Tabloid journalist Lauren Windle started watching reality TV when Big Brother opened its diary room doors in 2000. She’s seen many Christian contestants compete on various different shows, but has never seen it done well.


Source: Netflix / Love Is Blind

Reality TV is designed to put a strain on its participants. It’s no fun for the viewers if everything goes smoothly and everyone is perfectly comfortable. Rightly or wrongly, what gets ratings is drama and, in our current climate, that is often orchestrated by medalling producers.

Even the more gentle reality TV shows like Come Dine with Me or The Great British Bake Off thrive when something goes wrong. The person preparing the meal is stressed and time pressured so makes a mess of it, or there’s a heatwave so the Bake Off tent is a furnace and the temperature ruins everyone’s signature creations. There’s no escaping it, things going right won’t boost a show in the rankings.

Rightly or wrongly, what gets ratings is drama and, in our current climate, that is often orchestrated by medalling producers.

It’s for this reason that I would often advise against a Christian going on these shows. I’ve heard people describe the exposure as a “gospel opportunity” but in reality will it work out that way? Scenario one is that you talk about Jesus and it’s not what the makers of Big Brother or The Island or Hunted are looking for, so they edit it out. Scenario two is that they don’t edit it out completely but take your comments out of context so that you look like an idiot. Scenario three is that you talk about your faith, it gets aired with enough context that you’ve come across genuine and that’s great. But then the show’s producers turn the screws and you’re put under extreme pressure (as is customary of the genre) and you don’t respond in a very Christ-like way. You’re then chastised as a hypocrite. Suddenly everyone’s judging Christians and the Daily Mail front page reads: “IS THAT WHAT JESUS WOULD DO?” This, my friends, is the same reason I don’t trust myself with a Christian bumper sticker.

Of course, the US shows are often packed full of Christians (at very least in the box ticking sense) but American mainstream broadcasting is far more pro-Jesus than our cynical media outlets. Even so, the believers don’t all come off well. In the first series of American Netflix show Love Is Blind the person who spoke about her faith most turned into the season’s pantomime villain. She got engaged to her fiancé in “the pods” after hours of conversation but not actually seeing each other. After she met him, and it was clear she didn’t feel the physical attraction she expected, she broke up with him citing his atheism as the reason. Although she didn’t make it clear that faith was a deal breaker during their earlier conversations. She then cracked onto someone else’s fiancé on the show.

Participants are thrust into an environment geared towards casual sex. It’s a pressure cooker environment.

How about reality show du jour Love Island? In series one of the UK show contestant Zoe spoke about going to church and her faith early doors. She then entered into a sexual relationship with a man dubbed “The Hulk” by fellow Islanders. This was before Love Island became discreet (believe it or not – it genuinely used to be far less discreet), so their intimate moments were well documented along with a memorable post-coital admission that she “felt like her vagina had been hit by a train”. She said constantly how embarrassed she was that her vicar would be watching these antics unfold. Though – if her vicar is anything like mine – he would have quickly seen enough and stopped watching long ago.

My intention in highlighting this is not to slut shame her. She was a very young woman, thrust into an environment geared towards casual sex. It’s a pressure cooker environment and I can’t say that at her age I would have behaved any differently. In fact, I wasn’t a practising Christian and was an active alcoholic in my early twenties so I definitely would have acted similarly. But I think it serves as an example of how it can be ill advised to participate in these shows, particularly if someone is not mentally, spiritually and physically prepared for whatever brand of pressure the show will apply on them.