New Criticals

Part of this is because reality television appeals to legitimate needs and desires of the audience. First, there is the simple pleasure we gain from being voyeurs and escaping for an hour to live vicariously through contestants (see Nabi, Biely, Morgan, & Stitt, 2003; Baruh, 2009). Reality television viewing has also been found to fulfill certain social affiliation needs (Papacharissi & Mendelson, 2007; Godlewski & Perse, 2010) and to demonstrate therapeutic self-improvement, which positively enforces the idea that we can motivate change in our own behaviors (Andrejevic, 2004; Dubrofsky, 2007). Reality television also appeals to coarser demands. One such demand being what Waite and Booker (2005) called “humilitainment.” Their analysis of season one of The Apprentice found that watching others fail or act like fools helps us feel better about our own lives. This social emotion aligns with the German word schadenfreude, and recently scholars have found this emotion to be inherently useful for our self-esteem (see Van Dijk, Ouwerkerk, van Koningsbruggen, &Wesseling, 2012; Smith, 2013; van de Ven et al., 2014). 

Some of the major stereotypes perpetuated on BIP embody the concept of this emotion and are as follows: women are crazy and emotionally unstable, while men are dumb and powerless to surface-level beauty. Take the contestant Claire for instance, whose scenes were edited to make it seem as if she were conversing with raccoons and crabs, when in reality she was speaking with other people. This gimmick depicted her as a crazy woman incapable of interpersonal relations with people, and was employed strategically to make the audience laugh at her expense. Another woman, Ashley S. also received the crazy edit. She made a name for herself on The Bachelor by marveling at vegetables and birds, and was brought on BIP according to the show’s host because she made “great T.V.”