A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality series is a compilation of gross-out and potentially life-threatening stunts like ingesting habanero peppers, eating animal body parts, and jumping off buildings. The show relies on sensationalism and controversy among its contestants to keep the content edgy, so expect plenty of trash-talking, some of which hones in on the participants' body types ("fat," "skinny and pretty") for ammunition. Greed and ego are big players in the contestants' motivations, which leaves little room for sportsmanship, and the host often stirs animosity by pitting the players against each other. The bottom line? These aren't good models of healthy competitive behavior for kids, and the challenges themselves might inspire some similar stunts from ill-advised viewers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
FEAR FACTOR is a reality series that puts its participants through a series of challenges that test their physical and mental strength. Contestants compete either solo or in pairs, and they face potentially life-threatening and gross-out tests like being covered in bees, lying in a bed of snakes, and swimming in a vat of cow blood. One contestant (or team) is eliminated after each challenge, with the ultimate victor taking home a $50,000 cash prize. Hosted by Joe Rogan, the show originally ran from 2001 to 2006 before leaving the air, only to be revived in 2011 with the same host and a similar format.
Is it any good?
The first thing you'll hear when you tune in to this extreme reality series is Rogan's voice-over warning viewers of the danger factor in what they're about to see and instructing them not to replicate the stunts. That goes without saying for grown-ups who recognize the real-life danger in these stunts, but if you're a kid and someone tells you not to do something, your natural instinct is to do just that, right? In other words, this show could have the opposite effect on kids, inspiring them to try even scaled-down versions of what they see. Couple this curiosity factor with some strong language and generally obnoxious players, and keeping kids away is a no-brainer.
While there is something to be said for witnessing people conquer their fears and emerge stronger from the experience, it's hard to say that that is what Fear Factor is all about. The show values sensationalism over personal achievement, and its contestants are chosen as much for their strong personalities as for their willingness to put themselves through such extreme stunts for the sake of greed. There's no denying that it's entertaining, but quality substance isn't a factor for this show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about greed. How does our desire for money and possessions drive our actions? What role does it play in our choice of a career or hobbies? Is there an upside to these motivations? If so, what?
Teens: Have you ever faced an "I dare you" situation with your peers? How did you handle it? Where do you draw the line when it comes to challenges? Is it difficult to walk away from confrontation?
Why do you think reality TV appeals to so many people? Is there anything realistic about shows like this one? What other reality series do you watch that seem more relatable to you?