Reality TV is more than just a passing craze. After the first episodes of Survivor in 2000, it was pretty clear that reality TV is here to stay. Sometimes, going on a reality show propels contestants to success, even if they don’t win their show. Elisabeth Hasselbeck went from Survivor to hosting The View and Jennifer Hudson lost American Idol but won an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls. But not everyone is equipped to handle their newfound stardom.
Loss of Privacy
Going on a reality TV show propels contestants into the spotlight. Many people feel like they know the contestants on a reality show, even though they have never met. It’s pretty easy to understand this phenomenon – you are welcoming these people into your home each week, and they way that most reality shows are shot make it seem like contestants are speaking directly to you. But when contestants go home, many of them are unable to return to their normal lives. Contestants are often stopped in the course of their day to day activities, sometimes for an autograph or picture, other times to be told just what they thought of their game play. It’s hard for most contestants to have this lack of anonymity, especially those who felt that they weren’t portrayed favorably on their show.
Family and Relationships
Going on a reality TV show can have an unexpected impact on the family and relationships of contestants. Some family members of contestants have reported that they have been approached by fans, usually to complain about the actions of their son or daughter. A reality show can also put an enormous amount of strain on a relationship. Most reality TV shows are shot over the course of several months, during which contestants are isolated from family and friends. That, in itself, can be difficult for a relationship. But sometimes the most stressful part is the action of the contestants on the show. There have been instances where a contestant has cheated on their significant other while on a show, and others who were simply horrified at how their partner played the game.
There have been many contestants whose jobs have been impacted by going on a reality TV show. A show like The Apprentice may highlight reasons to hire someone. But when you are shown on a show as lying and cheating, employers notice and are not as quick to hire you. Many times contestants on reality TV shows list “model” or “bartender” as their occupation, as they are professions most able to take 2-3 months off of work without being asked questions. But contestants who are lawyers or doctors find it hard to go back to their practices; many lawyers are no longer actively practicing law.
There haven’t been many studies done on the long-term impact of being on a reality TV show. But the articles that have been written show most need continued support from a mental health professional. And for most part, this is not a consequence that any of them consider.
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