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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Guest column: Effects of reality TV on youths' perceptions

If we were to talk about reality shows in our world today, it would probably mean 'unscripted' activities that celebrities (or not) do on a daily or competitions, or maybe, that it is one of the entertainment world's biggest income generator and investment.

Ranging from entertainment realities, competition realities to inspirational realities such as 'The Preachers of LA' airing on Fox Life, this industry has been booming all the way from the early 90s. Reality TV shows are characterised by three major things that come as a challenge to most youth in the country. Lots of money, high fashion and an expensive lifestyle, but what happens if you do not have all of the above? We all want to live lavish lifestyles with lots of money and high fashion styling, but we can't all afford it.

During the early 1990s, shows such as The 'Real World', which premiered in 1992, and 'The Challenge', which premiered six years later, were already on air but were not as famous as the ones on TV in this 21st century. Though is it really reality? And how exactly do they impact their audiences, especially the youth in Kenya today? The 21st century youth are more vibrant and pay much attention to social media trends, which in turn heavily impact on their lifestyles. The way we talk, walk, dress up and even what they choose to eat and not to eat. Body fitness and daily exercises come to us in form of shows, and we choose them over date nights. Ladies would rather stay in with friends and watch their favourite shows than go out and dance their sweat off.

Speaking to a few guys from campus, who I realised are true loyal fans of the reality TV scene, they seem to have a strong opinion as to why they follow these shows, claiming that if it doesn't help them spend their time peacefully, it helps them make smart fashion choices. A good example is 'The bad girls club', where the producers get 10 of the craziest girls in town and make them all live in one house, but they cannot keep the "badness" to themselves but instead bully each other until the last woman stands. Now, best believe that a full season would make you feel like a bad girl yourself.

However, producers seem to have lots of tricks up their sleeves for their shows to attract more attention and give them more profit. The difference is that, the closer you look, the lesser you see. One of the most common tricks behind their jobs is that they get to choose who gets to stay on a show and who doesn't, what should be said or not and even determine the amount of drama that keeps us glued to the shows.

On competition reality shows such as 'The Voice' airing on NBC, the main focus is usually more on the superstar judges and their relations with each other than with the contestants of the show, all determined by the producers. Another secret to these kinds of shows is that the producers have a say on who should and shouldn't be eliminated because they are good for the show, as long as the viewership grows. On other shows, they tend to use a trick that is commonly known among themselves as frankenbiting, where they create sentences and conversations from scratch by joining different clips together and even change the meaning of the conversations.

'Keeping up with the Kardashians' first premiered on E! in 2007. It took the world by storm, giving the family members tremendous fame across the world and making them one of the richest and most powerful families in the world, grossing over $60 million (Sh6 billion) over the years, just because they live their lives on camera. From humble beginnings to living 13 seasons and counting on national TV, these people have become the most powerful in the entertainment and fashion scenes.

I would hate to admit it but there are shows that are more educating to the youth than others, and even parents join us in watching. They challenge us to face life as it is and test us to our limits. I believe that's way better than trying to get that fake Prada that Kim Kardashian had on recently.

Some of the most educating and most widely known challenge shows include Fear Factor, Hell's Kitchen and the biggest of them all, the Survivor Series, which expanded all the way to Africa. That's where the problem starts and ends. Guys start pushing themselves and even resort to unreasonable solutions just to live like their "role models". Like it or not, that struggle is not at all worth it.

Guys, don't end up deceiving yourselves because of things that are stage-managed by professional producers, who are only after large viewership and profits, while you are out here struggling like no man's business. Reality TV has been there for decades and will continue to grace our televisions for as long as we have eyes to watch. Just don't forget the difference between reality on TV and reality in real life.

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