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 aspiration is to retire early and travel!” –Male, 27, CA

They’re putting off marriage and they’re moving back in with mom and dad—and we’re not just talking about Millennials. While younger consumers are becoming “boomerang kids” at higher rates, more Gen Xers and adults at all age levels are living at home than they did 30 years ago. The share of adults who have never been married, while highest for Millennials, has also “swelled” for almost all age groups. (CityLab)

Burger King’s Peace Day partnership offer to McDonald’s was brusquely dismissed, but plenty of other burger chains are willing to play. The pop-up Peace Day shop to raise money for UNICEF will now be created with smaller brands like Denny’s, Wayback Burgers, Krystal, and Giraffas, all of whom reached out to Burger King on social media to announce their eagerness to collaborate. We think young consumers like when brandsPlay Nice with one another, so despite criticism, the campaign is hardly a failure. (AdAge)

Would you ever book a flight if you didn’t know the destination? While your answer might be a strong “NO,” several airlines are using “blind bookings” to “generate some excitement and capitalize on the spontaneity and sense of adventure among younger travelers.” The surprise destination tickets are cheaper, and some brands allow participating customers to pick their dates and interests (partying, culture, shopping, cities, etc.) before choosing their endpoint for them. (WSJ)

The 2015 SAT must have been a doozy of a test. Scores were down seven points from the previous year, their lowest since 2005 when the test was last reworked. The number of students who are considered “prepared” for college is down 16% among black students and 23% among Hispanic students. One factor in the drops is the fact that more students are taking the test than ever before, but high school math and reading skills may be an issue. (The Daily Beast)

While more brands amp up their digital efforts, experiential marketing may be more important than ever to appeal to young consumers, who are looking for unique activities they can talk about on social. Adult Swim’s pop-up drive-in theatre is certainly giving them a sharable moment. The brand is touring the country to give fans 18 and older outdoor screenings of unaired episodes, along with free food truck treats, trivia, and prizes. (Adweek)

Quote of the Day: “A major life milestone that happened this year was that I met my idol, Taylor Swift.” –Female, 22, CA

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