Currently, owing to the incredibly speedy growth of the mass media, most families have owned at least one television in the modern life. At their best, the television shows try to entertain large and diverse audiences, and help people understand the events and trends rapidly. Like reality TV shows, which are getting popular nowadays because they show real events happening to real people. At their worst, they can erode the quality of people’s life sometimes and make numerous young audiences less sensitive on tragedies. This fact has raised a question among the public whether the reality TV is pure entertainment, or it makes young viewers numbed. Some people think a little conflict from reality shows will not impact on youths seriously. However, if they are exposed to violent reality TV everyday, the young will lack of empathy for human suffering. Therefore, reality TV is dangerous to young audiences because it will desensitize them to violent behaviors. The more time youngsters spend on violent reality TV, the more cruel they will be. It is evident to witness that these unconventional genre of television programs, like docu-soaps, are prevalent recently. Take Jersey Shore for example, it is an MTV reality TV show that has eight Italian young people who spend their summer together in New Jersey. Yet, it was rank the top one on MTV’s channel.
However, there are plenty of verbal and physical violence in it, like punching, bullying or kicking, which are shown though all seasons. Hours and hours exposure from these violent struggles and bloodiness have desensitized teenagers to the interpersonal conflict, or even tragedies caused by the real world around them. Ultimately, the constant violent graphics and scenes impel young audiences to have more desire for brutal and bloody fight. This disturbing appetite leads to youths become more cruel in the real life. According to Rushdie (2001), “ If we are willing to watch people stab one another in the back, might we not also be willing to actually watch them die?” (p.217) At this point, one’s suffering can stimulate young audiences’ viewing pleasure and generate more titillation after having numbed senses. Besides, young audiences who become numbed on watching violent reality TV will lack the basic emotions.
Comparing to other genres television shows, reality TV often serves up personal catastrophes for public consumption. Audiences pay to see how tragic, pathetic and unfortunate people are in the reality TV, and make fun of it. Not like adults, adolescence is the right time for youths to develop their brains, especially the part that controls emotional behaviors. Influenced by the violence shown on reality TV, youngsters will treat violence as entertainment in an acceptable way. Lacking of empathy for human suffering leads to many people only stand and watch or do not even slow down when they pass by a car accident or skirmish. Under this circumstance, young people will be deficient in some basic emotions, such as sympathy, sadness, shame, anger or happiness. It means that they will have no feeling or reaction when they encounter tragedies. What is more, reality TV will blur the distinction between fantasy and reality. Primarily, reality TV creates a world, which is similar to a real world. Most viewers would not realize that they have desensitized because reality TV is hiring amateur participants rather than professional actors, and does not rely on traditional scripts.
When the violent situations come to the reality shows people start to believe what they see. Viewers who are exposed constantly to a considerable number of outrageous behaviors will no long be shocked, and their brains will not respond to the violence anymore. They incline that it is normal. The increasing similar violence from reality TV occurs in people’s daily life as well, which makes they become indifferent to the suffering of others just because they have seen brutal conflicts many times. On the contrast, the others consider that only a little conflict in the reality TV will not affect people’s emotion that much. When people are confronted with tragedies, they still show sympathy and sadness instead of passing by with indifference. On July 23, 2012, there was a shooting at the Friday premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, and twelve audiences were killed by a gunman who is twenty-four years old. Many people who passed by were shocked by the gunshots, and tried to help the vulnerable audiences in plight. What is more, after the news showed on the television, many audiences concerned about the condition of injury.
On the other hand, it also can be reflected from numerous volunteers and parades on the street to against the violent behaviors and fight. Simultaneously, some volunteers are still in school. Thus, young audiences will not be desensitized from violent reality TV. It is correct that some people will show sympathy and concern when others are confronted danger and death. However, as a matter of fact, a sizable number of people who pass by just because of curiosity, they leave after they have known what happens. Honestly, the majority of audiences are more willing to notice the big events, which involve heavy casualties or serious accidents, and neglect some events that are not significant. More brutal behaviors and bloodiness showed from reality TV make people feel monotonous and normal. Desensitization makes them want to be stimulated by more cruel events.
It is obvious to see that people usually stop and only watch when they see some arguments or catfights on the street. Sometimes, especially young people even take pictures or record the conflicts when they actually have abilities to prevent. Consequently, the personal catastrophes from reality TV make audiences have no feeling on the normal tragedies, or even treat these as entertainment and enjoy confrontations. In conclusion, watching repeated viewing of violent reality TV has a detrimental influence to most viewers, particular to the young audiences. Although the reality TV is getting popular among the young, ubiquitous violence will lead to desensitization, which makes viewers eager to have more cruel and bloody appetite for entertaining. They will lack the basic feeling for human suffering and become impassive. The situation goes from bad to worse when young people combine the media with the real world, and treat the tragedies as humor situations, like video tape the accidents and fight.
Rushdie, Salman. “Reality TV: A Dearth of Talent and the Death of Morality.” The Blair Reader. Eds. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Boston: Pearson Publishing, 2011. 215-217. Print.