Created on: February 21, 2013
Reality TV isn’t really the modern phenomenon that many people think it is. Candid Camera, created by Alan Funt, and first televised in 1948 is often referred to as the first reality TV show. However, there is little doubt that it is really since the 2000s that reality TV has taken off. In the UK, Big Brother, the first series of which was in 2000, was a surprise hit. Despite a lot of criticism and a change of format over the years, it is still going strong, both in the UK and overseas.
The attraction of reality TV shows is relatively easy to understand. It gives viewers the chance to see people, whether celebrities or not, behave in a matter that is largely natural. It is difficult for anyone, particularly when filmed 24/7 as in Big Brother, to hide his or her true personality. Some of the reality TV stars who have attracted the most attention are those who have been particularly unpleasant, or have behaved bizarrely. Reality TV has long been criticised for being empty entertainment, as well as dangerous for those contestants who cannot cope with the criticism incurred as a result of their portrayal on the screen.
Reality TV producers have been blamed for accepting people with mental health issues simply because they know they will provide good entertainment. Over the years, a number of contestants have had melt-downs – for example, in the January 2013 series of Celebrity Big Brother, there was public concern over the erratic behaviour of model Paula Hamilton. Big Brother producers claimed that she had passed psychological tests, but that clearly wasn’t enough to prevent her breakdown on screen.
In some cases, the stress caused by reality TV goes on after the series has finished running. In another UK series of Celebrity Big Brother, Indian actress Shilpa Shetty was racially abused by Danielle Lloyd, Jo O’Meara and Jade Goody. The public outrage that resulted from this led to an outpouring of hatred towards the three women, something that they had to deal with when they left the house. Whether they deserved the abuse they incurred or not, they were devastated and struggled to come to terms with the aftermath. Jo O’Meara later attempted to take her own life.
In some instances, the backlash from reality TV appears to have actually resulted in the suicides of former contestants. The Irish Independent reports that in 2007, a young boxer, Najai Turpin, shot himself in front of his girlfriend after losing a boxing match
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