*Trigger warning* The following article mentions suicide, bullying, and mental abuse. If any of these subjects bother you, we suggest you do not read any further.
While reality TV entertains people all around the world, there is a dark side to it as well.
Everything may seem fine on the surface, but what happens when the cameras are off paints a grim picture. Contestants from shows like The Voice, Love Island, Storage Wars, The Bachelor, and many others have committed suicide after appearing on TV. However, wrestling fans are most familiar with the tragic story of Hana Kimura.
Aside from wrestling, Kimura also appeared on the Japanese reality TV show, Terrace House. After a verbal altercation with a fellow cast member, she received an enormous amount of hate online. The constant cyber-bullying sent her into a depression and eventually led to her taking her life almost a year ago.
The problem with reality TV is that, whether the shows want to admit it or not, it is scripted. Writers try to come up with scenarios that can create drama and bring in views. After all, that is what the executives care about more than anything. Because of that, they never care to consider the effect it has on the people involved.
Based off what they see on TV, viewers begin to create an image of what the contestants are really like. When these arguments or altercations take place, often they assume those involved are just as “horrible” as they appear to be during these moments. For the most part, though, this is not the case at all.
For example, fans and peers alike have nothing but good things to say about Kimura. Unlike her bold in-ring persona, she was a shy, quiet girl outside it. But that one altercation on Terrace House was enough for people to assume that she was a bad person. Then, that is when all the hatred and cyber-bullying began.
Cyber-bullying is a brutal thing to witness, let alone experience first-hand. There is a fine line between constructive criticism and verbal abuse. People think hiding behind a screen gives them the luxury of saying absolutely horrible things to others. They say whatever they want to whoever they want, not taking into regard the person on the other side.
What they fail to realize (or care to realize) is that their victims are people too.
They have feelings, and the things they read about themselves online take a toll on their mental and physical health. For some, it causes permanent damage that they must deal with for the rest of their lives. For others it just gets to be too much, and we end up experiencing a tragedy like we did with Kimura.
Unless we start seeing major, wide-spread changes, these problems will remain.
For starters, the perception of contestants on these shows must shift from what it has been for far too long. They cannot keep getting blamed because “they knew what they were signing up for”. Regardless of how they are portrayed on screen, no one deserves to experience the cancel culture that is ever-present in reality TV.
The shows themselves need to step up as well and provide support for its contestants. They need to start looking at them as actual people instead of just means to an end. Give them access to mental health services or something, just show that you care a least a little about them.
Additionally, legislation needs to be updated regarding cyber-bullying; people’s actions need to have consequences, especially when it affects lives. This means faster legal action and less miniscule fines and slaps on the wrists. This is a serious issue and needs to be treated as such.
But at the end of the day, people just need to be kinder to one another. It literally costs nothing to be nice to someone. Like the old saying goes, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.
It’s time for everyone involved to be proactive instead of reactive to these situations. If they act quick enough, lives can be saved. They cannot keep sweeping it under the rug and pretending this is not an issue. Yes, reality TV can be fun to watch, but not when it comes at the cost of the contestants’ mental health and lives.
If things don’t change soon, it will only be a matter of time before we see the next Hana Kimura.
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