I’m not going to sit here and claim to be holier-than-thou by saying that I dislike reality TV. On the contrary, I find it extremely entertaining, especially when it involves segregating certain types of people into one house. Jersey Shore by far is my favourite reality show because of its blatant idiocy. The producers know these people are caricatures, we know it and—dare I say—the participants themselves know it. This is the driving force behind most successful reality shows. We want to see them act ridiculous and they, in turn, fall into the trap of becoming who they are seen to be.
My fascination with reality shows such as Jersey Shore could be in the disconnect I feel with the typical Italian guido stereotype. They are nothing like me and so it’s entertaining to watch their behaviour unfold in dramatic and farcical ways. Or it could be a form of jealousy watching them make money for being the most eccentric versions of themselves. I haven’t quite figured it out yet.
However, what I really wanted to discuss in this post is the way women are represented in reality shows and my ambivalence toward them. At the shallowest point, women are basically tools used to insight some sort of drama or aggression among the “roommates”. They are shown to be conniving or bored, looking for a way to entertain themselves. They are pitted against other women in the house for superfluous reasons such as men, social status, and gossip. Many of them are also represented as sexual objects, parading around in short skirts, or crop tops with navel rings flaunted. And a lot of the show will revolve around the men deciding whether or not they would sleep with said women—we are always intrigued to hear their answer, waiting to judge.
At the deepest point, these women are our insecurities manifested. This is where I think my enjoyment for reality TV comes from. I too have felt dimwitted, judged for my appearance, and stuck in a (metaphorical) house full of people set to tear me down for the sake of entertainment. I laughed when Sammi in Jersey Shore asked if the strawberries had gone bad, only to find out that they were raspberries, but I knew that I had definitely said something silly like that before or will in the future. In retrospect I realized that I wasn’t judging a portrayal of a certain woman, but rather reacting to instances that occur in every day life, but are otherwise too mundane to acknowledge for someone not on television.
This dimwittedness we are presented with from these participants may be exacerbated by the editing and scripts, but the nuances, the tiny insignificant details that make us burst out into impromptu laughter are what make these shows and their 'characters' appealing. And the most exciting part for the viewer is that we get to watch these people, with their idiosyncrasies and bad choices, succeed with the insecurities we might carry around shamefully. So, while I do think that women are represented as over-the-top stereotypes as a means to evoke certain feelings and biases in us as viewers, I also think that our enjoyment stems from knowing that sometimes we are products of our environment and who we see in these shows might not be different from who we are ashamed to be when cameras aren’t rolling.
How do you feel about reality TV and the female representations?