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…


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Millennial News Feed

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

Watch your back Instagram. Flipagram’s rise, and its partnership with music labels, could make it the next big sharing platform to watch. The app reached 30 million monthly users after one year, hitting the milestone faster than Facebook and Snapchat before it. Because music can be added to the 30-second photo videos users make, it has set itself apart from competitors Vine and Instagram, and the number of flips made on the platform rose 165% in the last year. (Forbes)

The final film of The Hunger Games franchise is in theatres, ending a wildly successful run at the box office. The movies weren’t considered a sure thing, but became a “runaway smash” because they perfectly matched Millennials’ mindset, becoming “an all-purpose metaphor for life as a young person in the post-recession era.” The theory is that because books debuted just as the recession was beginning, the dark tone and cutthroat storyline aligned with their experiences. (We happen to agree.) (Vox

Millennials continue to think more positively about technology than other generations. According to a 2015 poll, Millennials are more likely than Xers and Boomers to think tech helps them to learn new skills, has a positive impact on their relationships with friends, and allows them to live life the way they want. More than half of Millennials believe that technology positively effects their happiness, compared to 42% of Xers, and 30% of Boomers. (MediaPost)

Millennials might be less traditionally religious than older generations, but they are just as spiritual. While fewer Millennials say religion is very important, attend weekly religious services, or pray every day than Xers, Boomers, and Silents, they are equally likely to think about the meaning and purpose of life, and feel a sense of gratitude or thankfulness each week. (Pew Research)

Advertisements on YouTube Kids are getting the app into some trouble. Ads for junk food regularly appear on the platform “in the form of funny contests and animated stories,” and two complaints have been filed calling for an investigation of food marketers, videos programmers, and Google. The complaints argue that food companies have not lived up to their promises to keep junk food marketing off the app. (NYTimes)

Quote of the Day: "It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my brother suggesting we don't celebrate and just order pizza.” -Male, 15, GA

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