The “reality” of MTV

MTV was originally created to broadcast popular music amongst teens. The network gradually developed into a channel with music and a variety of TV shows aimed at teens and young adults.

What attracts teens to reality TV?



Cribs and My Super Sweet 16 became popular because they gave insight into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Teens saw what money could buy and envied that. For example, the party-throwers on My Super Sweet 16 are presented as a rich snob whose only problem in life is when daddy says no. The $50K sweet 16 parties don’t compare to the $2 million spent on beautiful “cribs.” Celebrities such as Naomi Campbell and Lil Wayne broadcasted their multimillion dollar estates on Cribs, making everyone jealous.



Why is it so entertaining to see people get hurt? MTV has produced multiple shows that explore every way one could be injured, a more popular one being Ridiculousness. The show uses clips of random, unidentified people getting hit in the face, falling off of a bike, or, of course, being hit in the crotch. Shows based around being injured are usually comedic.



Drama is a must-have component in reality TV. The Real World, 16 and Pregnant, The Jersey Shore, The Hills, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila and many other unmentioned MTV shows are all based around the drama that takes place between cast members. The gossip that circulates gives the audience a sense of companionship with the cast members, making them feel like they’re apart of the friend group. The necessary drama also creates the “real” factor needed for REALity TV.



Viewers connect with cast members who are in  dramatic, problematic relationships. 16 and Pregnant focuses on the relationship dynamic of the expecting couple. In no way does 16 and Pregnant promote teen pregnancy. Instead, the show sheds negative light on teen pregnancy, displaying the potential issues associated with being a teen mom. Giving the audience an intimate look into the lives of the cast creates a personal relationship between the two.




Voyeurism is the curiosity to spy on people engaged in intimate and usually “hidden” behavior. Reality TV attracts voyeurs because of the number of unusual acts that take place while shooting. The Real World and Jersey Shore are known for hookups, whether between two cast members or a cast member and a random person. MTV attracts a teen audience, who are at the age where sexual curiosity kicks in. Scenes containing interesting content create the most  “wow” from viewers. The intimate look also builds a connection to the audience, since the cast is captured in their most exposed state.


Alcohol & Drugs.

The Hills, The Real World and The Jersey Shore cast are willing to drink until unconscious. This ability to become incredibly intoxicated acts as a drama-maker for the show. Most fights, hookups and other regretful decisions happen while intoxicated. However, the cast members of each show are also shown having the most fun while drunk. The Hills cast spent many nights at luxurious Beverly Hills clubs, creating the illusion that it is normal to spend hundreds of dollars on alcohol in one night.


Why would someone want to be casted on a reality TV show?

Reality TV is known for creating instant fame for its cast, especially if the show does well. The cast members need no special talents other than the ability to argue and drink as much as possible. Nicole Polizzi, better known as “Snooki,” was just a stereotypical Jersey girl before she was casted for The Jersey Shore. Six years after the show’s debut, Polizzi has won four teen choice awards and been featured in 10 other shows/films. One of her other works is Snooki & Jwoww, a reality show on MTV uncovering the life of Snooki and her best friend from The Jersey Shore, Jwoww. Reality TV is a chance to be noticed in the entertainment world, without having the qualifications.


Scroll through the timeline below for more history of MTV reality shows.


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