Shows like True Life, My Strange Addiction, and Hoarding: Buried Alive are shows that the viewer can watch casually and comfortably in their homes at the touch of a button – but do we ever think about the story behind the person? In some of these shows, the person that is being followed can seem “crazy,” but have you ever stopped to think that maybe their being exploited by the ones holding the camera? In my opinion, these are people who need professional help, not the magnification of society watching their every move – their every mistake. Some might question the ethics of the situation as a whole. Is it okay to document a person who is mentally ill’s life (regardless of consent) and broadcast it on national television? This is something that I think should be reconsidered when creating shows like My 600-lbs Life and 16 and Pregnant. There seems to be some sort of societal disconnect between what is okay to put on tv based on the consent by someone who is labeled as “mentally ill.” I think it should be rethought that a person who is labeled as “mentally ill” is eligible to give consent for themselves. In my opinion, shows like this are quite harmful to the people that are in them and should be taken off air. People who are mentally ill must not be used for our entertainment, rather treated with compassion and acknowledged as the part of society that needs help in their every day life.
Through research findings and articles that I found online, I quickly learned that there were many more people who agreed with me in saying that these shows are harmful to the people in them. According to the British Psychological Society, people should “desist from using mental health problems to entertain and shock the public.” Clinical Psychologist Sophie Holmes says, “we have a responsibility to consider the mental health needs of the people on the shows.” Many people who watch the shows, see this sort of exploitation as an act of bullying and how it is much different than tv shows that promote human transformation. Although there are normally great changes in people’s lives by the ends of the show, it is clear to see that much trauma had to happen in order for these changes to happen.
Some people argue that shows like this help people finally realize that they have a problem. The BPS report cites one anonymous source who wrote, “Before the programs, I didn’t realize there was help out there. It would have helped me to have this information years ago.” Another anonymous source added, “It was only when the programs were on television that I thought it’s actually a mental health problem. Before that I just thought I’m creating clutter.” When we open our minds to the different perspective of people on both sides of the equation, we realize that these shows can be more than harmful to society.
This information was just some that I derived from the links listed below combined with my personal thoughts and feelings. Overall, I think there is some good information out there to help and argue against the broadcasting of these potentially harmful reality shows. I think it’s important to look at the facts and combine those with people’s opinions and try your best to see things through the eyes of others. The sources I used to get facts were mostly The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Both of these sources had references and quotations from people giving their opinions on the subject at hand. These sources provided perspectives that I never thought of and many that I also agreed with. All in all, I learned a lot of things from reading through all of these sources.
From the outside looking in, these shows might seem harmless and helpful but when you realize that these people are mentally ill and are possibly being exploited for it, you might rethink turning on some of your favorite shows.