Okay, admit it… “Jersey Shore” used to be your guilty pleasure. Don’t worry; we’re not judging you. Everyone loves a little trash TV once in a while. It’s actually nice to just get to witness other people’s drama from the safety of your living room rather than having to deal with it ourselves for a change. But entertainment value asides, if you take a look at the start of the drama in shows like “Jersey Shore”, “Real Housewives”, and “The Bachelor,” you’ll keep coming up with the same trigger: substance abuse.
Somebody drinks too much, yells, and starts a fight. Another night, somebody drinks too much and finds themself in a sexually promiscuous situation. Flip the channel and somebody is drinking too much and getting kicked off the show. It’s not hard to see that substance abuse – primarily concerning alcohol – and reality TV go hand-in-hand.
Pushing for Views
The goal of any TV show is to get viewers. The more viewers a show gets, the more popular it becomes and the more money it makes. Audiences primarily tune into TV shows for one of two reasons: to be informed or to be entertained. Reality TV falls into the second category: entertainment. We, as a culture, love drama. We like excitement, conflict (as long as it doesn’t involve us), and unpredictability. Reality TV uses this to its advantage. Producers attempt to spike the entertainment factor of their shows and draw viewers by triggering drama. And what better trigger for drama is there than the dangerous, obnoxious, and behavior-altering effects of alcohol?
A lot of times, the audience won’t really be cognizant of the alcohol. They’ll of course notice it, but most viewers will be more interested in the effect (drama) than the cause (alcohol). So, the show participants are the ones who are in direct fire of the dangers of this substance abuse push.
Many reality TV shows choose not to explicitly push substance abuse but glamorize it instead. Having a glass of wine (or five) every night is portrayed as sophisticated. Going out to high-end bars is seen as the cool thing to do. These shows hurt the audience more than they hurt the cast members. Viewers will naturally compare themselves and their lives to the people they see on their favorite shows. Young viewers might even hold these cast members up as role models. If the cast members are constantly drinking, going out, or trying other illicit substances, viewers will tend to justify these activities to themselves and downplay the dangers.
Some reality TV shows are just flat out based around substance abuse. This is incredibly dangerous because cast members are essentially putting themselves at risk for the sake of entertainment alone (and maybe a paycheck). It may be entertaining to watch when the people are hysterical and ridiculous, but it completely undermines the fact that substance abuse is a real and dangerous disorder that has very serious consequences, including addiction and death.
The Real Reality…
It’s easy for us to remove ourselves from the dangers of substance abuse when we’re physically separated from it by a TV screen. But that protective bubble can do more harm than help. Removing the danger means justification of the action. And substance abuse isn’t something that can be safely justified. A “Ron-Ron Juice” fueled drunken argument might seem entertaining from the comfort of your leather couch (does everyone remember “Raahhhn, staahhhp!”?) but addiction, overdose, physical and emotional abuse, and death are not.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, New Start can help. Call us at 855-737-7363 or reach out to us on our live chat.