Is Reality Television Harmful to Celebrities?

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April 11, 2013

Reality television has become a staple in our viewing diet but is it coming at a price?  It seems like every day, a new tragedy is reminding us of the cost of living life under a microscope.  Of course, we’ve rolled our eyes at the misfortunes of the Jersey Shore cast – but being arrested for public drunkenness is not as life shattering as some of the other sadness we’ve seen.

Buckwild (MTV)

This show centers on the adventures of nine people who find “unique” ways of enjoying themselves in rural West Virginia.  From the first episode, critics complained that the series glorified potentially dangerous activities and it appears they were right. Trouble and tragedy have already stricken several members of the cast.  Salwa Amin was arrested in February for possession of Oxycodone and was charged with intent to deliver.  That same month, Michael “Bluefoot” Burford was arrested for aggravated DUI.  Sadly, last week, 21-year-old Shain Gandee, his uncle, David Gandee, and Donald Robert Myers were found dead in Gandee’s Bronco.  It is believed that they died of carbon monoxide poisoning following a late-night off-roading adventure.

Storage Wars (A&E)

The success of Storage Wars was a surprise to many but it’s done so well there are an additional two spinoffs in different locations.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been good news.  In February, businessman, Mark Balelo, was found dead after inhaling carbon monoxide and gas fumes in a warehouse in Simi Valley, CA.  The featured bidder’s death has been ruled a suicide.

Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (VH1)

Believe it or not, Dr. Drew is a board-certified internist and addiction medicine specialist and, while he may have been successful in his private career, his peers have been extremely critical of his approach on television.  His response is that his medical peers “don’t understand television.”  While he may have a point, the results of his “treatments” might indicate that the well-being of his patients has taken a backseat to entertaining viewers.

So far, five people who have appeared on Celebrity Rehab have died.  Most recently, country singer, Mindy McCready, 37, took her own life from a self-inflicted gun-shot wound.  She’s actually the third person from her season to pass away.  Former Real World: Hollywood cast member, Joey Kevar, 29, died from opiate intoxication. Famed LAPD beating victim, Rodney King, 47, died from accidental drowning (with drugs and alcohol in his system). And Taxi star, Jeff Conaway, 60, died after taking opiates and other drugs.

Alice in Chains bassist, Mike Starr, died of an overdose in 2002 and remaining original members, Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney, called the show “disgusting.”  Kinney summed it up best when he said: “It exploits people at their lowest point, when they’re not in their right mind, and the sad part is, this is like entertainment for people when it’s actually a life and death situation. I don’t think it helps anybody and it makes entertainment out of people’s possible death, and that’s pathetic and it’s stupid.”

Following McCready’s suicide, singer/songwriter, Richard Marx, shared his thoughts of Twitter and compared Dr. Drew to Dr. Kevorkian saying that their therapies yield the “same results.”  Although, he deleted that tweet, he did add that “Dr. D does is exploitation and his TV track record is not good.”

Our Responsibility

These shows would not exist if people weren’t watching.  We have a responsibility to society and to the people being exploited to draw the line when things get out of hand.  These aren’t characters in a movie, these are real people and their actual lives are impacted by what happens on these television “shows.”  We looked at some serious life and death consequences but what about the failed relationships (Nick & Jessica Newlyweds, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Celebrity Wife Swap) and unhealthy lifestyles (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) we support by watching this stuff.

Is it worth it?  Weigh in!

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