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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Quote of the Day: “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without some family drama.” –Male, 23, MA

The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line has found their anthem, and it’s a Millennial hit. The brand has famously helped home cooks with their turkey efforts for 30 years, allowing anyone to call to get their bird questions answered. This year, the Butterball Twitter account is filled with references to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and its viral video. Sample parody lyrics: "'You always call me on my landline, from the kitchen when you need my help." #TalkLineBling #HotlineBling’” (Digiday)

Though Black Friday mania is still high, there is a burgeoning backlash to the day, and according to Ypulse’s holiday shopping survey, 68% of 13-33-year-olds support companies that close their retail locations that day. E-tailer Everlane did shut down their site for two Black Fridays in protest of the commerce chaos, but this year the site will instead donate all its Black Friday profits to its factory workers to create a wellness program that includes free groceries, English lessons, and health care. The brand hopes to raise $100,000 in their Black Friday Fund. (Racked)

Millennials are growing up, and for many that means they’re starting to host their own Thanksgiving dinners—and they aren’t necessarily following every tradition. A Yahoo Food survey found that 44% of 18-34-year-olds say they’ll be serving ham instead of the traditional turkey, 10% are adding a meatless entrée to their feast, and Millennials are twice as a likely not to serve cranberry sauce, but more likely to deep fry or smoke their turkeys. (Washington Post)

It’s a struggle for a brand that only gets attention once a year, and Stove Top is ready for a stuffing revolution to reverse their fate. The brand has introduced a new campaign starring an “Artisanal Hipster Pilgrim,” a Millennial character who is out to convince everyone to eat stuffing all the time with lines like “I’m sorry, I just thought you might like to enjoy delicious things all the time instead of one day a year. My mistake.” The effort includes four comedic online videos and a hipster pilgrim Instagram. (Adweek)

Since more are hosting their own turkey day gatherings, Millennials are also spending more on Thanksgiving, with an Allrecipe survey reporting that 42% plan to spend more this year than they did in 2014. Vice president of consumer and brand strategy at Allrecipes explains, “’(Millennials) are more likely to be buying more artisan, local-crafted products. They pride themselves on being tastemakers and trendsetters.’” Millennials are also more likely to have multiple Thanksgiving dinners to attend…perhaps including a Friendsgiving or two. (Time)

Quote of the Day: “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my cousins' annoying kids running in front of the TV.” –Male, 30, MA

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