Confession time: I’m quite addicted to cooking shows on TV, including those of the reality genre. A couple of nights ago I watched the first episode of My Kitchen Rules and have watched at least part of the subsequent episodes. During episode two I realised I had quite an intense dislike for one of the two young all-female teams. They were b**chy, know-alls and I was hoping for their demise as soon as possible. At this same time I was texting with my gorgeous sister, saying much the same thing. Her last text really got me thinking. She wrote “…but there’s always one team like that. They think it adds drama. I think the stress of the competition is drama enough.” She’s right, it’s been cut that way so that we see only a certain view of these two all-female teams (and the other teams as well for that matter), they are pitted against one another for purely entertainment and ratings value. Who knows what these two pairs are like in real life, but what we see on screen is girls against girls in a b**tchy, back-stabbing war of attrition. And then we wonder why girls are so mean and nasty to each other in the playground and online!
You rarely see this kind of portrayal of male contestants on reality (cooking) shows and if you do they’re inevitably gay. The girl against girl thing is pushed hard, both in the advertising and in the episodes themselves. In fact in Tuesday night’s show the other contestants barely got a look in, except the pair actually cooking that night. The constancy of this competition with a competition (ie ‘there’s not room for two all girl teams in this competition’) was exhausting and I can’t help but wonder about the effect of this on young girls watching this kind of television. If this is how they see young females behaving towards one another (whether that is in fact what really happened or not is sadly irrelevant) can we expect any different from them in their own relationships with other young females.
To be fair I am not a fan of most reality TV show, with the exception of the Amazing Race which often has similar portrayals of all-female teams, so I don’t know whether this is common practice. Though a quick internet search on the topic would suggest the ‘catfight’ is a prime rating hit in all sorts of shows. I’m also not laying blame on reality TV on the behaviour I’ve seen in my own daughter and her friends, they don’t watch it and let’s be real they’re behaviour is nothing like this. But what does it mean as she and her peers get older and do start seeing this as the norm? Why can’t shows use, as my sister said, the stress of the competition as drama enough, without resorting to pitting girls against girls? Why is there a suggestion that two all-female teams couldn’t make the competition more worthy rather than less? What a sad indictment on our society if this is the only reason these shows are popular… I just like the cooking.
Thoughts? Have I, once again, been over-thinking what is supposed to be light entertainment? Does this kind television really have any wider impact?