Forum: Reality TV reflects modern morality

Anybody who has tuned into prime-time television in the last 10 months knows that a new trend has conquered the medium. No, this explosion of new series is not another cluster of “Friends” copied sitcoms, but rather a reality television craze that has been echoed on several different major networks. Led by the pioneer program “Survivor,” these real-life soap operas create a game of social chess full of societal allusions and water-cooler gossip that attracts viewers.

The rise of realism in television has caused much outrage. Cynics criticize these shows, which include “Survivor,” “Temptation Island” and “Boot Camp,” for being morally bankrupt and without redeeming qualities. Odious critiques of these programs, however, are completely unfounded. Reality TV may at times display shameful behavior, but what critics fail to realize is the shows are filled with high morals and are constructed on a foundation of learning how to live and interact with people while pursuing the American dream.

The moral behind the show “Survivor” is not to cheat and deceive in pursuit of riches; it is that you have to be wise and careful in your dealings with people. Based on precepts taught to young children, “Survivor” proves that lessons learned in nursery school are useful in many situations. Working well with others, sharing and not being bossy is what will keep you in the game. Outsiders or demanding, bossy people are eliminated. Those who share remain making it to the final four. The quest for riches and fame on “Survivor” is not a selfish mission as it is often misconstrued, but is symbolic of the American dream. Hard work and cooperation are rewarded as the players pursue their own Horatio Alger myth each season on “Survivor” and its look-alike companion shows.

“Temptation Island,” where four unmarried couples test their relationship in the presence of 26 hot and tempting singles, also provides valuable messages. Fidelity and communication were the most important lessons behind this sex-driven show. In a time of rising divorce rates and unfaithfulness, “Temptation Island” shows that even imperfect relationships can last regardless of a lack of communication or the occasional flirt. In each relationship tested on the island, the couples stayed together despite past troubles.

“Boot Camp,” the Fox Network’s military training facsimile of “Survivor,” promotes the ideals of discipline and working together. In a show where the weak are voted off, “recruits” compete as one unit. While people obviously do not tune in each week for righteous and upstanding characters and are more drawn to the petty fights that make each show exciting, they do absorb positive values. Ethics and cooperation are the basis for each show and are proven necessities for success.

-The writer is a freshman majoring in political science.

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