Reality Television: Nastier Than Fiction

According to a new study, reality shows involve more cruelty than fictional TV shows.

The study examined 10 popular UK shows from 2007, and found that programs like Celebrity Apprentice and Big Brother showcased more acts of aggression per hour of TV than shows like ER and Torchwood. The researchers looked at verbal aggression (taunts, insults) and relational aggression (gossiping, threatening to end a relationship) in addition to physical aggression.

Not mentioned in the study — but obvious to anyone who knows anything about reality TV — is the fact that producers encourage and cultivate this behavior. As The Real Housewives of New Jersey 's Teresa Giudice tells People:

As Housewives, our job is to be outrageous, controversial and entertaining. As the old Hollywood saying goes, we are not paid to think. We literally are not supposed to think, we're supposed to speak. In real life, with your friends and neighbors, you edit yourself. You might think, "Ho bag!" in your head, but in the Real Housewives World, on camera, you are expected to say it out loud. That's the whole point of the show. People can't read our minds, so we talk.

Still, it's crazy that the kind of things a writer can imagine people doing to each other are not as sick as the way people actually treat each other on reality shows. At least it's worth it, right? Folks on American Idol turn into real idols, and girls on America's Next Top Model become top models and whomever withstands the verbal abuse that is Hell's Kitchen becomes a famous chef. Oh, wait.

Reality TV Proves Meaner Than Fiction [LiveScience]
Real Housewives: Teresa's Take on Fame, Fans and Housewife Life [People]
Reality TV Scams [The Daily Beast]