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: "GoPro does a great job appealing to my generation because they convince regular people that they are adventurous, like many college kids like to think of themselves." –Male, 22, MD

Facebook continues to evolve to keep up with social platform competitors attracting younger users. The site has announced changes to their standalone chat app Messenger that will transform it into a platform that third parties can develop content and services for, including games, hotel bookings, tickets, and peer-to-peer payments. The new Businesses on Messenger feature would allow users to chat with brands to make purchases and change orders, and could make shopping a more personal experience. Facebook will also be adding the ability to chat with memes and GIFs, features that have proved popular with young consumers on other chat apps. (re/code,Fast Company)

Millennials are wary of investments, and generally anxious about their finances, and some have turned to new services that let them take baby steps into the financial world. More traditional institutions have certainly taken notice. Northwestern Mutual recently acquired LearnVest, a startup that offers free and paid financial planning services including articles, advice, and access to an expert for guidance on spending and budgets. The purchase is the latest in a trend of financial tech companies being snapped up by older, less digitally savvy brands. (FortuneBusiness Insider)

While many startups and sites are working to combat cyberbullying, one app is receiving an enormous amount of backlash for fostering the behavior in high schools. Burnbook allows users to join communities, usually around a school, remain anonymous, and post on topics of their choice. Although the app encourages “jokes, fails, wins, shout outs, revelations, proclamations, and confessions,” posts have been used to target specific people and groups, and threats have been made to at least one school. Some parents and teens are trying to use the app to spread positivity, but those posts don’t seem to outweigh the “gruesome things.” (Mashable)

Toys “R” Us will begin to sell an experience alongside its products with the hope of regaining their footing in the toy industry. Discount options like Wal-Mart and Amazon have hurt the chain’s sales over the past few years, so new plans to revamp stores will add physical play areas and more technology for kids to interact with. The retailer wants to be a place “where kids want to go and play,” and their new prototype store will open later this year. (Bloomberg)

For better or for worse, technology is becoming an intrinsic part of childhood, but boys and girls might not be growing up with the same tech experiences. A new study of parents of kids ages two to nine found that in many cases, parents give their children different devices depending on their gender. Sons were more likely to be given smartphones or gaming devices while daughters received more tablets (73% vs. 65% for boys). Parents were also more likely to use tech to calm down sons, with 48% using a device to help soothe boys when they are upset, compared to 37% for girls. (Kidscreen)

That image at the bottom of our newsletter is a gateway to insights and expert commentary on current and future Millennial trends. Clicking on it takes readers to our daily insights article, available to Silver and Gold subscribers, which illuminates a facet of Millennial culture and helps subscribers to understand the "why" behind the "what." Drawing from our ongoing collection of proprietary data, our deep-dive desk research, and our 10-year history of studying this generation, we figure out what it all means for brands and marketers. (Ypulse)

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