#3. There Is More Reality TV Than Science (And We) Can Handle
"Determining Dimensions of Reality: A Concept Mapping of the Reality TV Landscape"
Robin L. Nabi, Professor, U. Penn.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, June 2007
That title might sound like something Reed Richards would shout before accidentally opening a portal to hell in downtown Manhattan, but it's even worse: There are now so many reality shows that researchers are trying to map them. Like an oceanic trench, but with even more horrific abominations in it.
Science confirms that the giant isopod is a more medically advisable sexual partner than any Bachelor ever.
There are now so many reality shows that a scientist had to apply multidimensional scaling to map them, though she may lose that job title because of it. A study of 300 locals found that the only two themes they all agreed on were "romance" and "competitiveness," making Pennsylvania possibly the worst place for dating or small talk in the entire world.
They prove their scaling works because they realize that Newlyweds and Wedding Story -- shows about people who decide to sell their own marriages for fame -- are measurably less romantic than Punk'd.
Professor Nabi concluded with concerns about how viewers were being reprogrammed with romance and competition as their two main drives. "Repeated pairing of these two attributes might create and/or reinforce the view of potential mates as prizes to be won rather than cherished long-term relational partners." Reality TV actively ruins romance for the next generation by turning it into an ugly fight.
Thanks, science. We hadn't worked that one out.
#2. It Even Manages to Make the Internet Dumber
"Reality Television as a Model for Online Behavior: Blogging, Photo, and Video Sharing"
Professor Michael A. Stefanone, Ph.D., Derek Lackaff
State University of New York
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14, p964, 2009
A study at the State University of New York linked reality TV with the need to share every pointless detail of your life online and accelerated the downfall of human intelligence by giving 100 students class credits for talking about reality TV. That's the exact opposite of what universities are for. Professor Michael Stefanone found a significant association between the quantity of RTV consumed and the decision to maintain a blog full of "nondirected self-disclosure," the most scientific-sounding way to describe talking about what you had for lunch.
"How did people tell strangers about their sex lives before the Internet?"
Growing up with reality television teaches you that sharing every irrelevant thought as publicly as possible isn't the province of lunatics in trench-coats and attention whores but is "normative" and "prosocial," which we're fairly sure are psychobabble words for good things. Keeping Up With the Kardashians being taken as the basis of a society makes 1984 look like a nice future. Hell, it makes Fallout 3 look good.
We'd prefer global nuclear war to the invention of the spray-on tan.
It's a cargo cult: They see people with absolutely no ability becoming famous, sharing absolutely every irrelevant detail of their lives with the world, and confuse one of the effects with the cause. They then proceed to pour out every pointless emotion in a never-ending toxic spill of weaponized boredom.
#1. The One Way Reality TV Seems to Be Useful
"Organizing Customers: Learning From Big Brother"
Professor Tobias Fredberg
Chalmers University of Technology
Long Range Planning 42 (2009), 320-340
So the arts and sciences used statistical analysis, mathematical modeling and freaking Aristotle to take a long, hard look at reality TV and were at best confused and at worst, found themselves looking into the inky black eyes of a murder bot in the moments before they roll over white and begin to attack. But surely all our viewing behaviors are telling someone something useful.
The title 'Organizing Customers: Learning From Big Brother" combines more horror and blatant exploitation than Shaft filming a Saw sequel. It couldn't imply the viewers were sheep harder if it somehow suggested they be ground up for mutton. That would still be more respectful, because even farmers don't use the phrase "and hence enable extraction of value." Which isn't just a quote from the paper, but the stated goal of the paper from the intro.
The paper reads like it was written by Terminators. If you replaced every incidence of "customers" with "toasters," there would be more human emotion because it would at least be surprising to read that toasters had money. But there is nothing surprising about this analysis of fan behavior. At least not to anyone who was paying attention to every cartoonishly evil businessman to ever kill the good guy without a trace of remorse, or any of Bill Hicks' observations about advertisers.
He once ate a marketing director's heart.
Beyond their capacity for spending money, there is literally no way to detect that the researchers are talking about living beings. For instance, the abstract notes that, "As their commitment grows, they become prepared to spend more to access new streams of Big Brother information." You only need to look at the fact that people are now buying seasons of reality shows on DVD to see that TV executives have learned from Big Brother's ability to get us to spend.
We're fairly certain watching any episode on this DVD more than once qualifies as a severe mental disorder.
But is it just a fad? Well, things keep happening if they make money. And reality TV is making a lot of money, thanks to the fact that a real TV show costs over a million dollars to make, while a reality show costs around $100,000. They're so cheap that many of the people winning the cash prizes could fund their very own shows. A Survivor winner could produce an entire six-episode series. And when that happens, future readers, it should be taken as the signal to climb into your Repulsor Armor and begin Operation: Purge. Don't worry -- your targets will all be held motionless for at least 30 minutes.
Be sure to pick up our book since we're guessing you probably shot your TV after reading that.
For more reasons to huck your television out of a window, check out 5 Ways Television Went Crazy Since I Quit Watching in 2003 and 6 Deadly Injuries You Think You'd Survive (Thanks to Movies).