The Art of Gossip on Reality TV: How Much is Too Much?

There is a lot to love about reality TV. Depending on the type of show you’re watching, you could be bearing witness to a sociologically exciting mash-up of various types of people, watching a burgeoning talent in their respective field finding themselves during the course of a competition, or following a well-known personality behind the curtain to see just what makes them tick. It can make for some incredibly intriguing television, especially when properly executed, but just because it has potential doesn’t mean there’s not a hint of inherent ridiculousness that creeps in now and then.

One such bit of ridiculousness can be exemplified by this week’s episode of Basketball Wives, where Royce finds herself excluded from a group trip to Italy due to the fact that she has apparently been gossiping about people and it was a “no drama” type of excursion. (I’ll give you three guesses what happened on the trip.) Keep in mind that Basketball Wives is pretty much built on a group of people gathering in various incarnations and talking about one another, as well as the fact that interpersonal drama is one of the cornerstones of this brand of reality television. You can imagine how incredulous my notes were, all aflutter with capital letters, underlines, and sentences that take up half a page.

I don’t think someone should allow another person to say whatever they please, as everyone has a right to defend themselves and there is a line that exists. (Where it actually exists, though, is entirely circumstantial.) I also don’t think that this weird selective morality should be applied because honestly, it makes no sense. Yes, I’m the fool who expects some sort of reality-based thinking in my reality television, but I wouldn’t have much of a problem if there was some sort of coherent code of conduct that was getting exercised. I may not agree with the structure by which they live, but there would be an actual structure and I could respect this fully formed community of women for sticking with that. But there’s none of that going on here.

What’s going on here is a little bit of bullying mixed in with some hypocrisy and chased with a shot of power hungry bitterness. If the standards that have been applied to Royce (and Suzie, as of last season) are remotely important, why haven’t they been applied to anybody else? In Royce’s weekly recap, she mentions how Shaunie has given interviews where she’s tried to spread rumors and cause trouble; aside from the fact that she’s a producer, why should Shaunie get a pass for the things she says about the other girls? Obviously Shaunie isn’t the only cast member to do this, but you know if Meeka or Suzie had taken to the radio to poke at Evelyn or Jennifer that things would have popped off almost immediately. It just reeks of “if you’re in the inner circle, you can say/do whatever you want without repercussion” and that’s edging a little too close to high school territory for me.

In the case of Basketball Wives, things aren’t a total lost cause, as next week has set up a “clash of the titans”, as Evelyn and Jennifer will be doing battle over comments Jen made to a Cleveland radio station about Evelyn’s relationship with Chad Ocho Cinco. While the conflict here will assuredly be interesting and entertaining, I have to wonder why it’s only coming to a head now, as Jennifer has never withheld her feelings on Evelyn’s fiancee, especially through her talking heads. Could it be that gossiping on reality TV is okay if you’re doing it within the confines of the show (i.e. confessionals, show-related gatherings) and once you step away from that “safety net” (i.e. Twitter, off-mic), everybody gets a fraction more sensitive?

The very idea that reality TV participants can gossip is a little ludicrous to me. You spend your time answering questions from producers about everything going on between you and other people, the fabric of the show is you talking (smack) with other people about the rest of the cast, and you go on promotional interviews that ask you about the different group dynamics that exist within your show. It seems silly to condemn certain cast members for their words (whatever forum they were expressed in) when other people have said similar, if not worse, things and have gotten away with it. (For the record, we don’t know what Royce has said, but if it has to do with the naked pictures thing from the reunion last season, it’s an even stupider conflict than I initially thought.) There’s a lot to love about reality TV. Its coherent social values, though, remain something still getting sorted out.

Do you think you can really “gossip” on reality TV? Who do you think is the worst offender? Is it even a bad thing to gossip?


  1. Mariah Stone July 14, 2011
  2. Julianne July 15, 2011

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