Reality TV and role models of tomorrow

Reality TV and role models of tomorrow

I am not afraid to admit to my guilty pleasure –  reality TV shows.. They are the ones that I get secretly excited about. The ones that I set a reminder in my diary for when the new series is due to begin. As a sociological study, I find some of these thoroughly entertaining. I’ve even become a recent convert for Love Island, thanks to all the chatter about it and to the disappointment of my husband.  My husband just calls it car-crash TV and says that everyone is reprehensible.

I don’t like all reality TV.  but there are a handful that I’m addicted to. I love these shows for different reasons, but I sometimes I do wonder about why they are so popular and what it says about us as viewers, and as people.

On of my favourites is the Real Housewives of Orange County.  I couldn’t be glamorous if I tried so the fact that these women manage to do it all the time, and in the most part at my age or even older, is impressive. I’m almost envious. For the most part, these women are running their own businesses and building careers and i respect that. Very few of them have ever been stay at home parents.  In the vast majority of cases, the income these women enjoy is created entirely or largely by  them. Under the false eyelashes and tans there are designers, actors and entrepreneurs.  Now it’s also true that despite expounding the need to be independent, successful business women, they do appear to invest a huge amount of time in their appearance. Perhaps this isn’t surprising if you’re going to be seen my millions in Super HD.

It’s fascinating to compare the women on with our younger, UK counterparts. I’m thinking of shows like The Only Way is Essex, which I happen to love by the way.  Much as I find all the drama in TOWIE fascinating, a bit like watching a wildlife documentary, I can’t shake off the tinge of sadness I feel watching it sometimes.

Very few of them seem to have actual jobs, and if they do it’s never really mentioned. The illusion the show creates is that they’re all living the high-life, jetting off on holiday at the drop of a hat and having the time to spend an hour on getting ready every morning. I don’t blame them, and this isn’t a criticism of them personally. Admittedly, some have managed to launch modest careers from these shows, be it clothing lines or tanning products, but I also understand that many of the show’s participants earn next to nothing for parading their lives before us. It makes me feel incredibly sad. I want to stop watching it, but I also feel like I’m on some level rooting for these kids, because that’s what they are. I’m hanging  on to the bitter end waiting for a happy ending. I want some wonderful resolution where it all ends and we know they’re happy and settled and everything is right in the world.

There’s around a 20 year age gap between the cast members of these two shows. It’s only natural that their accomplishments should vary. They are at different stages of their lives. However,  the US participants seem to be selected because they are already successful. Viewers want to sneak around the velvet rope and see what life is like for the wealthy.

So why in the UK, do we prefer to make shows following the lives of ordinary young adults in a glamorous illusion of the producer’s making? While some of the cast have made a good living on the back of appearances on TOWIE and similar shows, some  just seem to scrape a living together or have fairly ordinary jobs off camera.

For me, this disparity begs an important question about the UK at the moment. Do we define success by fame or by concrete accomplishments? And what happens to these young adults when the cameras close down and they’re left without the benefits but with social media abuse, constant scrutiny and in the most extreme situations, mental health issues.

Why aren’t we making programmes about the wealthy and successful? And I don’t mean Made in Chelsea or those born into privilege.  Why aren’t we making shows about hard working, successful people of all ages, and particularly women?  They don’t have to be multi millionaires; I’m not looking to see the next Bill Gates.  Why aren’t there programmes about a diversity of lifestyles. Why does the UK TV  fail to develop programmes about successful people at a level that we can aspire to, and possibly achieve with a bit of hard work?

It troubles me a bit now I’m a mother. I’m looking for the visible role models for my son when he gets older. I wonder who will be on the poster on his bedroom or the screensaver on his tablet. He’s only two so admittedly I don’t have to worry about it quite yet but it does cross my mind.  Yes, there are sports people but we can’t all have a natural talent, and let’s face it no amount of training is going to give you that something special if you don’t already have it. Being successful in life or in business can be achieved by anyone though with the right mindset, information and skills.

So, I’m going to ask you to think about something…

Who are going to be our role models for the next generation of girls and boys ?  Do we want them to be engineers, entrepreneurs, Love Island contestants or something else?

can you think of a public figure you’d like your child to look up to? Pop your thoughts in the comment and tell me why.

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