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Name one - just one woman on reality TV who has risen to fame simply for her smarts.



Snooki? Nada. The Real Housewives? Not exactly. The Bad Girls? Um, no.

Then there's Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger, who has turned her prowess for knowing how to snag a rich date into an entrepreneurial gold mine. She's the one who advises single woman to avoid big words.

You can be smart and mean. (See: ruthless competitors on "The Apprentice.") You can be sweet and dumb. (Remember Jessica Simpson's first go-round with reality cameras?)

But smart, strong, independent women who prefer dealing with confrontation by building consensus are few and far between on trash TV.

It's just not a stereotype that sells.

Here's the image that does: Hair pulling. Name calling. Hand slapping. Mini skirts yanked back down after a fight on the floor.

The cat fight thrives on TV. And it especially thrives on the type of show marketed to young women still developing their sense of self-worth.

Anywhere else it would be assault. On television, it's a ratings bonanza.

And the queen bee of them all is "The Bad Girls Club," a reality show seemingly designed for the sole purpose of setting up the hair-dragging, nail-scratching, scream-inducing fights once relegated to "The Jerry Springer Show."

But there's a difference between Springer's guests and reality starlets. Springer's show thrives on showcasing the dregs of society.

Shows like "The Real Housewives," on the other hand, reflect some twisted version of success, fame and fortune.

What's the message for young viewers? Catty will get you ahead. Drama, screaming matches and fights that escalate to violence are behaviors that will be rewarded.

These women, simply, are bullies.

And it raises the question: If this is what adults do on TV, why would we expect anything different from teenage girls trying to emulate their world?

Schools in New York are more focused on bullying than ever as they implement a new law that seeks to protect students from harassment.

But how far can anti-bullying programs get when pop culture glorifies nasty, back-stabbing, violent people - especially women?

"Those programs and efforts are fighting against hours that kids are in front of the TV, seeing these other role models that may be more appealing," said Amanda Nickerson, director of the University at Buffalo's Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention. "It's just going to make it that much harder to try to send the message of what's real."

The problem is reality show characters are presented as real people, and it's sinking in. A survey by the Girl Scouts Research Institute found teen girls who regularly watched reality TV are more likely to think meanness and lying are traits needed to get ahead.

I don't expect reality TV will change any time soon. I just wish it would get a little more real.





email: djgee@buffnews.com