Reality shows are extremely popular because it is an ultimate form of voyeurism.
Whether it's on a competition or a home makeover show, pleasure is derived from watching real-life people respond dramatically to inconsequential situations.
But how much of what we see are authentic reactions?
Curious about the experiences of those who were on camera, Redditor S3xySouthernB asked:
"People who were on reality family shows as kids (think super nanny, wife swap etc) how much of it was real and how much was fiction/set up for drama? Did anything change?"
Reddit Users Share Their Best 'It's A Small World After All' Experience
The following Redditors frowned upon the concept of being portrayed differently on camera.
"I was on Wife Swap when I was 10 years old. My family had to switch with a farming family and we were supposed to be the 'city family' even though my family and I lived in the suburbs. There were plenty of quotes taken out of context as you'd expect. They also incited plenty of drama. I was framed as addicted to video games so they took my xbox and gameboy color for the week. A few days in one of the crew members came in with my gameboy and said 'look I found this' and handed it to me. It shouldn't be surprising that they sent the woman staying in our house into my room to 'catch me in the act'."
"To be honest not much has really changed in my life except getting snapchats of my 10 year old face when my friends catch the reruns. I'm open to any questions if anyone is curious."
It was Season 3 Episode 13 of Wife Swap"
Update for anyone who was curious about how much money the show gave us. The initial amount was $20k but after taxes it came to around $15k like others had expected."
Crazy On Cue
"My parents were 'dinner guests' in an episode of Nanny 911 and they said literally everything was staged. I don't remember all of the details, but they said the directors had a 'code word' that they would say to the kids when they were supposed to start acting all 'crazy'. And then once the scene was done, the kids would be perfectly normal."
"My friends parents were on worlds strictest parents. They came to my house on 4th of July and when they showed our house on tv it was a huge mansion rather than our actual house. The camera crew also told the visiting 'bad kids' to steal alcohol from our house."
The Master Woodworker
"My family and our home were on that show 'This Old House' in the late '90s. Norm Abrahms was the host, and they picked our house because of my dad's collection of Shaker furniture. The idea was that we gave him a tour of the house (while being filmed) and then he demonstrated to the camera how to make furniture like our."
"Everything was 100% genuine. Norm and the crew were kind and super respectful to all of us. No second takes. When he explained to the camera how to build replicas of the Shaker furniture, it became apparent that he was a master woodworker. Before he left we all took photos together and he signed some stuff. It was a really special day."
"That was right when reality TV was starting to pick up steam. MTV's The Real World was big at the time. I don't think Survivor had come out yet. That was the show that opened the floodgates."
"Canadian Idol—-Producers tell you which songs to sing. First they make you sing in line, if you're really bad or really good you're put through to the producers."
"My friend made it through (honestly an incredible singer.) she had been singing one song the whole time and made it to the judges. She sang her song that got her that far, which was My Hero by Foo Fighters. Then, before she goes the judges the producers say she's going to sing 'Creep' by Radiohead as Foo Fighters aren't on the list of approved songs."
"So she sings Creep, doesn't impress the judges and doesn't make it through. We then watch the show when it's aired, these motherf'kers edited her into the opening and said: 'the good, the bad and the just plain creepy!!' And showed her singing Creep—-she was this gothic girl who didn't fit in with the usual pop star image, she was so humiliated she never sang again."
"Also, Ben Mulroney is one of the worst human beings I've ever met."
A glimpse into the lives of those who are unable to part with their possessions is not always scripted TV.
Hoarding For Real
"I worked with a junk removal company for an episode of hoarders and it was actually 99% REAL. The only thing that they would set up a couple times was if they opened a box and found something interesting off camera they would re-open it on camera and act like they just found it."
Like A Nightmare
"After just having to clear out my best friend's (deceased) mom's house who was a hoarder...I know that show is real. I really feel like I have PTSD from it. I have nightmares where I'm back there."
"My mother was (probably still is, we aren't in contact) a hoarder and you don't HAVE to make sh*t up. They're seriously, seriously mentally ill but they refuse help because they don't think they're mentally ill, or 'it's not that bad' or they're 'going to get to it next month' or whatever. Total denial and self delusion, which is, yanno, common with severe mental illness."
"Example: for who knows what reason, my mother started putting dirty laundry in the bathtub. Eventually there was just a mountain of it. She wouldn't wash it despite our washer working fine. She wouldn't move it. She wouldn't let ME wash it. I was showering at school for weeks already when I told her 'Mom the laundry in the tub has to go. This is ridiculous. I'll help with it.'"
"She said 'There's no laundry in the tub.'"
"She actually tried to DENY REALITY. I went in there and was like 'These are clothes. In the tub. This is laundry.'"
"She replied 'Oh I think those are clean.'"
"I said, 'So then put them away?' I knew they weren't clean. I just wanted to shower."
"She said 'I'll do it this weekend when I have off.'"
"I hate to spoil the ending but..... she didn't do it."
"She hired a dumpster once and was going to 'throw out everything'. It got there. Normal sized dumpster. She didn't throw out anything because 'they sent too big of a one'. Paid hundreds of dollars to hire this dumpster and didn't use it."
"Oh. Then. She was going to sell the house. Someone actually wanted to buy it to gut and flip. It was really a cool old house, speaking design-wise. She decided at the last possible second not to sell. Had to reimburse the buyer's closing costs plus a bunch of other fees."
"Then cried to anyone who'd listen how the realtor was a scammer who 'tried to sell her house out from under her'. Like they're just rouge realtors going around, listing people's houses without their consent and selling them."
Are the emotional outbursts exhibited on reality shows genuine? Not always.
"A class mate of mine was on my country's Next Top Model. Before getting into the show she was asked what kind of hair she would never want to get, so that the producers know about it and not make her have it during the makeover episode. My classmate had long blonde hair which she really loved, so she said she doesn't want them to cut her hair off and that she also hated strange unnatural colors like blue, pink etc."
"Fast forward to the makeover episode. The hairstyling team comes in and finds her hair unfitting for a model, so she needs to get a makeover and guess what? Her makeover obviously consists of a pixie cut and green hair to make her look like a 'punk fairy.'"
"My class mate cried throughout the entire process, so I guess the producers got the drama they wanted out of this."
"There was a family in our neighborhood who was on a show here in Germany. One day, when accompanied by the camera crew, one of the daughters suddenly threw a screaming fit in public, which was totally unusual for her. When the mom was asked later what the f*k had happened, she said, for a tantrum you get 200 bucks extra."
Birthday Party Meltdown
"A girl I went to school with was on 'My Super Sweet Sixteen'. She was always quiet but well-liked and the kids on that show were usually monsters so we were curious about how the episode would paint her."
"There was one scene where she was checking in on a vendor and they said something might not be finished in time for the party and she didn't have a meltdown or anything but she said something dramatic like, 'Oh no! That's going to ruin my whole birthday party!'"
"After the episode aired her friends who were with her said they did a couple of 'takes' because her first reaction was like, 'Oh, that sucks. Thanks for letting me know.'"
Kids, Act Up!
"My wife was hired as a home school teacher on wife swap. Since the Mom home schooled they want another home schooling Mom to step in and teach. It is all manufactured. They tell the kids to act up. My wife kept getting in trouble cause she kept turning her mic off and wouldn't play their game. She got like 3 seconds of screen time because she taught and did not play into the reality show bullsh*t."
"A wedding that I was a bridesmaid in was aired on Say Yes to the Dress."
"They filmed our initial reaction to the bride walking out several times. They, like, wanted us to scream and cry."
"I'll be honest, the whole thing was incredibly fake and rubbed me the wrong way. Pretty on par for the type of person the bride is, though. I don't talk to her anymore."
It appeared the majority of Redditors who vouched for a show's realistic portrayal of people on TV was Hoarders.
For Redditor azulweber, the circumstance was relatable.
"yeah my grandmother and her sister are both hoarders and i have no problem believing that it's real. i can't imagine someone who isn't a hoarder being willing to allow a show to do that to their home and belongings just for tv."
Sadly, the exploitation of a person's mental illness seems to make for must-see television.