MTV's TV show Ghosted controversy

Everything About MTV’s Ghosted: Love Gone Missing, Which Tracks Down People Who “Ghost,” Is a Terrible Idea 

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A dramatic trailer for MTV’s upcoming show Ghosted: Love Gone Missing hit the Internet, prompting an excited reaction from some viewers on social media while also sparking instant backlash. Many are accusing the show of normalizing stalking, as it seems to promote an unsettling central concept. No matter what you think of “ghosting,” in no universe should “ghosts” be tracked down and made to explain themselves for an audience of millions.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. A great deal of “reality” television is just as planned as any traditional TV show. Even when the situations depicted are genuine, there is almost always a pre-production element that guarantees any “surprise” appearance has been mitigated by the need to sign legal wavers beforehand. Post-production editing can also dramatically alter the “narrative.”

While the suggestion of realism draws us to the genre, hopefully we keep in mind that we, like the participants and the situations they’re in, are being manipulated. That said, a good deal of viewers may never consider the extent to how the sausage is made, and reality shows can make an enormous impact on pop and greater culture.

E! News succinctly sums up the premise behind MTV’s Ghosted: Love Gone Missing:

Hosted by The Bachelorette veteran Rachel Lindsay and artist Travis Mills, MTV’s Ghosted: Love Gone Missing is a new docu-series that follows the same premise as Catfish, an established MTV hit. The new series features the hosts helping distraught individuals track down and confront former lovers, family members or friends, all in an effort to get to the bottom of why these people suddenly disappeared.

Before we get entirely up in arms, as writer Alicia Lutes highlights, anyone appearing on Ghosted will have signed that waver in advance giving MTV their explicit permission to be on the show.

While the “confrontations” that we’ll see play out will no doubt be fraught with some real emotion, no one is being ambushed out of nowhere. That’s all for the cameras.

However, the problem with Ghosted isn’t the set-up that eventually makes it onscreen, but the basic principle here. While it no doubt hurts to be ghosted—the abrupt lack of communication from a romantic partner, a friend, or a family member is certainly difficult—what can never be assumed is the other side of the story.

As many on Twitter have been discussing, especially in romantic relationships, “ghosting” can be necessary in order to escape from trying or abusive situations. Sometimes it’s a reaction to people being aggressively familiar soon after first making contact. Regardless of why it happens, it shouldn’t be subject to trial by reality TV.

Make no mistake about it: the idea of MTV, Ghosted’s hosts, and their camera crew normalizing the idea that people who “ghost” deserve to be found, confronted, and made to explain themselves is as troubling as it is dangerous.

This isn’t a show about reuniting long-lost friends or lovers who just couldn’t find each other on, say, social media. (That might be heartwarming!) This is a situation where one of the parties has made the decision, their own decision, to distance themselves from the other party.

Even if the people who end up appearing on Ghosted have, for whatever reason, given their permission to do so, the show has a wider impact by “romanticizing stalking,” which is emerging as a foremost criticism. The implicit suggestion that those who were Ghosted deserve to have an explanation for why contact was severed, so much so that a whole production is designed around it, is no kind of message to send to MTV’s youthful audience. It’s irresponsible and has the potential to set a harmful precedent: after all. MTV is saying it’s okay to track down your “ghost” by any means necessary. Will they also be demonstrating some of the techniques used to find and contact those who don’t wish to be found?

How this show was greenlit is absolutely mind-boggling.

(via Twitter, image: MTV)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.