Kim Kardashian made headlines once again this week, but this time she shocked viewers not with her own scandalous life but for questioning the impact of MTV’s reality shows (specifically Teen Mom) on viewers.
Whether the intention of the show is to show teens how hard pregnancy and raising a child can be as a teenager or not, the influence on viewers has been tremendous. The girls have become celebrities, with teens across the nation calling them by name and speaking about their stories as though they are one of their childhood friends. Most of the dads are frowned upon, resulting in a reinforced view of the “dead-beat dad.” I could go on and on about my personal feelings about the show, but what I really want to focus on is much more broad.
What is it about watching the suffering of others that entertains us? Teen Mom, The Biggest Loser, True Life, even going back to Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil—all focus on the problems faced by ordinary people and keep viewers glued to the screen for what happens next. I can’t watch these shows due to how depressing they are. If I wanted to see the issues explored, all I would need to do is look out my front door, go to a shopping mall, or even sit in a typical high school classroom. The problems are real, they are raw (and yes, even intruiging). But what a twisted way to be entertained–relishing in the pain faced by others.