The Reality of Television

Television has been around for decades, and when it started there were only a handful of programs to watch. By contrast, cable TV has changed drastically over the last couple of years, with an explosion of offerings. Reruns, new genres and concepts are all what the “magic box” holds. Compared to earlier programming, shows have not only gotten funnier and more adventurous, but they have also become violent and sexualized. Surprisingly, TV shows and movies that have violent or mature content pull in views. This is surprising because it is assumed that people would not appreciate these things being shown. These shows don’t just pull in enough views to keep it going for the season, but views resulting in the start of fandoms and social media advocates. People watch these shows not because they actually think the content is important to the show itself, but because of the surprises that they hold.

Many shows and movies nowadays are rated PG-13 and up due to the nature of its content. As relatable as it is, many people prepare themselves to watch TV. They go around all day reminding others about what’s airing that night. They are usually excited to watch shows like The Walking Dead; a show where a death every episode is not enough. The necessity for such rated showings is a result of curiosity. According to an unsourced TV critic, “Seeing the possibilities of the horrible things man could do to one another. And to some, it lures us in.” People don’t get to witness those sorts of things in person. Of course a zombie apocalypse is not (currently) occurring, but people are fascinated by shows that display what it would be like if there was one. When good actors and directors can pull off realistic looking ideology, deaths, and massacres, it makes people want to see it and believe it.

Reality shows are well known when it comes to violent and mature content, because they helped pioneer the trend. Love and Hip Hop, Bad Girls Club, and whatever’s on MTV all fall under the category of “Reality Violence.” These shows are known for the harsh treatment of others; why else would it be called “Bad Girls Club”? Putting multiple girls in a mansion and watching them crumble is entertaining to many. People watch these shows in anticipation that a fight will break out. It is almost as if violence is an attention magnet. In an episode of Jersey Shore a female cast member was struck in the face by a drunk male stranger. According to an ABC News article, this recorded incident promoted the show and doubled its ratings. The video also went viral online. These millions of views are a result of disbelief. People had to watch the clip because it was unbelievable, and once again curiosity striking the mind.

Online TV networks have expanded this trend. Websites can now be considered as television. Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu are all sites that allow people to watch what they want, when they want to. Each site has a net worth of over 1 million dollars, and hold shows that are dependent on chance. These shows’ content can either make or break it. Sources from show that the most top rated shows on Netflix are Breaking Bad, the Walking Dead, and Orange is the New Black. Each of these shows express violent and/or mature content in more than one episode per season. Why are they so popular? These shows are like the dependency of television. They have the ability to grab anyone’s attention; they got the guts to take risks, and as a result, they succeed. Making a show that displays the production of drugs, or publicizes LGBT minors, which was taboo for years, are the keys to successful entertainment if done properly.

And then there’s the shows with sexual content. With ratings upwards of 9/10, Game of Thrones is not an underdog in the television business. Sex and nudity, violence and gore, profanity, alcohol, drugs, smoking, and frightening/intense scenes are all what can be expected from this show. Everything figuratively bad is incorporated into this show. The ratings are outstanding though. In America it is taboo to show naked bodies and sex scenes, but it is done anyway. This risky choice in presentation resulted in success for the show. Each episode averaging about 60 minutes or more it keeps people amused. “...the fact that the events are too slow to unfold keeps people curious.”, is what an author had to say about the show. There were many claims that the show was boring, but the only reason that it kept views was because of its complicated and fascinating plot took curiosity to a new level.

When TV finds its old ideas getting stale, they will run out of ideas it will resort to its “plan b”. The plan being to get the audience’s attention by whatever gimmick. However, if the popularity of oversexualized and violent shows continue to grow, then television may be in trouble. If more shows exhibit explicit content, then tomorrow's children may only have destructive things to watch. Curiosity is good in a sense, but if television’s only resort is violence or sexualized content then the future should be a concern. Human curiosity should revolve around more than just guts and nudity.

Work Cited:

  • Nussbaum, Emily. "The Westeros Wing." The New Yorker. N.p., 27 June 2016. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

  • Coulson, Justin. "The Problem with Exposing Kids to Sexual and Violent Content." Family Studies. N.p., 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

  • Thoman, Elizabeth. "Media Violence: What If We Changed the Question?"Media Literacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

  • Miyamoto, Ken. "Why Do Some People Enjoy Watching Gory and Disturbing Films?" Quora. N.p., 1 July 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

  • VanDerWerff, Todd. "Why Shows like The Following Cheapen Violence and Diminish Its Power." Why Shows like The Following Cheapen Violence and Diminish Its Power · For Our Consideration · The A.V. Club. N.p., 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

  • Canning, Andrea, and Elizabeth Stuart. "Reality Show Violence Getting Too Real?" ABC News. ABC News Network, 30 Mar. 2011. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

  • Radwan, M.Farouk, MSc. "Why Is Game of Thrones so Popular." 2 Know Myself. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.