Study finds that TV shows promoting the high life make us less empathetic towards poor people

The Kardiashian sisters at an Apple Store presentation in New York City, September 2015
The Kardiashian sisters at an Apple Store presentation in New York City, September 2015

Are you addicted to shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians? Or maybe you simply can’t get enough of the Real Housewives series?

Perhaps it’s not even a reality show that you can’t get enough of, but simply a series like Empire or Gossip Girl – both of which feature people who are living the kind of lifestyle that many of us aspire to. 

Well, it turns out that watching these kinds of shows – series or reality shows that promote living the high life – actually damages your perception of poor people and tend to endorse anti-welfare sentiment, a new study has found.

READ MORE: Do these shows rely too heavily on torture porn?

According to Teen Vogue, this new study, which was conducted in the UK and polled about 487 people between the ages of 18 – 49, revealed that those who watch shows that uphold the idea that living the lifestyles of the rich are more likely to be less sympathetic to causes that are designed and developed to help poor people.

In this report, people were asked to share the following:

  • attitudes towards wealth and success
  • thoughts on policies and government benefits that would help impoverished people
  • how often they watch shows which include the likes of The Apprentice, Keeping Up with the Kardashians and X-factor, to mention but a few.

The study suggested that the more time people spent watching these shows, the more negative the responses towards any welfare policies were.

While there’s no doubt that watching shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians certainly have their entertainment value, particularly because this family’s middle name is drama, they also represent a lifestyle that on the surface seems like everything anyone could ever want.

The problem is that with shows like these, they often give the impression that achieving that wealth and success is not only easily accessible, but also instantaneous. 

READ MORE: Can we celebrate Kylie Jenner’s success and still point out that she’s not self-made?

And I think that often skews people’s perception because what they don’t realise is that some people have the advantage of a) been given a platform, b) being born into wealth and c) are hard-working but have also had resources to help them.

This takes me back to a piece about that time that Kim K posted a quote on Snapchat that upset so many people. The quote she posted said something along the lines of how you can’t be a millionaire if you have a minimum wage ethic. 

And I feel like this same attitude can certainly be seen here, because it doesn’t take into account that actually, sometimes poor people don’t have access to the resources needed, and that sometimes people are forced to work with little pay because there are no other opportunities.

When you see that kind of wealth portrayed on screen, it’s easy to think that living the dream can look and be so effortless. But we need to remember that people who live a lifestyle way above our own, don’t make them any better than the average person on the street. 

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