The Truth Behind Reality TV Villains

Bridie O’Shea looks into what (and who) creates a reality TV villain. 

Between The Block, My Kitchen Rules, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, The X Factor, House Rules, The Voice, The Biggest Loser, and MasterChef, Australian TV has it’s fair share of reality shows. And sure, you may watch these shows to get inspiration for your new renovation project, or to peruse your dream of being a famous pop star, or to learn new recipes and cooking techniques, but the overarching reason that shadows everything else is drama.

Yep, it’s the drama. The fights, the outbreaks, the breakdowns, the tantrums, the tears, the betrayals; this is what keeps us so invested in watching everyday Australians on TV.

And what creates the drama?

TV villains: those people we love to hate.

With reality TV being a prominent feature of our prime time viewing habits for years, audiences have come to realise that surely some of what they’re showing us has to be scripted – or at least fabricated. Creators of reality TV can’t pull one over us anymore.

As an audience, we understand that the contestants on these shows know exactly what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up. There’s always going to be the nice team/contestant and the villainous team/contestant. There’s always going to be exploitation, manipulation, and humiliation. The producers want to create a show that people will watch, and more importantly, talk about. That’s what audiences are there for. A show where everyone is nice and lovely to each other is going to flop miserably.

Take for instance MKR. This season the producers have been selling each episode with “more drama” and “more fights” and “more showdowns”. Arguably this has been the most intense round of instant restaurants the series has seen in years.

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Viewers have gone to Twitter to vent about the obvious nastiness, sly and calculating behaviours that the contestants are showing this year. No doubt some of these instant restaurants are probably quite enjoyable. But do they show us that? No.

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Out of the three instant restaurant rounds so far there has been a ‘villain’ in each. However, one of the most polarising were Jessica and Marcos – fitness friends who weren’t afraid to hold back about the amount of ‘unhealthy food’ in the competition. Jessica, who even went up against judge Manu about their difference in opinions about healthy eating, blamed her characterisation on editing. Surprising? Nope. In an interview with AAP, Jessica said that, “half a sentence or half a conversation goes to air. It’s whatever half they want… So if I say, ‘I don’t normally eat rice, but if I was to, I’d have half a cup of brown rice because that’s the smart nutritious option’, only half of that would go to air.”

But Jessica didn’t let this get her down.

“I just find the whole experience great and I’m a positive person,” she said, “I’ve been portrayed as a villain and I know who I am.”

The part that really stuns me is that contestants are surprised when they’re made to look like the bad guy. In the last season of The Bachelor, Emily Simms was upset and angry to watch back how she was portrayed in the series. Simms took to Instagram explaining her case, saying that, “They’ve made me out to look like a bitch!”

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Emily Simms pleading her case. Image via Instagram @missemilysimms

But there is a new TV show causing a major stir, breaking down the scripted and staged world of reality TV. UnREAL is an American dark comedy/drama that follows the behind the scenes of a dating show called The Bachelor Everlasting. Co-creator of UnREAL, Marti Noxon, made comments to the Huffington Post about the producers’ influence in creating a drama-filled show.

“I knew a casting director who was a big deal working for some major shows and they cast people who they know have flaws or are unstable. In many cases, for example, they’ll cast someone they know has borderline personality disorder, because they know that’s good TV.”

Noxon said that producers are creating fiction with people who are’t given scripts. “They don’t know the roles they’re going to play. So, how do you get them to play those parts? You manipulate them. You put them in situations that cause them to be vulnerable, and it’s pretty ugly.”

Upon these revelations, it’s understandable why reality TV contestants feel they’ve been slighted in the name of entertainment. I suppose the only control you have is what you say and how you say it.

Because let’s be real, if you don’t say anything controversial, they don’t have any dirt on you to cut up and show. It’s time to outsmart the producers.

On another note, here’s a compilation of our favourite TV and film villains. Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments!

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Feature Image via screenshot from SunriseOn7.