Distortions in reality

Despite its name, reality television is far from genuine. This genre of entertainment has emerged to satisfy the human disposition to lust after gossip and drama. Our alarming obsession over these highly produced and edited shows has led to many pernicious series becoming popular. Here are some of the worst of the worst reality shows in recent years.

“America’s Next Top Model”

This modeling competition began its 24-season run nearly two decades ago in 2003. Each cycle begins with 10 to 16 contestants who compete every week for the final prize of a modeling contract, thousands of dollars and a feature in Paper Magazine. The Tyra Banks-led series was infamous for the transformative makeovers that it made the models endure–often ending in a sea of tears.

This seemingly benign aspect of “America’s Next Top Model” caused irreparable mental harm, however, according to Cycle 24 contestent Jeana Turner. Since the age of 10, the 26-year-old was diagnosed with alopecia, causing her to lose the majority of her hair. She was forced to stop wearing wigs as a part of her “new look.” In a social media post, the former contestant complained about this as well as other allegations of mistreatment by the show-runners and Banks herself. Turner’s experience and outcry point to the secretive and unglamorous behind the scenes workings of not only “America’s Next Top Model” but other similar shows as well.

“My 600-lb Life”

A hallmark of the TLC channel, this series chronicles the 12-month journey of obese individulas undergoing gastric bypass surgery. The stars of “My 600-lb Life” have to move to Houston to get treatment from Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, known on the show as Dr. Now. Although TLC covers the cost of surgery and provides a flat rate of $1,500 for appearing on the show, many past participants and their families have had to turn to crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to cover the high costs of relocation. 

The show often depicts the morbidly obese individuals in a freakshowesque fashion–the fan favorite being bathing. This exploits the vulnerable leads of the series rather than aiding them in leading an improved, healthier life, which is supposed to be the crux of “My 600-lb Life.” The popularity of this show has led TLC to create multiple other series based on obese people such as “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” “1000-lb Sisters” and “Hot and Heavy.”

“Love It or List It”

This popular home renovation show follows homeowners who are unhappy with their current living situation. “Love It or List It” has two main hosts: real estate agent David Visentin and home renovator Hilary Farr. Families get to decide whether to stay in their renovated home designed by Farr or find a new house with Visentin. This beloved series’s image was tainted by a lawsuit from Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan, the North Carolina couple featured on the show in 2015. 

The pair sued Big Coat TV, the producers of “Love It or List It,” and Aaron Fitz Construction, the contractor, for “irreparably damaged” floors and other “low quality” renovations to their home. Even though this lawsuit was settled, it puts into question the integrity of this series and others like it. Although many aspects of reality television are in fact fabricated, this case highlights the very tangible ramifications that may result from them. 

“Toddlers and Tiaras”

Wide smiles perfected by “flippers” and perfectly manicured hands wave to a panel of judges. This is a typical scene of the child pageant competitions featured on TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras.” This show is notorious for its overly controlling parents and questionable measures they go to make sure their child secures the Grand Supreme title.

Toddlers as young as a couple months old are put through intense training and transformations. They endure spray tans, heavy makeup and uncomfortable dresses, which are all age inappropriate to say the least. These toddlers often dance provocatively in skimpy outfits under the guise of a “cute” performance. The series’ focal point is the melt-downs and anxiety attacks of its young stars. It is clear from the mental distress that the children display that this show is beyond problematic.