The Serious Faux Pas: Reality TV

In today’s segment of our Serious Faux Pas series, we’re looking at how Millennials’ attraction to the irreverent over the self-serious has changed the reality TV landscape.

 

In early April, Bill Simmons’ Sports Guy Q&A segment on Grantland featured the following exchange on reality TV:

 Q: I'm flipping back and forth between the NCAA tournament and MTV's retro marathon of the 1993 San Francisco season of the Real World. Is this really how people acted in the 90's? These people suck. There hasn't been any sex, barely any drinking and all conflicts have been resolved through open discussions. Did everyone in the 90's take themselves this seriously? Did everyone feel they need to take up a cause? Why are they rock climbing so much? Watching this is making me thankful to be in my 20's now and not then. —Pat, Chicago

 SG: And you wonder why everyone from Generation X is so bitter.

The question (and response) highlights a huge shift in the kind of reality TV that young people want to consume. The Real World has been on MTV since 1992 when the series kicked off in New York. That is 21 years of 20-somethings being documented living together while they stop being polite and starting being real— and a lot has changed.

The early seasons of the show, which many consider the first reality series, were full of earnest Xers making impassioned statements about their views on life and social issues. Serious topics like prejudice, AIDS, substance abuse and sexuality were tackled by roommates who were also figuring out how to live together when they came from such different backgrounds. Flash-forward ten years and the show had shifted considerably to focus on hook-ups, heavy partying, and roommate drama that was more likely to stem from people getting on one another’s nerves than judging…

 
 

Want to talk to us about the article
or dive into a custom study?


Millennial News Feed

Quote of the Day: “I participated in Bikram Yoga, because I found a few YouTube tutorials on it.” –Female, 24, MN

Being featured in the (racy) lyrics of Beyoncé’s hit single “Formation” has caused Red Lobster’s sales to spike 33%. But a wave of frustration hit Twitter after the brand took too long to respond to the song, and failed to live up to expectations. One user advised,“Yo @redlobster, all you have to do is NOT f*** up. Just give the Twitter over to your highest ranking Black person under 33. Trust me.” But after eight hours Red Lobster tweeted an underwhelming: "Cheddar Bey Biscuits" has a nice ring to it,don't you think? #Formation @Beyonce.” The indecent highlights what young consumers expect from brands on social media. (MediaPostBuzzFeed)

The newly funded Stash investment app is hoping to “break down the barriers that prevent nearly three quarters of Millennials from investing.” To appeal to the risk-averse generation, the app allows users to invest as little as $5, and describes investments in easy theme-like terms, like “Clean and Green.” For the founders it’s all about setting up users for the long-term: “By lowering the minimum level of investment, enabling Millennials to invest in broad themes that they care about, and guiding them along the path toward building smart lifelong investment habits, Stash has the potential to empower an entire generation to reach their financial goals.” (Business Wire)

Fit has gone glam for Millennials—and not just in the U.S. Young Chinese women are embracing working out, and shifting traditional beauty ideals. In a 2003 survey, 1,000 working females cited an ideal body to be "an almost-emaciated, willowy physique," but social media and celebrity influence, as well as more awareness to physical health, are making strength the new goal. Women sharing their fitness journeys are becoming major influencers and creating new personal brands, and the fitness industry in China has grown 13% yearly since 2010. (Refinery29)

ESports—multi-player competitive video gaming—is expected to generate $463 million in ticket sales, merchandise, sponsorships, and advertising for 2016, and networks want a piece of the action. But can it translate to TV? TBS is premiering E-League, a 10-week eSports competition series that will stand as a true test on whether the phenomenon can “find the right balance between achieving scale and retaining its core audience of digitally forward young men.” Critics have good reason to be skeptical: ESPN2’s airing of an eSports college competition perplexed viewers, frustrated broadcasters, and scored a 0.1 Nielsen rating. (Adweek

British director Anthony Wilcox’s new action-packed thriller,Shield 5, is captivating audiences—the Instagram audience that is. The series, which currently has 30,000 followers, is being called “social cinema,” and each episode is the length of an Instagram video: just 15-seconds. Wilcox’s love for fast-turnaround projects and very low budget is what ultimately inspired him to choose the platform. There was also the potential to go viral: "If you’ve got the opportunity to show your work to a much, much bigger audience…all around the world, it might be worth trying it." (Fast Company

Quote of the Day: “I share my selfies by making it my profile picture.” —Female, 23, IL

Sign Up Now

Subscribe for premium access to our content, data, and tools.

Already a subscriber? Sign in.

Upgrade Now

Upgrade for full access to the best marketing tools for understanding the next generation.

View our Client Case Studies