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Lisa Steinberg Headshot

Role Models in Reality TV

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If you're a reality show junkie like I am, and you have to get your fix, you have plenty to choose from on most weeknights. While indulging in your guilty pleasure reality shows, you may see a pattern when it comes to network shows like the Housewives franchises on Bravo, The Celebrity Apprentice on NBC, MTV's hit series Jersey Shore, or even the Mob Wives franchise on VH1. Many of the female leads of these shows continue to spiral away from being role models and providing empowerment to young viewers with their perpetual backstabbing, cursing, cat fighting, and double-dealing. It's a wonder how much reality goes into these programs, because when you tune in to an episode, you can hear the same words being uttered by these women no matter what the show is, "I don't like drama." Yet consistently drama is what surrounds these women and it almost seems like the ladies thrive on it. Because if there isn't drama, then networks feel viewers won't find the episode worth watching.

Last year on Celebrity Apprentice, the highly gossiped about showdown between Star Jones and NeNe Leakes seemed to be all people could talk about. The two got into several verbal fisticuffs and eventually NeNe packed her bags and carted herself off of the show. Karen Gravano and Drita D'Avanzo got into a recent scrap in an episode of Mob Wives when the two went to blows at a night club during Renee Graziano's birthday party, which left Drita with a black eye. Teresa Giudice and has had a few altercations with her fellow housewives, including the infamous feud with Danielle Staub, which resulted in a table being flipped over. Reality programs thrive on drama, but are these women the right role models to younger viewers? It's easy to be hooked in to the appeal of these shows. Sadly, though, after watching for just a few short moments, parents will find that their little angels should not be tuning in or using most of these women as an example on how to behave or treat others. While these women do bring a strong presence to the small screen, this presence isn't exactly the most upstanding.

Growing up some of rules of etiquette and manners that were instilled in me were to treat others with respect and how you would want to be treated, never speak or act in anger, and that to bully others is cowardly. These rules of wisdom continue to escape these reality-based TV stars who fail to realize just who is tuning in to see their actions weekly. Then again, the lines of reality and fiction also become a blur when it comes to sensationalism in media. Is it more about viewership and ratings, or are these shows really worth watching to see these women degrade themselves for thirty to sixty minutes? For many of these females, reality shows appear to be a platform that is their stepping stone into more lucrative deals for handbags, perfumes, makeup, clothing lines, jewelry, or spinoff shows. Certainly reality shows provide an angle that allows these ladies to market themselves and any other product they want to hock. How can you beat being paid to sell your merchandise and your soul? Certainly sex sells, but at what costs?

The vicious cycles of promoting sensationalized drama are what keep networks churning out more of these over hyped programs and adding money into their pockets. What's addicting to some; may be atrocious to others. Reality programs can always be compared to a car accident, you shouldn't look, but you just can't turn away. The famous Dr. Seuss quote always comes to mind when I watch a reality show, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." If that's true, the women of reality TV should stick to the motto "Mind over matter."