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Reality TV needs reality check

From MTV’s The Real World to ABC’s Extreme Makeover, “reality television” is everywhere. However, the phenomenon appears to be going too far. MTV’s I Want a Famous Face and FOX’s The Swan, both of which center around the idea of plastic surgery for vanity purposes, are two shows that easily help explain how entertainment of the “real” kind is reaching a point of obsession.

The Swan premiered on FOX on April 7 and offers women what Fox.com refers to as “the chance of a lifetime.” This offer includes not only a personal trainer to exercise with twice a day but extensive amounts of plastic surgery. The contestants are not allowed to see themselves during a period of approximately three months until the taping of their “big reveal.”

Each week two women are featured and one is chosen to move on to the first annual Miss Swan Pageant, the winner of which will be crowned Miss Swan. The transformations that some of these women go through are so drastic, some of them barely recognize themselves.

MTV’s I Want A Famous Face is another example of idolizing a Hollywood image taken to another extreme. This show features one person a week, and viewers witness the man or woman’s surgical transformation into the celebrity who they have chosen to look like. Cheek implants, liposuction and breast augmentations are only a few of the different surgeries seen on both of the shows.

As RealityTVworld.com explained, the majority of television shows in the United States are considered reality TV and there are several reasons they have become so popular: money, fame and the guilty pleasure phenomenon. Zonalatina.com, a Latino marketing Web site that studied American TV viewing habits, reported that though there is a definite decrease in the number of viewers, as age increases, males and females between the ages of 12-19 are the most likely to watch. These are also the ages when people are most vulnerable to their surroundings since they are moving into high school or leaving home and beginning their journeys through college.

It is a shame that networks are winning viewer ratings by not only exploiting this behavior, but also encouraging it. When it gets to the point where people are no longer content to simply have their lives taped but are actually reconstructing their entire body for the sake of entertainment, a reality check is in order.