Both girls acquired that very special kind of fame we reserve for controversial reality TV stars: part-loathing, part fascination. Both were confident (possibly to a fault) on our telly screens. And both girls have just reported emotional and financial devastation after their shows finished filming.
Yesterday, Kelly spoke out about how she felt manipulated, betrayed, and utterly destroyed by the producers of MKR. She’s been hospitalised for physical exhaustion, she’s had to move back in with her parents, and she’s out of a job. She’s broke, devastated, and dealing with relentless verbal abuse on social media and, she says, in real life. She also believes, watching MKR back, that she was made out to be a bully – and that now she is being bullied herself.
Today, Tully Smyth shared a very similar experience. When she finished on Big Brother, she was left broke, depleted, emotionally fragile, and utterly alone in her experience of short-term intense fame. She too moved back in with her family, couldn’t get her previous job back, and dealt with the fallout of public opinion turning against her while she was on TV.
“You have to move back into your parents’, live off your mother’s superannuation or borrow rent off younger siblings,” Smyth wrote of her post-BB experience on her blog, Young Blood Social. “Perhaps the harshest reality of reality TV is the lack of psychological support.”
I can’t speak on behalf of all other reality television programs however at Big Brother apart from the initial chat with the psychologist immediately after you are evicted, there isn’t a whole lot of help in that regard. Sure, you’re told you’re able to talk to the show psych whenever you want however you’re not exactly sure how open and honest you can be with someone affiliated with the program.
I got to the point where I requested the production company cover the costs of a psychologist of my choosing – which admittedly they were more than happy to do.
I do however believe it would be hugely beneficial for future reality television contestants of all shows, on all networks – to have compulsory check ins with an independent psychologist once a week, 6 – 12 months after completion of the program. At least. And that is something I will be passing on to the people that be at Big Brother.
Tully’s argument raises a really interesting point about duty of care and personal accountability when it comes to the casting and editing decisions on these shows.
When reality TV stars complain about the emotional impact of their fame, usually we respond with a short, sharp “You knew what you were getting into”. And Tully concedes that yes, she knew exactly what she was getting into – and so did Kelly. They volunteered to participate in a volatile television challenge of their own accord – and they get instant fame in return.
But is it an equal transaction, between contestant and company execs here? Even though Tully and Kelly put themselves forward for the
nightmare experience of competing on TV, is it the networks who benefit most from exploiting their worst personality traits?
Once all the limo escorts, make-up artists, paparazzi, adoring fans, and cameras disappear – and the only thing left are the vocal bullies online – whose responsibility is it to keep these girls safe and sane? The TV network profits exorbitantly from the lives and mistakes of these contestants – should they be footing the bill for psychological support and setting up a better post-reality-TV support network?
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