Reality Show Analysis

One of the classes I am taking this semester is called Twisted Reality Shows.  I did not know it what it was about until I took the class; I don’t care for reality TV anymore, but I moved forward with the class because there was nothing to replace it.  I know lots of people think that reality TV (if it can be called reality…) is bad and possibly not worthy of academic study, but there is a lot of information that I found interesting, and we have lots of good discussions in class.  The class focuses on the whole phenomena of reality TV including where it came from, various categories, it’s effect on culture and how real or fake it actually is.

This is an assignment for the class we have to take a specific reality show from a certain category (love, sex, and marriage; families; children; voyeuristic;) and analyze them.

These are the instructions from the course syllabus:

Watch a minimum of three episodes of a reality show NOT VIEWED IN CLASS from one of the following categories:
Love, Sex and Marriage; Family; Kids and Reality TV; Voyeuristic TV and write a 1-2 page analysis of the show.
Analysis should include:
 Show category
 Characters/archetypes
 Intended audience
 Product tie-ins
 Your opinion of the level of “reality” on a scale of 1-10 (10 being real, 1 being total fiction) and why
 You must include the episode titles and original air dates in your references

My analysis is below.  Enjoy.  If you don’t like reality TV, don’t worry because soon I will have another blog post that you will probably like better.

For this analysis I will discuss one of my favorite shows from when I was in high school.  It is the MTV series Next.  It is in the category of “Love, sex, and marriage.”

Next has a certain format as follows.  A young adult aged 18-25 is set up on a date with five people also in that age range.  They are the dater and the five people are the candidates so to speak.  If they do not like the person they are dating, whether because of personality, appearance, talent, and so on, then they simply say the word “Next,” and they go on to dating the next person.  The rejected person is sent back to an RV called the “Next Bus,” and they are paid a dollar for each minute the date lasted.  If the subject likes the person they are dating, then they offer them the chance to go on another date or “take the money” they earned from the date “and run.”  If the candidate chooses to take the money, then the dater does not get the chance to date anyone else that they have not already dated.  Sometimes the dater will say “next” to everybody they are set up with, and they end up not having a date.

There are a variety of archetypes present to represent all types of men and woman.  Some men are “alpha males” and very assertive and arrogant.  Others are sensitive nice guys.  Some are nerds or geeks.  One young Asian man seemed to conform to a stereotype of Asian men being   One young man has a very “frat boy” personality and not necessarily the most respectful towards women.   Some women are “high maintenance” and expect any man they date to treat them like queens and to be “real men” who are masculine and conform to traditional male gender roles and stereotypes.  There are also young women who seem naïve and innocent because of their.  Several of them also seem to be “party girls.”  One young woman said that she went on a spring break vacation to Cancun, Mexico and acted rather “crazy.”

The show also has episodes with gay and lesbian situations.  Not surprisingly there are also gay and lesbian stereotypes depicted.  One of the gay men being set up with a contestant named Karl has flamboyant mannerisms and talks in a high-pitched voice sometimes called the “gay lisp.”

All of the episodes of Next that I watched were special spring break episodes.  To that end, it seems as though these episodes and the show in general were targeted towards students in college.  They are possibly also targeted towards the 18-25 age range, since only people aged 18-25 are ever seen in the show.  I think this show has the chance to relevant to young adults because nowadays young adults often date in non-traditional ways.  There is of course the Internet.  Also, many of dates are not necessarily traditional dates, where people watch a movie or go out to a nice restaurant.  Next often features unique activities, usually inspired the subject’s interests or career goals.  One episode featured a donkey ride between the date and her potential candidate.  Another interviewed her prospective dates because she plans to pursue a career as a talk show host; she wanted to see how compatible they are with her.  It seems like most people of this generation are interested finding a way to make romance interesting and are not necessarily into the formal way that past generations sought romantic partners.

An interesting question about reality shows is if they are actually being called by the right name or not.  In the case of Next, there are several scenes which are very suspect, and they seem highly unlikely to me.  At the end of each segment (each episode focuses on two separate segments with two separate individuals being set up on dates with five people), regardless of whether the dater rejects all five potential dates or manages to convince one of their dates to see them a second time, the remaining potential dates make a statement in unison which is often insulting to the dater (and his or her date if applicable).  That is clearly made up and rehearsed; they presumable decide to say something, or they are given something by the producers to say.  Other suspicious problems are that several of the things said sound scripted lines.  I am not necessarily talking the instances where the dater and the potential dates are introducing themselves; that has to be planned ahead of time.  One young woman is rejected because of her small breast.  She makes a pun about her breasts being small chicken cutlets.  I’m not a woman, but I would guess that if a woman were insulted and rejected because of small breasts she would not necessarily make a pun about them.  Or rather, it would not always come out of nowhere and seem clever at the same time.  One other occasion features a young man rejected for being a nerd.  He tells the young woman that she is going to miss out on his big penis.  He tells the other young men who were rejected or had not yet met the young woman that his penis is large and that she is missing out.  They insist he show it to them.  He stands up in front of them and does show them his penis, and they are very impressed; they respond by making  comments such “Get that thing off my foot,” and “You’re gonna tip the bus over .”  Honestly, most straight men would not want to see the penis of another man.  Yes, straight people are often curious about the bodies of people of their own sex; however, that seems to go away mostly after the onset of adulthood.  I doubt that most straight men would ask to see the penis of another man that he has not even known for a whole day; perhaps if they were close friends and had known each other for quite some time, I could see that, but I can’t really buy the situation as presented on the show.  In another episode a young woman and one of her candidates decides race on the beach with donkeys.  She rejects him because he rode the donkey too slowly.  That struck me as ridiculous.  I mean, riding donkeys or horses is not an inborn talent.  One has to learn how to do it.  It just seems so implausible to reject a person for that.  Maybe she just wanted to make an excuse to get rid of him and simply was not attracted to him.  However, plenty of other contestants on the show honestly and bluntly rejected candidates for being physically unattractive.

Because of all of the issues I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I will rate the level of reality as a five.  The basic situations are real.  However, many of the specifics are either scripted or staged.

References

           Karl and Lindsay [Television series episode]. (2007). In Miller, K. (Executive Producer), Next. MTV. Retrieved from http://www.mtv.com/videos/spring-break-next-karl-and-lindsay/1554746/playlist.jhtml

Jessica and Lorenzo [Television series episode]. (2007). In Miller, K. (Executive Producer), Next. MTV. Retrieved from http://www.mtv.com/videos/spring-break-next-jessica-and-lorenzo/1554720/playlist.jhtml

Zack and Tiffanie [Television series episode]. (2007). In Miller, K. (Executive Producer), Next. MTV. Retrieved from http://www.mtv.com/videos/spring-break-next-zack-and-tiffanie/1554738/playlist.jhtml

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