Stereotypes, counter-stereotypes and lies


Christopher Vega/ The Lion's Roar

Recently, I have been finding articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times about reality TV shows perpetuating stereotypes. As I scroll through the wealth of knowledge: Google, I find other websites and articles have titles blaring that reality TV falsely stereotypes women and/or people of color. While I cannot allow my grey-eyed, brown-haired and freckled self to speak for people of color, I do have a stance to take on reality TV stereotyping women.

Personally, I am not sold. Not to say that there is not a level of fluff to most or even all of the interactions that happen on our favorite reality TV shows, but women are not the ones being singled out here. If anything, women are counter stereotyped, like in the case of “Shark Tank,” which opposes the idea that women do not make it big in business by featuring entrepreneur and investor Lori Greiner. Another example is “Car Masters: Rust to Riches,” which appears to give more screen time to female mechanic Constance Nunes than to any of her male colleagues. Yet another is the case of professional driver Lisa Kelly in “Ice Road Truckers.”

With that said, let us consider the opposite. Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” had an all-male cast. So did “Deadliest Catch” and “Counting Cars.” Nobody seems to think that this is stereotyping men into seeking break-back jobs and hard labor or at least, I do not know anybody who believes that. Instead, the people I have talked to just accept the shows for what they are.

But wait, let me stop there. What really are these shows? Instead of getting offended by perceived stereotypes, which can often be an eye-of-the-beholder issue, I think that the greater problem is the complete fiction scripted into reality shows. According to a 2016 Forbes article, about 43 percent of the deals made on “Shark Tank” actually fell through off camera while another 30 percent went through considerable changes.

In the case of “Ice Road Truckers,” the opening footage of a semi falling into a lake was modeled, and one of the cast members claimed that his lines were scripted, and he was made to look like the ‘bad guy’ of the show. With “Gold Rush,” the Alaskan government has claimed that the show intentionally broke laws so that they would have conflict for the camera.

What about “Deadliest Catch?” One of the storms was fabricated by editing together two different weather events, and a captain confessed that all of the drama on the show was for pure entertainment.

So then, for me, I do not have nearly as much of a problem with stereotypes—or counter-stereotypes, in my case—as I do with the completely made-up lies that I am fed when I choose to indulge in a reality TV show. Actually, I do not think it is even worth discussing the stereotype issue, where it is perceived, before the fiction issue is dealt with first.

After all, I would prefer to be judged than to be lied to. Wouldn’t you?