The Future of Reality TV and YouTube

  1. Where do you think the future of reality television shows is heading? Will new forms of technology for example make an impact?


Reality television has become ingrained into the current cultural landscape, but it has shifted definitions and features so much overlap between itself and other genres it takes elements from (such as documentaries, educational content and cinema) that while reality television began has a bengre it has “evolved into a discourse” (Lorenzo-Dus & Blitvich, 2013, p11). However, as move deeper into the information the worst excesses of reality television have come to the forefront as controversial or sensationalist news, whether true or not. Attention translates more readily into money and advertising potential than factual accuracy.


I would argue that much of the original appeal of reality television – that of seeing normal people (as opposed to celebrities) in unique situations or going about their daily lives – has been somewhat supplanted by websites like YouTube or Instagram. Sometimes entire formats find themselves transplanted into these new environments. For example Allen Funt’s candid camera, which he claimed to be for the purposes of informing and educating the public, find themselves echoed by the “social experiments” which are meant to reveal how the public would react to unique situations. Likewise, stunt reality television are echoed by prank channels and the However, these two genres of videos overlap with each other, and the majority of the time are faked. While this could usually be passed off as harmless entertainment the majority of the time many of these contain outright hateful messages and faked news. For example, in the leadup to the 2016 American elections the YouTuber Joey Salads performed a “social experiment” where a car full of pro-Trump propaganda was left in a neighbourhood with a predominantly black population, and a camera was supposedly left there filming as a gang of black men found and vandalized the car. It was later revealed that those men were paid actors and the entire video was staged, despite being presented as true (Sommer, 2019).


This reduces reality television to its basest form, “…a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil. … a human form of bear baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment.” (Cadwalladr, 2008, p. 5). Social media influencers brand themselves and sell a heightened version of their personality and lives, or project a persona in order to reach a mass market. Much like Lamb’s (2016) comparison of Cathy Comes Home and Benefit Streets, although the Salad’s video pretends to be educational content it is completely fabricated, and has the potential to cause lasting damage to society as a whole. He has since announced his big for Congress in a move reminiscent of Donald Trump’s move from reality television to politics.


Perhaps most disconcerting about reality television’s translation into the age social media is the lack of consistent regulation on these videos. Jake Paul, one of YouTube’s are aggressively being targeted towards children with tactics that would not be allowed on television in the United States due to its manipulative marketing, sexually inappropriate content and up to 50% of the videos’ runtime being advertisement. However, because it is on YouTube they do not have to abide by these laws and the influencers can talk to their fans directly – equivalent to a child’s favourite character on a show telling them to buy toys for the show (Nerd City, 2018). “Children under the age of 8 are mentally incapable of interpreting advertisements with a critical eye, and have difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality” (the American Psychological Association, as cited by Nerdy City, 2018) One of the greatest controversies to come out of YouTube in recent years comes as a result of this uneasy blend of reality and fiction. Jake Paul’s brother Logan, who stars in his videos and creates the same type of content, found the body of a man who had committed suicide in Japan. Rather than stop filming he continued to keep vlogging and delivered a woefully inappropriate speech about the value of life in an attempt to promote his brand and image as a positive role model.



Cadwallader, C. (2008). When reality bites, it leaves deep scars. The Observer, September 7.

Cook, J. (2019). 1 year after his infamous ‘Suicide Forest’ video, Logan Paul is bigger than ever. Retrieved from

  1. Klein, H. Klein. [h3h3Productions]. (2016, March 13). The deleted social experiment. Retrieved from

Lamb, B. (2016). Cathy Come Off Benefits: A comparative ideological analysis of Cathy Come Home and Benefits Street. Journalism and Discourse studies. Retrieved from 

Lorenzo-Dus, N & Blitvich, P. (2013). Real Talk – Reality television and discourse analysis in action. Basingstoke, UK:  Palgrave Macmillan.

Nerd City. (2018, September 1). Parents’ worst nightmare: Jake Paul [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sommer, W. (2019). Joey Salads, YouTube star famous for racist pranks, launches congressional bid. Retrieved from


Dominic McAlpine