Do dating shows influence teens' views?

New York (left) was a contestant on Flavor of Love who is now looking for a suitor in her own reality series, I Love New York, on VH1.

Reality dating shows have been on television for a long time.


First, it was The Dating Game, then it was The Bachelor and now it is I Love New York or Next.

Despite changes in contestants and fashion, the pitch behind the shows is still the same: love and competition will gain viewers.

Turn on a cable or broadcast network and you're bound to see a single person trying to find the perfect mate or just the perfect date.

It just might include now than where to go to impress someone on a night out on the town. Now, materialism, shallowness and deception are the order of the day. For example:

- On MTV's Next, a young single gets set up with five potential dates he or she can dismiss at any moment for any reason while the contestants get paid for every minute the date lasts.

- On MTV's Exposed, two unsuspecting contestants are unknowingly given a lie-detector test as they try to impress their would-be date.

- And on VH1's Flavor of Love, 20 women fight and flirt without limits for the affection of flamboyant rapper Flava Flav.

Does the way dating and relationships are portrayed on these shows have any impact on how teens view love? That depends.

Singles' view

Jenna Walker, 17, a senior at Westminster Schools of Augusta, said her view on love and relationships is not distorted by what she sees couples doing on cable TV. She says she knows "those shows are heavily edited or scripted."

Academy of Richmond County junior Jerita Leverrette, 16, agrees that most teenagers know that reality shows are made purely for entertainment. She says that young people realize that all the drama and fights are not what real people go through for romance.

As for views of dating habits today, teens are split in their opinions.

Courtney Bell, 17, a senior at Westminster, says that she thinks dating today is worse compared to her parents' day.

"They (people) don't care about the other person; they only care about sex," she said.

Jamie Wiggins, 16, a junior at Westminster had similar thoughts.

"(Today), most relationships are for self and not for the people you're in the relationship with," she said.

Jenna and Jerita aren't so sure.

For Jenna, dating is different, "but, not necessarily for the worse," she said.

"It's easy to see that dating has indeed changed," Jenna said. "But there have always been good and bad relationships, in our parents' time and in ours."

In fact, when these teens were asked what they look for in a boyfriend or girlfriend they responded with some traditional ideas.

Despite all the dating shows, teens don't seem to have changed their views on romance. Both the boys and girls said they value friendship and trust in a relationship.

A couple's view

Richmond Academy juniors Lindsay Hinnant and Luis Capella, both 17, are by all accounts a happy couple.

"I love him because he makes me feel special," Lindsay said. "He listens to me and is not afraid to speak his mind. Whenever he is around I feel nervous, excited, and scared - all at the same time."

"I don't like Lindsay, I love her," Luis said. "She makes me feel an undescribable emotion that can't be defined in words."

When pressed, he used words such as "complete," "wonderful," "strong," "excited" and "weak."

Luis and Lindsay both view dating reality shows with a discerning eye.

Lindsay says she is not impressed with shows in which people will do anything to attract attention to themselves, even to the point where they act as if the only thing they have to offer is a good body.

"Dating reality shows are degrading to the contestants," Lindsay said.

"They're acting like that to make good TV." Luis said much of the same.

"I think that these shows shouldn't be shows for advice, but for pure entertainment," he said. "I believe these shows do affect the youth because I believe the youth are going to look for a good-looking girl instead of looking at their characteristics and the way they make them feel."

Many teens feel that because TV is mainly a visual media, so those who watch the show are made to believe that all that matters is appearance.

But Luis' comment does hit on a point: The shows are highly entertaining.

Even Lindsay admits she likes the shows, especially I Love New York, , the spinoff of Flavor of Love that gave one of Flava's ladies a chance at her own set of suitors.

Luis enjoys watching Exposed.

"It is very entertaining to watch people lie to the person they are supposed to like," he admitted.

An expert eye

Many adults do not like the dating shows, usually writing them off as "junk TV."

Thomas Gamblin, a psychology teacher at Richmond Academy, says some teens' view on love may be affected by the shows.

"If you come from a traditional family, you learn the values at home, but if you come from a nontraditional home, you learn from exposure."

"Promiscuousness is advertised as being cool. Reality shows and music videos are pushing the limit," Mr. Gamblin said.

But it's not without viewers' consent.

In the case of I Love New York, Mr. Gamblin said: "We created her (New York). She is making a lot of money."

(Flava Flav and New York), are smart; they know exactly what they are doing. We have no way of knowing their true behavior."

Yet their behavior is impressing millions of minds across the country and is redefining pop culture, he added.

"It's pathetic, we as a society are encouraging this type of bizarre behavior," Mr. Gamblin said.

Calling this bizarre behavior "the Jerry Springer Syndrome" in honor of the radical show that is now a part of pop culture, Mr. Gamblin said the message seems to be "the more bizarre you are, the more attention you will get."

Although it can be entertaining to some, Mr. Gamblin worries that exposure to today's crop of reality dating shows will deaden teenagers' morals.

"(They'll think) maybe love like this or trying to get it like this isn't so bad," Mr. Gamblin said.

Reach Teen reporter Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or e-mail kamille.bostick@



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