What discernable core about American ideals is revealed in reality television shows? Specifically the show The Bachelor
Some sociological studies have revealed that people watch reality television as a vicarious situation which acts as a substitute for their own venturing into relationships. In this vicarious experience, the studies revealed, people can have the semblance of a romantic experience without the pain that is often attached.
More than anything, reality programs reveal the shallowness of many people who can only speak in banal phrases and platitudes. That the participants are quite materialistic is often revealed, too.
While akannan is no doubt correct in "suggest[ing] that there is a real and distinct danger in attempting to extract 'American values' from reality television shows," it seems to me perfectly reasonably to assume that immensely popular television shows are immensely popular precisely because they reinforce widely held values. To me, The Bachelor (of which, admittedly, I have only seen a very few episodes) is popular because it is so deeply connected with (flawed and outdated, I will dare to add) ideals of heterosexual courtship, such as the notion of accurately sorting through the many candidates to find "the one" or the idea that the simple gesture of giving a single rose to another person has any real meaning.
Don't get me wrong. I'm anything but jaded when it comes to relationships. For example, I believe in being choosy when it comes to selecting a longterm partner and in nurturing all aspects of a mature, intimate relationship. At the same time, though, I'm bewildered by how people tend to want to believe that each rose -- rose after rose after rose after rose -- has any sort of meaning and that any form of "reality television" is likely to lead to the discovery of real love.
I would suggest that there is a real and distinct danger in attempting to extract "American values" from reality television shows. There are so many other elements that generate how such shows manifest themselves, and one of those entities might not be "the exploration of American values." Having said this, if we wanted to explore the angle of popular cultural values expressed through social media, one such idea would be the notion of competition. Americans are very big on competition from as many sources as possible and allowing this level playing field where all individuals are able to compete for a goal. Whether it is in the love of sports or reality television contests, the idea of being able to compete towards a certain end is a part of American cultural values. At the same time, American values stress that "the good guy should win." In many of these reality television shows, there is one person who is cast in a not- so - favorable light. This person is seen as "the bad guy," and while their presence helps to wet the appetite of the viewing public, this particular individual should not win the competition. In "The Bachelor," it is very rare for him to select the girl who is involved in the most drama, the most fights, and presents herself in a "winner take all" embodiment of Machiavelli. Instead, Americans would rather see the "nice girl" win, the "wholesome" individual who played by the rules, befriended everyone else and made everyone else feel good around her. While Americans love competition, it seems that one value which comes out of this idea is that the "good one" should win when the dust settles.