Reality TV, Morals and Marriage

I just read an article in the March 2004 issue of Harper’s Magazine by Francine Prose titled, “Voting Deomcracy Off The Island: Reality TV and the Republican Ethos.”

It’s a rather long, impassioned exploration of the messages and influence of reality tv programs that I found quite disturbing, especially given the popularity, growth, and perceived innocuousness of such programs. She notes incentives for deceit and dishonesty; institutionalized deceit on the part of producers; cruelty and humor at the expense of others; “morality as an albatross or obstacle” to success; that “every human being can and will do anything for money” [italics hers]; and the reduction of marriage to seduction and consumerist spectacle.

[Note: Prose doesn’t, I feel, make her case that these values are intrinsically Republican. Corporate, yes. Republican, not really. GOP’ers can safely read it while on the train driving their Hummers. ;) ]

I never watch reality tv, or more accurately, “reality tv,” and didn’t know who Ryan and Trista were (or why they were on the cover of People every time I went to the store), but a series about The Bachelorette‘s $7mm wedding, including “the most expensive bridal shoe in the history of the world” [??] seems about as alien and demeaning to my ideals of marriage as I can imagine.

These depictions of marriage strike me as both demeaning and utterly alien to a sincerely held LDS belief of eternal marriage, temple marriage.

7 comments for “Reality TV, Morals and Marriage

  1. lyle
    March 11, 2004 at 9:51 am

    hear, hear!
    I couldn’t agree more Greg.
    I really don’t, or maybe don’t want to, understand why folks subject themselves to such programs and the crummy morals they teach. The program “big brother,” supposedly done in Islamic safe style (i.e. separate bedrooms for men/women) was recently yanked off the air in the Middle East because it was considered to racy.
    1. American politicians/christians are rather confused in the global fight to preserve the family if they would rather support Israel over Palestine.
    2. Francine Prose is a marvel spin-doctor. Who else would have the chutzpah to say that the Liberal Left Wing Democratic Dominated Hollywood
    who produce Reality TV are non-democratic and actually are Republican(-oriented)? This GOPer did safely read her article…while driving [albeit not safely due to the farce y hilarity inherent in the piece] his 2004 gas-electric Prius

  2. Adam Greenwood
    March 11, 2004 at 9:59 am

    I knew I disliked reality TV, and now I know why.

    This whole encouragement of deception is why I dislike games like poker and Diplomacy so much. There’s enough real encouragement to deceit in negotiation and other facets of real life. We don’t need to make a hobby out of it.

  3. cooper
    March 11, 2004 at 11:40 am

    Prose is just another example of prophecy in the scriptures: In 2 nephi 15 and Isaiah 5: “Wo unto to them that call evil good, and good evil…” It never ceases to amaze me, though, how the liberal agenda can turn any problem into the conservative right of the world’s fault.

    We are in the midst of the storm. The world (and Satan) has debased everything sacred. Money does rule the hearts of men (and women). It doesn’t necessarily have the confines of a political agenda on any side.

    We will be going to the temple on the 25th to see our oldest daughter be married. It is the best thing in the world. Cost: worldly $0, (well, the temple part). Eternally: Priceless.

  4. March 11, 2004 at 11:43 am

    Although I was originally scheduled to teach the Bible as Literature course this semester, I was finally assigned to TA a course on American Popular Culture since the meeting time better facilitated my commuting life. Those of you who know me recognize the deep irony in this assignment (i.e. I don’t own a television, subscribe to magazines, etc.). Luckily, I can still help them my students the course texts, analysis, writing skills, etc.

    As the course progresses I have found it curious how often reality TV gets discussed in my sections. Much to my surprise all my students watch these shows. Apparently they come in all flavors. The Bachelor/Bachelorette (dating and marriage) Fear Factor (who can be the most disgusting) Trading Spaces (home decor) Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (helping heterosexual men with their fashion sense) American Idol (competition for the best singer) Head to Toe (makeover your friend), Survivor (who can best endure physical challenges) and the list goes on and on.

    My students know that these carefully scripted and edited shows are not “reality.” Although I don’t condone these shows, I have to admit that my students’ analysis and evaluation of them is rather sophisticated. They are not deceived by the shows and don’t disagree that “crummy morals” are represented. They are not cultural dopes. I think the reasons why they watch reality tv are actually very complex. Perhaps my students are the exception among television audiences though?

  5. March 11, 2004 at 11:47 am

    While not specifically about tv, has anyone else heard of Myrna Blyth’s new book “Spin Sisters : How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America”? The author was a former publisher of women’s magazines. This book is her mea culpa for her participation in selling an unfulfilling lifestyle to women.

  6. greenfrog
    March 12, 2004 at 10:36 am

    I find in Survivor a microcosm of the dynamics and interactions I encounter in my professional practice. Fiction is good, despite its falsity, when it creates situations that call to my mind aspects of my own life that I had not previously noted or understood. I just finished reading Narcissus and Goldmund. While I’m not enamoured of Hesse’s narrative style, the book was quite valuable in calling to my mind aspects of my own life from a perspective that allowed me to consider them with “new eyes.”

    I keep track of the Survivor stories for the same reason — understanding the tensions and dynamics of groups of people in competition with one another, whether those groups are law students vying for a spot on Law Review, law firms jockeying for a lead role in a particular litigation, colleagues trying to figure out who is to blame for a particular situation, or how people deal with common experiences.

  7. lyle
    March 15, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    What about Mormon attempts to use group organization to sway “democratic” reality TV Voting?

    meridian magazine recently encouraged its readers to vote during last saturdays “star search” to help a BYU dance couple win the dance competition.

    should we be thinking about wathing American Idol too?

    If FOOTBALL can bring in converts…what about a MORMON TEEN POP IDOL?

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