even Newcastle United’s footballing prowess but a bunch of people who get wasted on a regular basis. Geordie shore attempts to blind people to what Newcastle’s true culture is.
I understand a lot of people may believe these programs to just be a bit of harmless fun but the extent of their influence goes deeply into the cultures of the area’s they represent. Annabelle Barberis, a psychology student from the University of Kent but originally from Essex herself told me, ‘I feel The Only Way is Essex is quite a bad influence on young girls. The character’s from the show are seen to be drinking lots, talking about sex and going to certain shops, and younger girls feel like they have to copy this and live up to the Essex name.’ Personally I see their influence on the language through terms such as ‘tashing on’ which never existed in the Geordie dialect until Geordie Shore came along. Consequently a lot of people in the Newcastle area decided to start using the phrase to emphasise to others how North Eastern they are, which shows how these reality shows shape a culture.
However in some instances reality TV does on occasion give something to British Culture. Strictly Come Dancing revived Ballroom dancing encouraging many people to get off their Sofas and give it a go, then there’s the Great British Bake Off which initiated an entire baking rather than buying craze. Even the X Factor and its predecessor Pop Idol started off as a competition for people to become a professional singer who may have never had the chance before. Unfortunately X Factor has gradually changed over the years instead of being presented with the stunning vocals of Leona Lewis we are presented with the theatrics of Jedward and Rylan. It has become a gladiatorial arena where controversial contestants who can barely sing are thrown on stage to be torn apart by judges who for effect would start tearing chunks out of each other. The coverage creates a fake reality where drama is essential and arguments between judges are emphasise or even allegedly staged. So does the X Factor affect our society’s culture? On a music level, definitely for years the winners of the show drowned out any competition for Christmas number one. On another level the show projects an image of being able to achieve Pop star fame through ludacris stunts and dramatic backstage gossip so inevitably this will affect the next generation of young singers.
If reality TV did depict reality accurately then the question of such programs destroying our culture would not need to be asked. With things the way they are we just have to keep reminding ourselves that everything in front of us is not all fact and if we do this then true cultures will be preserved.