Reality TV: A very real killer

Reality TV seems to have become an inescapable part of everyday life. You can’t move for news of what a Kardashian is eating or what clothes someone from Made In Chelsea was seen wearing.

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(Credit: Dean Leu)

People can make an insane amount of money from reality TV: there are deals to be made, paid advertising to be displayed and the odd magazine cover to grace. Talk about yourself on live television, make sure your life is interesting, maybe stage a big fight and you’re laughing. Of course this is all made easier by the ridiculous sums of money you’re paid for drinking some special water brand and appearing on our screens every single day.

The old saying goes, ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is’ and there sure are some downsides to a life in the limelight – lack of privacy, threats on your life and constant trolling on social media? It’s what you get if you want to have all that money! “Suck it up sweetheart, you’ve got it so easy with your mansion and 17 sports cars, you don’t live like the rest of us!” We’ve heard the same rhetoric over and over with each new face that pops up on our screens but nothing is changing, and the growing problem of reality star suicide isn’t changing. Between 2004 and 2016, at least 21 American reality TV stars took their own lives with suggestion unfurling about whether reality TV attracts more unstable people or whether it’s the aftermath of their new found fame that drives them to such actions.

The unstable theory is an interesting one. Ever thought to yourself, ‘I could never go on TV and have my every move followed like that’? Well for those people this theory makes total sense – they think that it takes a certain kind of person to live the reality TV lifestyle, and that person must be more unstable, more needy, and more self conscious. They must be different to us ‘normal’ human beings! We couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it! Wrong… and this is where the two theories intertwine. The second theory being that the aftermath of those 15 minutes of fame is what leads to a downward spiral. The paparazzi badgering, the maintenance to stay relevant and current, the harsh celebrity treatment, it’s no wonder that some celebrities find being thrust into a totally alien lifestyle can be too much. We treat celebrities like we own them and dispose of them easily because we know there will be someone else to fill their shoes. We stalk them on social media, in real life and on our TV screens, then we ridicule them in gossip magazines, Instagram and forums, and when they’ve had enough of our disgusting behaviour? We throw them aside because some new show has come along. And when you’re led to believe that this is your job, you have to perform or else the rent won’t get paid, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll play along. It’s a twisted tug-of-war against the humiliation of admitting defeat (that you couldn’t keep on top of the fame) or letting the reality TV mill defeat you entirely. It’s unsurprising that we see people struggle under the cast iron grip of fame in the modern era.

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Constant attention (both from the public and the press) can be detrimental to mental health. (Credit: Shena Tschofen)

Just because we see people on our TV screens doesn’t make them a pawn in our game – they might look like it, but they’re not Barbie dolls to be disposed of. You shouldn’t rip the arms off them and then leave them at the bottom of your garden, forgotten and used up. And yet this continues to happen, very few reality stars of last month are remembered, let alone those of yesteryear. Our harsh view of them should never drive someone to suicide, but we continue to overlook the scrutiny and continue consuming whatever the big bosses of Reality TV-Land have to offer us; another Kardashian series? Yes please! A new spin off of The Only Way Is Essex? Why not, it’s something to fill your Tuesday night void.

We don’t have to remember every single person that joins a reality TV cast, it wouldn’t be possible to, but if we treated them a little bit gentler and with a tad more respect, then those grim suicide statistics will drop. Some people will have underlying issues that we are not to blame for, but the incessant trolling and bullying has to go. Don’t poke the fire that has already claimed too many lives, don’t endanger more lives – just be kinder to others and remember that the reality you see is a loose definition, not necessarily a definite truth.

For more on celebrity privacy, read Luka Kenyon’s article on celeb social media.

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