Have you noticed any ads for "reality television" programs in the last few years? You have, unless you've been on the proverbial "other planet" somewhere, for reality TV programs have become a mainstay of American culture.
In researching this subject, I found a minimum of 230 "reality shows"—that's right, 230. I am sure there are more, for the production of such programming is now as deeply entrenched in the Western world's entertainment industry as Mickey Mouse is in Disneyland.
They are trite, they are trashy, they are titillating—and they are treasure troves for TV networks, as Americans and Britons by the millions tune in several times a day to see them. In the United States every network is trying to cash in on the collective voyeurism of Americans gone gaga over the phenomenon: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Bravo, E!, WB, UPN, MTV, VH1, Sci-Fi, TBS, USA, Oxygen, Showtime, Lifetime, Spike—even A&E, PBS and The Learning Channel! Besides the networks, there are privately owned syndicates making their own shows and selling them to the highest bidder.
It all has to do with the price that can be charged for advertising time. "Here's the real reason for the proliferation of reality television: Four out of the five spots on the most expensive television show list are held by reality TV shows. Leading the pack is American Idol, which 'costs on average $658,333 per 30-second spot, while the Tuesday edition is slightly cheaper at $620,000,' according to Advertising Age. ER follows the two editions of the FOX series, but in fourth place is Survivor Vanuatu, which is charging '$412,833 for a 30-second spot, compared with $390,367 during the 2003-2004 season.'
"The Apprentice is next, with an average cost of $409,877 for a 30-second ad. Other reality TV series of note: NBC's forthcoming The Contender charges $330,000 for half a minute, while UPN's America's Next Top Model gets $92,045 for the same amount of advertising time" (www.realityblurred.com, Sept. 27, 2004).
One could literally pursue a career in reality TV. Need a job? They're casting in Los Angeles for Mr. Romance. "CASTING ROMANTIC STUDS IN LOS ANGELES: MR. ROMANCE is the sexy new reality contest from the Oxygen Network. We are looking for hot men in great shape to show the women of the world their personalities, passion and winning sense of romance. Men over 21 are invited to an OPEN CASTING CALL... Be ready to show your romantic side, come dressed in any fashion that would inspire a woman to swoon, and tell us why YOU should be MR. ROMANCE!"
Immature programming for immature viewers
I think that the only way one could call this programming "reality TV" is by exclaiming, "There really are networks, producers and actors creating this stuff!" Or, "Millions of people really are watching it!" But they aren't real-life in nearly any other respect.
Here's another ad, which illustrates the shallowness of what is becoming the mainstream of today's American television. "WANTED: BEAUTY/FASHION VICTIM WHO'S READY FOR A CHANGE: Is your mom as brutally frank as Simon Cowell? Does your best friend have it out for your wardrobe? Or is your boyfriend nagging you to change your style? Well, here's their chance to say what they think and make you over on Style Network's new show, How Do I Look?"
The one way that the programming is "real" is in showing the worst of human nature—jealous, catty, gossipy, immodest, uncontrolled and unrefined. One new MTV show this season, My Super Sweet 16, takes you behind the scenes of 16-year-olds preparing for wild parties. Teen contestants do such "real things" as shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue for their party dresses. The "entertainment" is in viewing the eye-scratching jealousy between the teenagers and the hair-pulling frustrations of their over-indulging parents.
Young people "really" can be obnoxious, spoiled and self-absorbed. Parents "really" can be clueless. But this isn't reality. It's a demonstration of some of the worst aspects of man's carnal nature.
A common theme of many of the shows is putting contestants through embarrassing or humiliating stunts. Consider, for example, a recent Fear Factor (NBC's huge success), in which each contestant couple had to get 15 cow stomachs across a pond. The men stood on the shore, throwing the stomachs at the women, who were perched on platforms in the middle of the water. Of course, the bovine bellies fell into the pond, requiring the women to swim to retrieve them one by disgusting one.
Defenders of these lame stunts say that they cause contestants to face their worst fears, making them stronger for it. That's silly. No one's worst nightmare really includes having to catch or bob for a cow's stomach! (At least not until after watching the show!) There's nothing real about the idiotic show.
Producers must be using the Bible
Do you wonder where the Bible might speak to this phenomenon? Read what Paul wrote to first-century Church of God congregations about behavioral issues: "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin" (Galatians 5:19-21, New Living Translation).
It may startle you to see how perfectly it describes reality television. You would think that the programming creators used Galatians 5:19-21 as a model for their work.
The problem with that is that these activities are models for disaster! People who practice them will fail in the worst possible way, that is, in the purpose for which they draw breath. I did not give you all of verse 21 above. The remainder is: "Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." Preparing for that Kingdom is why every one of us is alive. Failing to be a part of it is the ultimate of failures. Being in it represents true reality.
Sometimes it can seem to Americans, Britons and others living in democratic societies that a large part of our inalienable rights is the right to indulge in entertainment of all kinds, regardless of how inane, coarse or silly it might be. Sadly, it must seem like that to people who watch America and other Western nations from beyond their borders. We must seem immoral and utterly devoid of virtue.
One reality show that airs in more than 200 U.S. markets, as well as in more than 80 countries, is Cheaters, "the reality television show that confronts infidelity and the breach of trust in an effort to expose relationship problems and help empower the injured party" (statement from the producer's Web site).
Although it is nothing more than voyeurism, notice the crude attempt to seem "caring" and even a "public service." Their self-description continues: "Cheater's surveillance cameras [enable viewers to witness] actual true stories, filmed live, documenting the pain of the spouse or a lover caused by infidelity. The program is both dedicated to the faithful and presented to the falsehearted to encourage the air for renewal of temperance and virtue."
What utter nonsense! It is pornography whitewashed and wrapped in tissue-thin human reasoning. But the pig wallowing in the slop is not made clean by a soft-spoken "oink."
"Sexual immorality" broader than "adultery"
The New Living Translation doesn't capture the full impact of Paul's meaning with the words "sexual immorality." The New King James Version has "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, [and] lewdness." Today's biblically illiterate society doesn't realize that there is a difference between these words.
Adultery is sex with someone other than your spouse. Fornication is normally defined as sex with anyone when you are not married. Uncleanness and lewdness have to do with inappropriate actions and thoughts, especially of a sexual nature.
Sadly, a large number of American young people do not understand that there's anything wrong with sexual thoughts about or actions between people who are single—so long as they are consenting. They fail to realize that mutual consent does not rewrite the inflexible laws of God that govern human behavior. Consequently, people by the tens of millions are willing to watch graphic images that titillate the senses.
When the U.S. president referred to Jesus' warning that peering lustfully at a woman was the same as adultery (Matthew 5:28), the nation howled its derision. No, that wasn't President George W. Bush; it was President Jimmy Carter over 25 years ago. How much less spiritually attuned are Americans today?
The Bravo Network seems the most intent on blatantly promoting one expression of immoral behavior through homosexual themes. It is starting a spin-off from its immensely popular and immensely absurd Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. In Queer Eye for the Straight Girl a team of gay stylists makes over Los Angeles area straight women.
This season, Bravo starts the first gay dating series, Boy Meets Boy. In the first episode, 15 "suitors" that the show calls "mates" vie for the affection of one gay man. The man gets advice from a friend after he spends time with each of the 15 contestants. The object is for him to select one to be his "mate" for a vacation in New Zealand.
Most readers of World News and Prophecy will find even reading this to be unpleasant, much less watching it. But the writers and producers of the show have a different audience in mind. They are obviously targeting those who do not have a biblical approach to homosexuality in mind, wanting to "educate" them into accepting homosexual behavior as normal.
They push the boundaries even further by having a mixture of straight and gay men among the 15 contestants. So while the gay "star" believes he is selecting from among all gay contestants, he will be intermittently surprised by discovering a man who is not gay.
Why would they do anything like that? The network's Web site says it is "an interesting twist allowing for numerous avenues of heated on-air discussions in debates that challenge socially preconceived notions of what is considered gay and straight behavior."
"Participation in demonic activities" (from Galatians 5:20 in the NLT; "sorcery" in the NKJV) is also part of "reality" programming. Take a look at Housebusters' ad for "expert" consultants.
"Housebusters investigates the secret forces at work inside a home and attempts to resolve the problems of the homemaker. Feng Shui [a Chinese system for detecting good and evil spirits in nature] consultants, psychics and witches reveal how a home makeover and clearing energy will create a healthier environment... We're looking for hip and attractive experts in these areas!!"
Then it solicits "experts" in each "profession" who are "extremely knowledgeable and full of personality." And the ad posts the rate of pay at $1,000 to $2,500.
And take a look at Survivor, one of the most popular and profitable reality shows. Here is a brief description of a recent episode: "The main thematic elements in Vanuatu are that sorcery is real and the dead have power over the living" (Jeffrey Clinard, "Survivor: Vanuatu—Advice for the Remaining 17," Sept. 20, 2004, www.realitynewsonline.com). Spiritism can be a highly dangerous activity!
To understand more, please request our free booklet Is There Really a Devil?
Far from reality
The vast majority of so-called reality TV isn't real life. It's contrived, made-up. It's a cheap promotion of all that's ungodly. It showcases everything that is evil about America, instead of everything that is good.
Are you looking for inspiration? Read a book about a real person who achieved something real, instead of looking for inspiration from pretend achievers who perform silly make-believe "challenges" on television.
Do you want to improve your life? You won't be able to accomplish anything through watching a parade of contestants having themselves made over on TV. Begin to exercise; take up a sport; take a course in a subject of interest.
Do you want wholesome friendships and an enduring love relationship in marriage? None of them is possible through the pop psychology you will get between commercial breaks. But you really can enjoy such relationships.
We have some wonderful material with which you can begin: What Is Your Destiny?, The Ten Commandments and Making Life Work.
There are real people, people who live normal lives, people who never have to throw cow's stomachs around. Spend your time with them, instead of with the people with whom every network in the television industry demands that you spend your time.
Get real, America! WNP