Can you take back control from watching American reality TV shows?

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3rd January 2017
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Can you take back control from watching American reality TV shows?


           “ The Real Housewives of New York City” “Bridezillas” “Celebrity Rap Superstar”

We live lives which may be heavily influenced by our attachment or addiction to Celebrity culture and the lifestyles of a range of celebrities some of whom we become devoted to in an extraordinary way. We go to extremes in buying same celebrity brands such as hair products expensive make up, brands they in fact may not use at all , and shoes handbags and event trips to their holidays resorts in the chance of a real life glimpse of them. As a Psychologist who works with celebrity’s lifestyles and celebrity culture I often ask to what extent do the viewing public become addicted to these celebrities or allow their mere presence on screen to be the emotional regulator of your behaviour? How often to you become realistic or choose viewing wisely? Ask yourself if the hours spent viewing such programmes is simple entertainment or can it have any social influence over my behaviour? In relation to public health of the nation it’s wise to ask oneself how dependent are we on getting our fix from reality television? What do you really get from the daily extravaganza and shenanagins of these wealthy women or anger fuelled bridezillas? You might be the sort of person who can laugh it off or you may be one who cannot live without your “celebrity fix”.

We do know from psychological research that even the middle class in UK and across the Pond in USA also dip in and out of reality to but are too embarrassed to tell others about it. I am aware of many professional young women in this province who like to watch such reality tv shows with a group of their peers . However, the science of psychology informs is several reasons why we watch these mind bending reality shows.

First of all we have Voyeurism, where we can peek into the intimacies of other people’s lives for our own gratification. I was more aware of this when I was one of Celebrity Big Brothers Big Brain Psychologists many years ago here in UK and when I asked the young adults I Borehamwood studios about it , they shrugged it all off as being simply curious about the celebrities lives. The reality of reality is that our curiosity motive is very different form the need for gratification of lust fuelled desires .We disguise it as a curioslty motive when it is not. The inherent problem here is that it may act as psychological trigger for one to transfer the voyeuristic skill into their own everyday lives. How often have you tried to sneek a peek into your friends smartphone in a coffee shop or club curious to see their Instagram and snapchat content?   We envy these Celebrities as they live in a different world from us, consumed by fame greed and wealth. How concerned are they for these young people who lie in a cardboard box in the doorways of our London Department stores and in the Subways of New York? One cannot be anything but envious of the Housewives extravaganza of magnificence and gluttony for wealth fast cars, many homes and incredible tropical holidays we can only dream about. However, I can tell you that celebritie’s lives in most part are desperately lonely where they feel isolated and their privacy constantly threatened by media press and so on. One I spoke to in some depth a few years ago explained how she wished she could have a normal stable family and lots of hobbies with friends she could depend on. Their lives are one filled with a turbulent and vastly competitive world where she has to be seen as different from other celebs show will meet on the next casting event, and anxieties rise as to who the Director will select for the film or show. The celebrities enter in to what we celebrity pychologists call Social Comparison strategies, where they must be seen to stand out from the crowd. The Housewives of NY live lives like this, the socialites who have to use covert means out shopping to see what their opponent is potentially going to buy for the next Oscar Night out or the Baftas and Oscars.

LA is the nest and breeding ground of most of our Celebrities who regularly appear on screen to whet our appetites daily. The biggest movies and film Directors live in it or near to it and if you wish to be seen and wish to be famous look no further. It’s the land of milk and honey for self obsessed wannabees from the UK reality shows who attempt to think big and abnormally assume that this will be their residence in the years to come. False hopes. Its where celebs socialize obsessively in order to get contacts of a particular agent that will secure them a big contract. Its megabucks but it heightens the jealously and anxieties between various A Listers and the lesser known. Because our lives border on the daily routine of work commute and sleep and anxiety over how we can pay the monthly mortgage rates taxes and soaring bills, we can only lust after such lifestyles. These Housewives of NY and Beverly Hills are real people with real lives that we admire but could never possess in all reality. It’s about who you know not what you know. A world of artificiality mixed like a boring cocktail with many times divorcees and obsessively wealthy cosmetic surgeons and hugely wealthy lawyers and real Estate property tycoons. This is where you will find Martissa Zanuck the cool daughter in law of Richard Zanuck Director of “Jaws”” whose father Daryl Zanuck built 20th Century Fox Studios. Also down the road is Kyle and Kim Richards whose other sister just happens to be Kathy Hilton, relate to Rick Hilton founder of the hotel chain. She is the mother of Paris Hilton known for her blonde hair long legs and blinged out miniature dogs. The new Housewife Yolanda Fosters ex husband is Mohammed Hadid designer of the Ritz Carlton hotel chain. Her husband David Foster is a Grammy wining songwriter and record producer for celebrities such as Barbara Streisland and Madonna. When we watch these American reality Tv shows Directors and producers know that it has to top the ratings so there has to be a story or core content to hold the viewers form one show to the next. The core element is sex and scandal, cheating on one another’s partners and the glorification of money and fame. It’s the juicy bits that satiates viewers personality motives such as the sex drive curiosity drive vengeance and authoritarian motives. Its’ the juicy sordid scenarios we would not dare read in magazines a few decades ago, but now it is and everyday occurance with online dating fake identities cheating promiscuity accepted as legitimate almost. We have built up a brain network of circuits to expect this genre of reality show and without this core content the show would be pointless.

When you watch the Housewives of New York or the Housewives of Beverly Hills, consider for a moment the trappings of perpetual wealth and the orgy of consumerism that permeates each of their lives. Think also for a moment on English Premium club footballers now living in USA and the abhorrent salaries they earn for kicking ball around a sports ground. Ok there is a high level of skill, but are they really celebrities? They are part of the “Media Processing “ of wannabees with excessive money in the bank and low emotional intelligence as to know how to spend it wisely. Would the world’s poor marginalized and forgotten be at the top of their “Giveaway listings”. Footballer’s personalities like American Housewives undergo significant changes as they move across the pond in the La La land of extravaganza. Are these the future positive role models society needs and the type of individuals our teenagers should idolize?

When I probe into their minds and personality I see heartbreak, loneliness, depression on an acute and often chronic level as they are surrounded with attention. Rising each day to endure the daily ritual of Twitter Facebook Instagram to read the latest updates an evaluate the latest criticism about their body image hairstyle make up and more particularly their boyfriends and girlfriend. Negativity plays an important role in that it contributes to their self possessed image of being model like and glamorous often dressed up like mutton dressed like lamb and the personality of what they ,jealously about who is sleeping with whom and who really cares. We as viewers adore the glamour   the fashion but one thing is for certain. If they came to me I cannot give them a cosmetic personality following their tummy tucks, facelifts, collagen fillers, breast enhancement, Hermes Birkin handbags, psychics, faith healers, personal assistants hair stylists therapists…The celebrity world of LA is one of intrigue toxicity where one finds it difficult to discover reality in movieland. Roll out the Red carpet. Money can buy just about anything, but it will not buy the housewives happiness genuine friendship eternal love nor will it buy commitment in a monogamous relationship. Let’s become introspective and search our own hearts minds and souls and do a genuine brain and motional detox today. What are you really searching for in your life? How do you think you will achieve it?

Arthur Cassidy Ph.D C. Psychol