Death and Reality TV: Has Reality Gotten Too Real?

This week, MTV is dealing with the fall-out from the death of one of their reality stars. Shain Gandee, a castmember of the Jersey Shore in Appalachia show Buckwild, and two companions died of accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning while going late-night off-roading—a pastime that Shain was often shown enjoying on the show.
 
The death of the reality star has some questioning the future of the show, which had begun filming its second season. But a larger question could also be asked about the future of reality TV at large: has the line been crossed where the fun antics that once drew young viewers in, have too heavy a consequence to keep them watching? Did everything just get a little too real?
 
Young viewers want reality TV that lifts them up, or makes them feel better about themselves through the magic of schadenfreude. But when the scale tips too far in the side of morose, the fun of watching comes to a screeching halt. Reality TV holds a unique place in entertainment for viewers, who love to see “real” people with over-the-top drama, but are wary of being too reminded of the stresses or sadnesses of their own lives while watching. It’s possible that Gen Y viewers could turn away from the genre of reality as it exists now if it continues to showcase the things in life they’d just rather not see.
 
Reality TV charts new territory when it comes to where the boundaries between public and private lie. Though the shows might have a staff of writers, these are real people being featured, so hiding their flaws and tragedies is not a possibility. This is not the first death of a reality star that has been glaringly played out in the public spotlight. Bravo drew criticism for continuing with the second season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills after the death of Russell Armstrong, the…

 
 
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Millennial News Feed

Quote of the Day: “My dream car has always been a Chevy Silverado. After I have paid off all of my debt including student loans I will save to pay cash for the truck I want. I have a 3 1/2 year plan to pay off my debt and if I then take the money I am paying towards my debts and keep saving I should be able to buy my truck 1 year after that.” –Female, 22, OR

The mall doesn’t hold the same place in American culture it did twenty years ago, but it may still play a role in teen shopping tastes. A Teen Vogue survey reports that teen girls still like shopping in malls, with 65% of 16-26-year-old females saying they will do the majority of their holiday shopping in store. The top reasons they preferred mall shopping to online were seeing products in person, hanging out with friends, and bonding with their moms. (Awww.) 61% say they create their own wishlists by walking through the mall as well. (Chain Store Age)

Start hoarding bourbon. In 2015, the smooth spirit will be more expensive, thanks in large part to its popularity with Millennial consumers. Domestic bourbon sales have increased 36% in five years, and some distilleries are rationing their bottles for the first time since Prohibition. How’s that for the power of the craft cocktail trend? Bacon, that perennially trendy meat, will also continue rise in price. (Deal News)

McDonald’s sales continue to fall, and their problems attracting young consumers have been well documented this year. The number of 19-21-year-olds visiting the chain every month has dropped by 13% since 2011. “Desperate to change its image,” the brand’s latest turnaround plan (is this plan E?) includes self-service kiosks, a trimmed down menu, and a search for a “big idea” that will appeal to young consumers’ interest in social good. (Business Insider)

What did Millennials read online this year? A lot of BuzzFeed. Digiday’s look at 2014 in Millennial media consumption found that 39 million 18-34-year-olds visited BuzzFeed at least once, but traditional publications online are also attracting these younger readers. Over 20 million visited The New York Times, and almost 8 million visited The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, some “self-proclaimed” Millennial sites like Ozy and Vocativ reportedly “actually attract an older crowd.” (Digiday)

A generation delaying getting married and having children is creating interesting cultural shifts, and some hilariously awkward family moments. When one twenty-something found herself as the only single sibling and was deemed too old to be on her parent’s holiday card, she began to make her own tongue-in-cheek cards “celebrating” her solo, childless status. These hilarious missives, featuring booze and uncomfortable scenes, have gone viral, and she has become a holiday hero of the unmarried. (Mashable)

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