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I Don’t Want My MTV – ‘Til They Bring Real People to Reality Shows

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary, Maahum Chaudhry Posted: Jun 13, 2008

Editor's Note: One young woman realizes that MTV's reality programming exploits the lives of young people and refuses to show any reality that isn't rich or white. NAM contributor, Maahum Chaudhary is a writer for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

When I was in kindergarten, my dad took out our cable because he realized how many hours my sister and I wasted in front of the television screen. Then, just about two years ago, the wonderful world of cable came back into our lives when we received the service with our Internet provider.

My family was ecstatic. With cable, our television no longer looked like a blizzard of static. I was particularly happy to get MTV. I had only occasionally watched bits of shows at my friends’ homes. Honestly, I never thought it was as great as it was hyped up to be, but still, when I had it in the comfort of my own home – almost every time I picked up the remote – I found myself flipping over to the channel.

Now, after two years of vegging out in front of endless bad reality shows, I realize how worthless the majority of the programming actually is. I think they are exploiting the young Americans who agree to have their “lives taped.” Okay, so people want to get on TV in order to become famous, or see their face on TV, but does that make it okay to make our entire generation look like idiots? What are the young people really getting out of it? From where I’m watching, it looks like MTV is reaping all the benefits.

I have to admit, last year, I was one of those people who wanted to be on one of these reality shows. I had the perfect opportunity when I heard that MTV was going to do a reality show on a high school paper. I grabbed the casting information as soon as I found out and informed my journalism class the next day. I was surprised that they wanted to know about our personal romantic relationships. I wondered how that was relevant to putting out a paper. Nonetheless, we made our casting video, sent it in, and – after some anxious waiting – were told that we hadn’t made the cut.

I was surprised – we had one of the best high school papers in the country, an incredible staff, and a great paper overall. What were we lacking?

I found out this season with the series premiere of The Paper. I tuned in to the premier of the first episode, hoping to see what this school had that ours didn’t to make them stars. They had drama - theatrical drama. I must admit, the show was entertaining, with colorful characters. It was perfect for reality TV. But it wasn’t realistic. At least, it didn’t seem like any experience that I’ve had working for various papers.

I guess I was expecting too much from MTV in my hopes that the show would expose the world to how much work and planning goes into putting out a high school newspaper. Most people take getting a well-developed paper into their hands for granted. Or, if there are problems with an issue, they are quick to chastise the staff. I enthusiastically tuned into the first episode of The Paper expecting the show to unveil the work and pressure high school journalists deal with.

That was not the case. The show focuses more on individuals who have issues with one another, and cannot get along while working on the school newspaper – in this case, The Circuit of Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida. Also, it is obvious that these kids are better off financially than most of the people I worked with on the staff of my high school paper. Most of the editors have nice cars and huge homes. The editor-in-chief comes to school on the first day of her senior year with a nose job and an iPhone. Oh, and from what I’ve seen so far, there is only one person on the staff who isn’t white.

But The Paper isn’t the only show that I feel doesn’t truly represent reality. Another show I watched is The Real World, partly out of curiosity, and partly because a girl who graduated from my high school had been on a previous season. After watching a season, I still don’t get the point of the show. You throw a whole bunch of “real” people in a house for some weeks, and what? I watched almost every episode of the season hoping to find the purpose of the show, but it was all in vain.

The same goes for My Super Sweet Sixteen. I’m surprised at how many people watch a show about the spoiled children with insanely rich parents, who are willingly feeding their child’s desire for materialistic things. At these lavish parties, you get to see the friends of the lucky birthday girl or boy, and to me it seems almost obvious that these friends are bought. If these kids were from an average, middle class American family, they definitely would be keeping different company, possibly better company.

And alas, there is The Hills. The show is just about petty arguments rich girls get into because they have nothing better to do than gossip, which is done at school, work, and when out about the town. The Hills’ girls were recently put on the cover of The Rolling Stones. As one of my friends commented, such a move makes the magazine less prestigious in her eyes.

I don’t blame MTV for putting on such shows, because it is easy to get sucked into the ridiculous dramas. But as viewers we have the power to not watch pointless shows. Let’s show these producers that we don’t only want to see spoiled, overdramatic, rich white kids by turning off MTV until they put on some real stories of real people living real lives.

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