Shiny bulging muscles, loud and unintelligent screaming, tangerine skin, hair gel, grotesque alcohol consumption, over-sexualized disposition… What reality TV show fits this description? Better question: what ethnicity fits this description?
“Jersey Shore” premiered in 2009, and despite the 3.5/10 rating it received, the reality TV show about a group of young adults tearing it up at South Miami Beach became a huge epidemic. Maybe the show got so much traffic because of how ridiculous its subjects acted; this kind of outlandish behavior has proven to do well with American television consumers. This is why the reality TV industry has become a multi-million dollar one.
But despite how much talk and how many views this program received, the main problem was this: all of the people on the show are Italian-Americans and perpetuate that group’s nastiest stereotypes.
“Jersey Shore” is a prime example of how often reality TV shows promote dangerous stereotypes of certain groups of people, and it is just one of many programs to do so. Everyone remembers “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” How could you not? TLC chronically portrays this featured family, living in McIntyre, Ga., as a bunch of nose-picking, lard-eating hooligans. While some viewers claimed that the show was “must-see TV,” many criticized it for being highly offensive for people residing in the South. This program took hold of a popular stereotype (southern redneckery and unintelligence) and exemplified it, making a laughing stock of an entire region.
People always hear older generations complaining about the corrupt nature of today’s millennials. A special 'thank you' goes out to the creators of reality TV shows like “Bad Girls Club” for perpetuating that stereotype.
Even in reality TV shows that aren’t focused on a specific race or region like “The Kitchen” or the presently popular “Bachelor,” the producers make sure to fill the cast with cheap architypes that reduce the characters to stereotypes. This supposedly makes the plot engaging or easy to follow and enhances humor in some way (the heavy-chested dumb blonde girl that doesn’t respect herself, the headstrong black woman that loves to start fights, etc).
Stereotypes are restricting to our society and stunt the growth and progression of equality. It is evident that some divisions of television have recognized this, but in general, reality TV is unauthentic and corrupt. This is something television consumers should keep in mind when plugging in to their favorite show. Some programs, like "The Biggest Loser," don't utilize grotesque stereotypes because it's not necessary to the plot or message—there's no denying that. For the sake of the groups that are being profiled through this outlet, we must hope that the industry will find a more organic way to provide entertainment in a form that doesn’t perpetually offend people.