Reality-type dating shows have steadily grown in popularity amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite their popularity, people should not solely rely on these shows for entertainment because they distort viewers’ perception of romantic relationships and reality in general.
Since the pandemic began, television viewing has surged by over 25%. More specifically, dating show viewership in the United States had grown by 23% from December 2019 to May 2020 — a time in the year when viewership usually decreases. As a result, shows such as "The Bachelor," "Too Hot to Handle," "Love Is Blind" and "90 Day Fiancé" have grown in popularity.
These shows have latched onto audiences based on their intriguing characters, dramatic plots and extravagant filming locations. While this can provide a sense of escapism from the harsh realities of life in the COVID-19 pandemic, grasping onto these forms of entertainment can prove disastrous in blending the definitions of reality and fantasy regarding dating in the real world.
It wouldn’t be shocking to reveal that producers and editors often modify elements within reality television shows to boost ratings, however, many people are unaware of the lengths these teams go to do so.
Producers of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" have been known to splice lines together using different footage to evoke drama. “[Producers] basically will call you names, berate you, curse at you until they get you to say what they want you to say," season 13 contestant Megan Parris said.
On "Love Is Blind," some viewers were able to point out faults and staged scenes within the show’s various episodes. Examples of such inconsistencies include as scene in which a wedding dress was covered in mud and then appeared miraculously clean minutes later and two contestants who had known each before the show's filming – despite the claim that everyone had been strangers.
There is no doubt these shows provide people with entertaining content during otherwise tense or slow times within the current pandemic. Some real-life relationships may also consist of emotional and intense moments that mirror such shows, however, the antics and plot-lines within reality-based dating shows perpetuate unrealistic and purposefully-dramatized relations among casted contestants.
In a study done at the University of Wisconsin within the last decade, it was found that a majority of those who watched reality-based shows believe women “in the real world” participate in “bad behaviors (e.g., spreading rumors and verbal aggression)” more than men. They also overestimate the “prevalence of discord (e.g., affairs and divorces)” and the prominence of sex in romantic relationships.
According to Medical Procedure News, reality television has also contributed to an increase in cosmetic surgery procedures and eating disorders among females ages 13 to 19 in the last few years.
When audiences avidly watch these shows in isolated and tense surroundings such as in quarantine, they may become more susceptible to interpreting the shows as realistic reflections of how people actually interact and kindle romances with one another.
Instead of obsessively clinging to these kinds of shows, people should take a step back and recognize them for what they are — a means of entertainment, not a reflection of reality.