Love Island. The Bachelor. Keeping up with the Kardashians. These are all shows that most of us are familiar with, and have received recognition and love widely around the world. Reality TV shows: a genre of television programming that documents purportedly unscripted real-life situations, often starring unknown individuals rather than professional actors. Watching these make us most wonder, “why can’t I have a life like that”. While it might look like a one in a lifetime experience, there is a dark side when participants regret their decision being involved in a reality show.
Lets take Love Island for example, a show most students at SAS are familiar with. As we all can probably infer, Love Island is an incredibly popular show, where finalists could come out of the show with thousands more followers on social media, be asked to appear on other programmes, and be offered sponsorship deals. In other words, many could return to the UK and become millionaires with the fame they earned from the show. From an audience perspective, we might think, “I wish I could just appear on a show and gain fame from that. It must be so easy”. On the other head, ex-participants themselves have commented about the negative impact Reality TV shows can have on a mental health and even went as far as urging producers behind these shows to offer better support.
Former participant of Love Island 2016, Zara Holland, was stripped of her title as ‘Miss Great Britain’ after having sex inside the villa. Critics argued that her actions did not “promote Zara as a positive role model” as she “did not uphold the responsibility expected of the title.” Zara has also stated that being on Love Island lead her to feeling anxious and depressed for the next two years. She stated, “I was tired all the time and I noticed a massive change in my personality. I kind of had no go-to at all and I wasn’t really that happy.” and “I never thought I’d be able to get out of this dark place I went to. It was really hard.” Even though Love Island insisted that they take their contestants’ health “very seriously” and “always a top priority”, participants says otherwise.
Another case where we can see this is from Sarah Goodhart, who was on series 14 of Geordie Shore. After appearing, Sarah commented that she has concerned reality TV shows will “push someone too far” sooner or later. Not only that, in August, she uploaded an 18-minute youtube video, which she called “The Truth”, where she claims the reality TV industry of being “corrupted”. Sarah expressed that she was dealing with anxiety and depression before participating on the show, but also stated that ‘she thought she was going to be rich. and instead, ‘it was the opposite and she put herself in debt, while her panic attacks got worse than ever’ on BBC news, Newsbeat. Insisting that the show made her feel “trapped”, she went on to say, “On down days my request was to phone home and twice that request was ignored and I just felt very neglected” and “I brought up a few times that I needed to speak to someone because I was losing my head a little bit but I was very rarely granted that chance.”
Those are two examples, but reality shows can even be so negatively severe that a former participant tried to take his own life away, even until recently. Before this, Steve Dymond, another former participant, died after reportedly failing a love-cheat lie detector test on the Jeremy Kyle show. He commented that “The Jeremy Kyle show ruined his life, and he still feels like he’s got this weight around my shoulders and that the show took away his voice completely”. Not only that, he added on by saying ‘he wish he could die because he can’t control this Jeremy Kyle show.”
Following along, a man named Dwayne Davison who became known as the “most-hated guest” on The Jeremy Kyle Show and just a few days ago, Dwayne Davison went on to tell MPs that he tried to take his own life away because the show ruined his life. After being casted on the show, Mr Davison stated that his life changed drastically afterwards, stating that he ‘lost jobs’ and ‘his family started hating him, quoting “I was crying on the phone saying: ‘I’ve lost jobs, my family hate me because of how you’ve edited it, can you at least take it down from YouTube?’ They told me to get a lawyer.” He also added on that he received multiple abusive and threatening comments and direct messages such as “kill me, rape my girlfriend” etc. More shockingly, he was asked to get a lawyer when he pleaded the show to stop broadcasting further episodes -like they claimed they would if asked.
Reality TV might look all fun and games from our view, but it is a whole different perspective than we actually believe it to be.