Who would have imagined five years ago that the fad, the rage, the phenomenon of network television would be the "reality" show? Now that it's the 21st century, network executives are putting expensive actors and their scripts aside for average Americans trying to claw their way into their 15 minutes of fame. At least 20 percent of the prime-time schedule during the February sweeps period was composed of reality programming.
Unfortunately, these "unscripted" moments are even less acceptable for family viewing than the old, unfashionable scripted shows. A new study by Aubree Rankin of the Parents Television Council examines the reality-show "Race to the Bottom," and confirms what we all knew to be true. Most reality shows are scraping the bottom of the barrel and sending young viewers all the wrong messages. Not only do these shows encourage voyeurism by filming contestants in intimate situations, they also contain some of the vilest language imaginable.
For example, during the study period of 114.5 hours of reality television in 2003 and 2004, there was an alarming 1,135 instances of foul language, 492 instances of sexual themes, and 30 instances of violence for a total of 1,657 instances of offensive content. That's a more than 50 percent increase from the hourly rate of offensive content on broadcast reality shows in 2002.
In the world of "reality" television everyone curses a blue streak. There were 199 bleeped uses of the f-word on reality shows studied, making it the most commonly used profanity on broadcast reality programs. There were 76 bleeped uses of the s-word in this study.
UPN's "America's Next Top Model" had one aspiring supermodel screaming at another about religion: "Robin, how (bleeped F-word) dare you show me that 'foolish is the atheist' Bible verse this morning and ask me what do I think of it. What the (bleeped F-word) am I supposed to think of it? You know what I think of you? Foolish is the woman who believes that (bleeped 'G-d') damn tripe."
Thank goodness the show's title isn't "America's Next Role Model," even though this is the kind of example young girls who might aspire to modeling are seeing on television.