Reality TV Can Be Total Rubbish, But That Doesn't Make It Okay To Bully Contestants

Don’t be a jerk.

Reality TV shows are polarizing; there’s no arguing with that.

They take ‘regular old’ people, place them in abnormal situations and (with the help of crafty producers), squeeze as much drama out of said sitch as possible.

Let’s blow up a few lives, shall we?
Image: Lifetime Television

These shows are melodramatic. They cast people who frustrate audiences. And once they’ve wrapped up, the contestants often take over our Instagram feeds promoting teeth-whitening products.

And while the productions and their cast members can be, well… testing at times, that does not give you permission to be a jerk and bully the people involved.

As former Bachie contestant, Alex Nation, revealed in an interview on The Project, hateful messages do take a toll. Yes, even if they’re read from a screen.

Speaking with Magda Szubanski, the ex-reality TV star explained just how extreme her experience with online bullying was after Bachelor Richie Strahan named her as his final lady:

“I woke up the next morning after the finale, getting ready to do all of my fun radio rounds with Richie and then it was just a barrage of hate and trolling and private messages,” she told Szubanski.

“I have been sent a step-by-step of how to kill myself, pictures of how to do it, I’ve been told that I’m better off dead and my son’s better off without me.

“Yeah, really awful stuff.”

The abuse has continued over the three years since Strahan’s season of The Bachelor, and sadly, her story isn’t unique.

Many questions have been asked about the impact reality TV fame can have on mental health, especially since the tragic suicides of two Love Island contestants within the space of a year.  

With limited preparation for the pressure of fame, it’s not uncommon nor surprising that contestants of these successful shows struggle to adjust.

In fact, a New York Post article from 2016 reported that over 20 former reality TV contestants had committed suicide between 2004 and then.

“The reality of it is, your words can be final and that’s it,” Nation went on to stress during her interview, pointing out that you “don’t know what the person’s headspace is.”

So, by all means: yell at the TV. Post funny tweets when you spot an a-grade GIF. Even call out bad behaviour if it’s warranted.

But do not attack these people with hateful messages. Just because you’re seeing them on a screen, doesn’t mean they’re impervious to your cruelty.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, support is always available. Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Lena Dunham Is Obsessed With 'Love Island', But Not For The Reason You Think

"...the deeper we go, the more we start to see ourselves"

Love Island, like all dating shows, is a curious creature.

The premise of the reality TV series (the UK edition) is that a group of attractive, chiselled single people get thrown on an island in Spain where the challenge is to find ‘love’. Love, that’s incentivised with a £50,000 (almost AUD 90,000) prize, of course.

The show has received some serious criticism in its time. Most infamously, it has been at the centre of conversations about the psychological strain experienced by reality TV contestants. It has also come under fire for presenting unrealistic ideals of beauty to audiences.

But this weekend, that is not what has brought Love Island into the headlines. Rather, it’s Lena Dunham and her obsession with the series.

In an article published by The Guardian, the Girls creator wrote about how her love life is connected to her views on the reality TV series. Mainly because of how relatable the experiences of the contestants actually are (honestly, hear her out).

“the deeper we go, the more we start to see ourselves,” she wrote.

“We may not be an air hostess from Worthing, West Sussex, but who among us hasn’t felt like Amy, the islander whose romance with ballroom dancer Curtis ended in betrayal…”

Dunham went on to point out incidents on the island that hit at romantic sore spots for almost all of us.

(PSA: It doesn’t matter if you’re not familiar with the names mentioned below.)

“When Curtis finally chose Maura, he used the half-assed professions that the island girls accept as love: ‘I do like ya. I do want to get to know ya. You have an interesting side to ya,’” she wrote.

“I, too, have sat with a smile baked on to my face as I got a watered-down version of affection.

“I’ve heard what I wanted to hear before, and I hope I never do it again.”

The writer and actress shared that nature of the series results in an accelerated experience for the contestants; their “love is sped up”. And although “mediated”, as Dunham put it, there is still pain on display here.

Do we like reality TV because it feels “real”?
Image: ITV

In this light-hearted viewing, Dunham sees her own heartbreak reflected back at her. Assumedly, in analysing the warped reality of these reality TV stars, she’s also assessing her own experience.

“I am asking myself the same questions they ask themselves on Love Island, really. Can you love again after hurt? What does partnership mean? And what does it mean to know someone if you don’t know yourself?”

Quite a profound thought for some trashy TV… but it makes a lot of sense.

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