Everyone who’s ever watched multiple seasons of any given reality show knows that the producers are following some semblance of a script. Take the “Bachelor/Bachelorette” franchise, for instance. Each season features one set of archenemies that must ultimately endure a ‘dramatic’ two-on-one date. Sure, personalities are likely to clash when living in close quarters with strangers, but this level of conflict always comes around like clockwork. Throw in some whacky professions—such as Free Spirit, Chicken Enthusiast, and Tickle Monster, for example—and you’ve got yourself some entertainment value.
But, as viewers begin to grow weary of the tiresome cycle, producers have become desperate to spice things up now and then. When Kayleigh Morris of “Big Brother” was forcibly evicted recently, the star brought attention to how eager producers are to manufacture drama, even if it’s at the expense of the cast’s reputation.
Morris told Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace of The Sun that it’s “really frustrating, as I had so many happy times in the house, but only the bad parts were aired, which I guess is the nature of the beast, but still…” Reality TV surely offers an opportunity to achieve fame and fortune for those who maintain their dignity, but those who’re targeted as villains live on in infamy, nothing more.
Nothing, however, compares to the fiasco on the set of “Bachelor In Paradise.” While the summertime offshoot never garnered quite the audience of its parent series, producers have tried to up the ante each season by cultivating the most controversial cast members of seasons past. For the upcoming incarnation, Corinne Olympios (Nick Viall’s season) and DeMario Jackson (Rachel Lindsay’s season) were set to reprise their ‘roles’ for some fun in the sun. But, just days into filming, everyone was sent home so investigators could look into claims of sexual assault involving the two stars.
Prior reports claimed that both Olympios and Jackson had been drinking excessively throughout the day, and that an encounter may have taken place while Olympios was too intoxicated to consent. Since then, officials have concluded that no such assault happened, allowing the show to resume filming ahead of its August premiere date. Olympios retained representation in order to get to the bottom of this matter, while Jackson has been dealing with the ramifications of being portrayed as a rapist, guilty before proven innocent.
While I’m not one to disregard assault allegations, for I don’t doubt that there could’ve been foul play, I can’t help but wonder if ABC will use this incident to boost its audience—and viewers are to blame.
Essentially, viewers are the addicts and producers are our enablers. When excitement from the typical drama fails to satisfy our cravings, showrunners must find new ways to draw the audience back into the fray. Each hit must be more extreme than the one prior to ensure our satisfaction. We sit on the sidelines, complaining about how reality TV has gotten out of hand, yet we still tune in to gawk as the drama unfolds.
Of course, while I’d hope that this particular case wasn’t manufactured—for the sake of assault victims everywhere—I’m positive that ABC will use this story to lure viewers, old and new, as the premiere date draws near.
However, we have the power to condemn such exploitation, and doing so takes little effort. Next time you see a Kayleigh Morris-like outburst, just change the channel.
(This post originally appeared on Storia.)