This blog topic has been a long time coming. First let me say I have never been a fan of reality TV, because I've always been suspicious of the percentage of "real-ness" that exists in "Reality TV." Nowadays we have reality shows that span the entire gamut of society's entertainment appetite. And, that's what network execs are attempting to satisfy; "society's entertainment appetite." We have reality shows about so-called "Real Housewives" (yeah right), all the way to a show about the best funerals. Unbelievable! How morbid and absurd! Is this society's entertainment pallet? Is this the entertainment appetite that TV execs are attempting to satisfy? I'm sure network execs would say the TV ratings would tell us yes this is exactly what is happening. The ratings for these types of shows are through the roof. And they continue to rise despite the depths of deplorable behavior and raunchiness that seems to be a fixture with most of these kinds of shows. It seems the more cat fights and the more drama that a show can muster, the higher the ratings and the more popular the cast ultimately becomes as a result.
But, my question is at whose expense? At what expense do these shows high ratings come? Who is ultimately at risk here? On the surface it would seem like pure entertainment. You can turn on one of Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) to escape the doldrums of your own mundane life. But, the larger question at stake here is how real Reality TV is really, and more importantly what type of damage has been done to the various roles as well as ethnicity's portrayed on Reality TV? Shows like RHOA or Basketball Wives are supposed to portray “A Day in the Life” of Spouse A or Spouse B for whatever sports figure or athlete that they are married to. For the most part this is the case, however the life of most of these women are not realistic nor are do they exemplify the typical role of a housewife that many woman can identify with. (Well maybe that’s one reason why so many women watch the show!) They watch because they are not only physically removed (because the show is not about them) but socially removed (because many are not privy to the lifestyle that these women are portraying). However, what does bother me is how African American women behave on shows like these, because it does nothing but contribute to the stereotype that they are nothing but gold digging opportunists who prey on unsuspecting (stupider) men; who just couldn’t resist their feminine charms. You have women like Kenya Moore; former Miss USA, model/actress, who I’m told on RHOA is by far the raunchiest and ghetto-ist of all the women on the show. Oh, and by the way she is not even married and therefore not a “housewife.” So, what qualifies her for a Reality TV show like this? What kind of example is women like Ms. Moore setting for our young impressionable youth aspiring to walk in her shoes? Does she even care who’s watching? From the looks of things, she absolutely doesn’t.
What are the ramifications that these reality shows carry with them? I believe what it really boils down to is a question of "Reality vs. Reality TV," I would argue that reality TV really isn't reality. For example, the show "The SisterHood" which is supposed to chronicle the lives of 5 First Ladies who are wives of husbands that are real pastors over real ministries. However, you discover after watching the 1st episode that only 2 of the 5 women are actual First Ladies whose husbands are real pastors over real ministries. (Exactly! I was thinking the same thing.) Why would they only have two "Real First Ladies" on a show that is suppose to be about "Real First Ladies." I guess it makes too much sense. Nevertheless, on this show you are treated to all of the tawdry details of each of these "First Ladies." You see them at their "best" and you definitely see them at their "worst" (Which by the way is most of the show. LOL) So we can see the show was founded on a misleading premise, and if its starts on a shaky foundation then what kind of reality are we really trying to build here? And what continues to suffer is the church's image and credibility in our world. The church's image continues to be damaged by the its supposed "caretakers." Here's a video of the 1st Episode in its entirety.
Then you even have shows about funeral homes and shows that chronicle the lives of Gospel artists; attempting to give viewers and inside look into their lives, but unfortunately what you are left wondering is how are their lives any different than anybody else seeking to make some money, or simply to be "famous." You have some that believe showing the human component of some of these "celebrities" that we see everyday will somehow garner a greater appreciation for what they do. But, really more harm is done than good, because the focus appears to be more on their lives than the God in them, which is suppose to be the focus of their lives. It's sad when you look at Mary Mary's reality TV show and Real Housewives of Atlanta and you can't see a difference in the overall content and disposition of the so-called stars of the show. It seems in looking at the gospel artists of these reality shows, what you discover is that they want to be more like the world they were called out to lead to Christ. And, this is my real angst behind the proliferation of these types of shows, if we as Christians have been called out to be a light and to be different; according to God's Word, and yet these shows seem to only illustrate how great our desire is to be like everybody else. Our attitudes, dispositions, proclivities and the like are truly shared by everyone else. By virtue of our desire to be included in these shows, illustrates are longing to be just like everybody else.
Maybe this desire is really what is "real" in these reality shows, the desire to be famous. The desire to attain celebrity status. The desire to be special or elite, and these shows give these otherwise conspicuous people an opportunity to be noticed, an opportunity to be in the limelight if nothing but for 15mins. Interestingly enough, you got some of the more savy Reality TV stars who have parlayed their 15mins into a lucrative career for themselves. The Kim Kardashians and NeNeLeaks of our society are looked at as contemporary business women who know how to market their particular brand. And, their fame and notoriety is an example of that. No real talent, no really special gift or ability other than an "eye appeal" or an "personality" that has translated into some huge financial dividends. And, in both shows, if the desire for fame and notoriety is the real motivations of these "First Ladies" and "Gospel Artists" then I think we know all we need to know about their "ministries." So, for me the perception of these "Christian" Reality TV shows is that they are parodying and propagandizing what real ministry is, which is the collateral damage these types of shows have had on the church and everything associated with it. The result of these shows is the church is bastardized and caricatured for entertainment sake, and the real power that supposed exists within its walls is never experienced.
The question for our readers in addition to Reality TV going to far, what are some other ways that "Christian" Reality TV has effected people's perception of the church? Has it effected the way you see the church, has these shows effected the way you see those "Reality TV Stars" in other settings? Do you think "Christian" Reality TV is benefiting or harming the overall perception of the church as well as anything associated with it(i.e. gospel music, pastors, first ladies, etc.)?
Would love to get your thoughts and opinions.
Michael S. Nimmons
CEO/President Michael Nimmons Ministries, Inc.