Television vs. Reality

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television vs. Reality

It is 8:30 Monday night and the whole family is in the living room watching the Fox network’s primetime hit “Ally McBeal”.  Suddenly, just after the program resumes after a painstakingly long commercial break, you see a man and a woman lying in bed talking to each other after having a night of hot, passionate sex.  You look down and see your ten year old son or daughter lying on the floor just staring at the TV, taking it all in.  You begin channel surfing, and end up on channel 3, CBS.  There is a brand new sitcom being aired called “Some of My Best Friends”.  Almost immediately after you and your family begin viewing this program, two men, both proclaiming to be gay, begin kissing and embracing each other.  Upset by all of this “garbage”, you turn off the TV and decide to try and find something a little more “educational” to do.
Sex.  It seems to be everywhere on television today.  From sitcoms to reality shows to dramas to soap operas, sex is one of the leading factors in most television programs.  A recent study showed that 3 out of 4 primetime programs portray sex in relationships and 68% of all television programs contain sexual content (Cutler, Jacqueline, TVData Features Syndicate March 24,2001).  There are exceptions to this, however, with networks occasionally focusing on education and children’s programming, but the mainstream of primetime television programs tends to focus on sex.  But how accurate is television’s portrayal of sex in the real world?  Does everything turn out like it does on shows such as “Sex in the City” or “Temptation Island”?  Or are these sexual messages just an obvious ploy to help boost ratings?  Recently I have watched several shows I thought would help answer these questions.  The programs I have researched are “Friends”, one of NBC’s highest rated shows, “Everybody Loves Raymond”, a family sitcom on CBS, and “Days of Our Lives”, one of NBC’s daytime soap operas.  In viewing these shows I hope to compare the key message behind sex and relationships in these programs to real life.   I will also compare relationships between love and sex, anger and love, friendship and romantic love, and alternatives to heterosexual relationships.

The first television program I researched is the critically acclaimed NBC sitcom, “Friends”.  Upon viewing this show, I found several different fallacies between this show and real life.  One aspect that is falsely portrayed is the act of sex in relationships.  In one episode, one of the main characters ended up sleeping with his date even though they had just met each other the day before and had only gone out on one date.  In the very same episode, another of the main characters had sex with a woman that he had just met less than ten minutes before.   In reality, the norm (or the desired norm) is to wait until a couple has been going out for a while and gets to know each other better before having sex.  In some cases, it is the norm to wait until marriage before having sex.  There are many exceptions to these norms, but most people like to believe that they hold true.  
Another aspect that is falsely portrayed is the representation of love and sex.  This show sends several different messages about love and sex, some of them completely contradicting the others.  The one thing that caught my attention the most though, was the act of casual sex, or the act of sex without love.  In one of the episodes mentioned earlier, one of the main characters had slept with a woman he only had met the day before.   The following morning, the main character told his roommate that, “[Their] relationship had no ‘spark’, and [he] only slept with her because she was willing to do so”.  This proves that in this show, most relationships are based on sexual attraction, instead of cognitive relationships.  Then he asked his roommate to break up with the woman for him, since he had to leave.  In reality, most people like to believe that sex is a sign of love and, although there are also many exceptions to this rule, many still try and

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