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New Report Looks at the Messages and Themes on Cable TV’s Most-Watched Reality Programs

In a new report, the Parents Television Council examines the good, the bad and the ugly of MTV’s most-watched reality programming. PTC’s new study, “Reality on MTV: Gender Portrayals on MTV Reality Programming” is based on a content analysis of the most popular primetime cable reality shows among children and teens ages 12 to 17 during the 2011 TV season. The top four programs all aired on MTV and include: “Jersey Shore,” “Real World,” “Teen Mom 2” and “16 and Pregnant.” To view PTC’s full report, click here.

The overarching question PTC sought to address was, “What messages are being communicated to young viewers through the lens and language of reality television?” The findings suggest a disturbingly unrealistic portrayal of “reality” with harsh, demeaning, degrading and sexualized dialogue. While women were routinely the recipients of denigrating language, they also were more likely than men to be negative to themselves and to other women.

“After many years of pursuing equality for women, the findings of today’s study suggest a glamorized, but grossly distorted view of what it means to be feminine. Compared to men, women were far more denigrating to themselves and other females. With so much at stake, teen-targeted reality television is doing little more than ‘empowering’ young girls to be overly negative,” said PTC President Tim Winter. 

“Study after study has demonstrated a connection between a child’s media consumption and their behavior, and Nielsen data prove teens are flocking to MTV to get their fix of ‘reality’ programming. With MTV reality ‘stars’ as celebrity role models, teens are learning that outlandish behavior is rewarded, and that degrading, sexualized language is not only accepted, it is encouraged.

“The findings from this report paint an unfortunate picture of questionable progress, both for men and for women. The version of reality that MTV is presenting lacks anything positive or inspiring.  Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi, recently told GQ Magazine that the positive material in ‘Jersey Shore’ is edited out of the broadcast version by the producers, and the appearance is that the cast members drink and party more than they actually do. Reality television isn’t reality by the time the videotape emerges from the edit room. READ MORE

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