Arts, recreation and culture

Youth on violence: No one pays for violence on reality TV shows

August 12, 2012 

After watching fights at school almost on a weekly basis for three years now, I've learned a few things about them and how they occur. By no means am I an expert, but I know my fair share.

After all, they're identical to the fights I've seen on television reality shows, from the hair-pulling to the trash talk that starts each fight, and they're happening more than ever.

It's no secret that youth crime in the Lexington area has been on the rise, affecting our schools and communities alike. Youth crime rates are on the rise all over the United States. Recent research shows that one-third of teens are arrested by age 23, as reported by NPR in December.

The question everyone asks is "why?" After all, schools have more extracurricular activities than ever, ranging from sports to arts and everything in between. A possible explanation — and a very popular one among adults — is the media.

You don't have to look very far to see reckless behavior in the media; shows like Oxygen's Bad Girls Club and MTV's Jersey Shore are teeming with bad examples for teens.

Bad Girls, a popular show where a group of "bad girls" are put in a house together as they try to prove who is the "baddest bad girl," has aired plenty of scenes where girls team up to fight each other as they try to kick out a certain girl.

Girls sometimes end up bleeding or injured, with one girl even breaking an ankle. One girl from the sixth season, Lauren Spears, was a Lexington native. She was involved in back-and-forth confrontations, including a handful of fist fights, with most of the girls in the house.

If these fights occurred off camera, the girls could be charged with battery and assault and face fines and jail time for their reckless behavior. But in the TV production, the highest consequence these girls suffer is being removed from the program.

On another popular so-called reality show, Jersey Shore, a group of 20-somethings parties the night away while drinking obscene amounts of alcohol.

This has led to violence more than once, including the infamous situation where an unknown man in a bar punched Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi on camera. This did lead to a lawsuit, but none of the proceedings were shown on air.

The main issue at hand is not the content of these shows, aimed at the age 18-30 demographic, but how these shows end up influencing the teen audience. Obviously, it would be insane to assume that networks would simply pull the plug on these shows. After all, both programs bring major ratings to their respective networks.

There really isn't a way to shield teens from being exposed to these shows, especially since many school peers watch and discuss the programs. The best solution would be for these shows to include more "reality" by showcasing the actual consequences that the behavior depicted would receive.

I've seen this work in the halls of my very own school. In August 2011, Bryan Station High welcomed a new principal, Mike Henderson. He began telling the whole school of the consequences, such as suspensions and criminal charges, that some students were receiving for bad behavior, including fighting.

Since then, there are fewer fights at the school, with students choosing to make better decisions. The depiction of violence in the media simply isn't realistic. It offers a glamorized version of the truth, omitting all of the legal details that follow and all of the consequences for the aggressor.

While that may be the reality in Hollywood, it isn't that way in Lexington, and that's the world we live in.

Michael Gomez, 17, a senior at Bryan Station High School, is the incoming editor-in-chief of the BSHS Defender News.

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