Reality television is defined as being ‘designed to be entertaining rather than informative.’ Love-orientated reality television programs such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are prime examples of Australian television programs centred around finding the ‘happily ever after’ that everybody dreams about.
The psychology of reality television enjoyment and what keeps us hooked on these shows has been found through various studies. A prime example is from Shitrit and Cohen from the University of Haifa in Israel in 2015 for the Journal of Media Psychology. After 163 Israelis’ participated in watching various reality television programs, they found a common link between negative responses made from a program and the viewing enjoyment. This mythbusted the idea that ‘viewers’ enjoyment comes primarily from watching others suffer and being humiliated.’ They confirmed that humiliation is not the central motivation for the love for the shows, but empathy, particularly in love-oriented programs. This supports the common theory of reality TV being a reflection of the idealistic lifestyle of a particular society.
Even the Network Ten Chief Content Officer, Beverley McGarvey has defined The Bachelor series as “a pop culture phenomenon” or by definition ‘popular culture transmitted via the mass media’.
In other words, ‘Corporate media functions as our most common agent of socialisation, molding our self-perceptions and how we relate to, and treat, others.’This therefore contradicts all claims from The Bachelors’ description of ‘honest’ couples journey to true love and is merely giving audiences what they want to see.
Previous contestants on shows such as The Bachelor have revealed to media outlets the strenuous conditions they were put under in order to create a dramatised reaction to a situation. This includes keeping them inside all day as ‘any animosity between (the contestants) gets magnified in that environment. And they’re encouraged to talk about it on camera. They all have cabin fever.”
As dramatic as this sounds, It’s not far from the reality of ‘reality’ television.
Jennifer Pozner, a media analyst and journalist says that television producers ‘prioritise profit over quality storytelling in the entertainment realm, which is the sole reason reality TV is so prevalent.’ Reality TV shows are an easy money grab as they cost about half as much per episode as a scripted show and are a prime marketing tool for product placement.
Besides reality television working as an easy money making platform, Reality television is a fabricated form of entertainment that is merely a hyperbolised reflection of popular trends in a particular society. The reason reality television is so popular among general audiences is that it allows us to glimpse a glamorised reality and escape the one we currently live in. If a television program can create an idealistic view of love and reflect some element of the major beliefs and values of the time in which it was created, it will draw audiences to make a bowl of popcorn and curl up on the couch to keep up with what the network producers will make the star crossed lovers do next.