“I will love whoever loves me back.” “I’m bored, let’s get high.” “I’m gonna win, no matter what it takes!” “I will crush you to elevate me.” “You’re sexy. Let’s hook-up!” “I’m mad, so I’m going to vent my feelings (while using just about every curse word I know) for all the world to see (and hear)!” If you have spent any amount of time watching Reality TV, you probably know that such statements are a commonality. Reality TV has changed the way many view entertainment. Shows such Keeping Up With The Kardashians, MTV’s Ex On The Beach or Girl Code The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Real Housewives are just a few of the countless selections of Reality TV options.
Whether your taste for reality takes you to West Virginia for Buckwild, offers you an inside look into The Valleys nine youngsters dreaming of a life of stardom, or gives you a risqué interpretation of what it takes to impress a person you barely know so that you don’t become the one taking a limo ride to the airport with a red rose in your hand, Reality TV has mastered the art of pushing the moral envelope and creating a world of fantasy that has captured the attention of millions of devoted viewers.
It can be easy to get hooked on Reality TV. I’ll admit I’ve watched my fair share of it. Though my intention with this article isn’t to bash Reality TV, I am concerned that the more one watches it, the more difficult it can become to define what “real” is in an entertainment culture that teaches that life is all about the win, the quick, the easy, the feel-good, the sexy, and the “anything goes to get anything you want.” Lie, sleep around, drink, hook-up, cheat, manipulate, scheme, cry – – “whatever it takes” is often whatever it takes in the world of Reality TV.
Here are a few questions: How real is Reality TV? And, just as important, how does Reality TV affect you? It has to have some affect on you, doesn’t it? When it comes to your life, are you modeling it after Reality TV? (At first consideration, it might come easy to answer “no” to that last question. But dig deeper – take an inventory of your life as you consider the affect Reality TV might be having on you.) I am a big believer that what we listen to, watch, and download into our lives shapes the choices we make. So, it is important to step back and consider such questions and take ownership in pursuing honest answers.
There is a story in John 4 in the Bible of a woman from Samaria. We don’t know her name, but we do know her reality. Jesus met her in a place where it was uncustomary for a Jew to be, much less talk publicly with a Samaritan woman. He engaged her by requesting a drink of water from her. Quickly, their conversation moves past the water in the well, as they begin discussing very intimate things – love, relationships, adultery, and religion. Sounds more like an episode of Big Brother than it does a story recorded in the Bible. Here is a woman that has made miserable choices in her past. She now is living with a man to whom she isn’t even married. She doesn’t see the reality of her situation. She doesn’t realize the trueness of her home life. How similar is the theme of this story to the countless ones often depicted in many Reality TV shows?
What I love about the story of the woman at the well is that it is a reminder to us all how easy it can be to live a life immersed in lies, hurt, and hopelessness…yet, not even know it. Jesus helps this woman see that she is living a life of the “less than!” He exposes the emptiness and brokenness of her life when He says in John 4:18 (NIV), “…you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” It is obvious she is desperate for love, attention, and security.
Do you see the parallels? Just as this woman was desperate for significance, so too are the many cast members of countless Reality TV shows – people who are living in the “less than,” making desperate attempts to find the “more than,” or at least the “better off than the present.” – people who do not even see themselves as they truly are. The sad reality for many viewers of Reality TV is that they too are desperate for such significance.
“It’s just TV,” you may be thinking. “Nothing more than entertainment, a way to unwind, get lost in it all and, dance with the stars,” so to speak. If it’s nothing more than entertainment for you, then consider this: How does your Reality TV entertainment align with scripture? Philippians 4:8 (NIV) says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” You may genuinely believe that Reality TV doesn’t shape your life in any way other than giving you something to watch every now and then. Even so, one can’t deny that much of Reality TV does encourage a lifestyle that is contrary to the one described in the above passage.
Much of Reality TV today glamorizes sex, drinking, lust, greed, fighting, unwholesome talk and more. Much of what I have seen on Reality TV also depicts love as something that can be won by whoever kisses, wines, dines, and looks the best. Contestants are encouraged to display their most intimate emotions, experiment with multiple partners, fight with and curse at the “competition,” and often play both sides of the game in order to come off looking better than another. Lying, cheating, manipulation, greed, promiscuity and more are celebrated. This is a stark contrast to the definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV), which states that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
What message has Reality TV sold you about your body? Though Ecclesiastes 3: 11 states that God has, “…made everything beautiful in its time”, much of Reality TV encourages women to be “perfect” in body and sex appeal, and men to be cocky, arrogant, and to flaunt bodies that are perfectly lean and chiseled. Even if you agree that such reality on TV isn’t reality, this still can have an affect on you and how it is that you define your significance, appearance, and self-worth.
After watching your favorite reality show, have you ever fantasized about fame, celebrity or status? Reality TV screams the message to its viewers that, “You too can be a rock star!” We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture and Reality TV can be amazingly effective at creating attraction for desired popularity. However, over and again in scripture we see the theme that whoever wants to be first among you must be last. Jesus could have been the greatest rock star of His day. Had He desired fame, His worldly popularity then could have made Snooki & Jwoww look today like they are about as relevant as my Commodore 64 in junior high. (If you don’t even know what a Commodore 64 is, then you get my point made about relevance.)
So, what to do with Reality TV? First, look past the show and consider the “real” in the reality for you. Ask questions such as, “How has this TV show really affected my life?” “Do I find myself celebrating the lifestyles of the people I see on TV?” “In what shows do I view certain cast members as role models?” Again, the point of this article isn’t to debate whether or not a certain Reality TV show is wrong or right, though I suggest few (very few) ever portray authentic godly character. Instead, my hope for you is that as you consider the type(s) of shows it is that you view, hopefully you too will consider how it is that such shows are shaping the relationships you are pursuing and the lifestyle you are embracing.
Next, take it to God. Ask Him to help you take an honest inventory of what you are watching as you consider whether or not these shows are honoring or dishonoring to Him (remember what Philippians 4:8 said). Lastly, ask God to reveal to you: You. Just as Jesus helped the woman at the well see her “for her,” ask that God will do the same for you in your life. Lastly, man-up like a contestant on Celebrity Fit Club and be willing to do whatever it takes to win – – at honoring God with your life.
The impact of Reality TV may vary from person to person. But one thing I am confident we can agree on is that Reality TV has a way of removing the real from the reality. My hope for you is that as you select which shows it is that you download into you life, you will commit to watching only those that honor God in the most real ways. And, as you do, you will learn more and more to allow God to shape you into the real you…the you He has created you to be.