I’ll admit to being a fan of Pawn Stars and American Picker on the History Channel. A picker at heart, I felt like a bee in clover when cleaning out the stuffed garage of the tear-down house we bought, despite the dirt and hard work. I even found a few treasures to sell on eBay.

For those readers who have never watched Pawn Stars, the “reality” show is set in a pawn shop in Las Vegas, where the main characters—The Old Man, his son, Rick, Rick’s son, Corey, and Corey’s longtime friend, Chumlee—work. The premise revolves around the items brought into the shop to sell or to pawn. The show qualifies to be featured on the History Channel because the history of each object is explained, often by experts who are brought in to authenticate the item.

This week I quit watching Pawn Stars. One reason is I’m spending too much time watching television and not enough reading, writing—or sleeping. Another is that Rick has this little giggle that has started to drive me NUTS. I can sympathize.  It’s probably an unconscious reaction he might not even be aware of. Once upon a long time ago, an interviewer at an employment agency asked if I realized I giggled when I was nervous. That was news to me, but, ever since, I’ve been aware of the behavior in others. And finally, after X number of years, Rick’s little giggle has gotten to me. Has no one ever told him? (I won’t even go into the bleeps and the poor grammar used on the show. Grrrr!)

The biggest reason I’ve quit watching, though, is related to the topic of this blog—bullying. Old Man, Rick, and Corey all bully Chumlee. He’s told to shut up and called an idiot. They play cruel tricks on him and make him the brunt of jokes. Sure, Chumlee sets himself up to be a target with his bumbling ways, his (hopefully) feigned ignorance (he has read Walden), his scruffy appearance, and his weight, although everyone on the show is overweight. I’ve seen him interviewed and he comes off as much more intelligent and well-spoken than the television Chumlee, so he must be simply playing a role. And Chumlee isn’t the only one picked on, but he does get the worst of it.

I realize the show is meant to entertain and much of it is likely scripted, even Chumlee’s role as victim. However, whether it is their intention or not, stars on television have the power to influence viewers, and, real or fake, I believe the amount of bullying that occurs on Pawn Stars is a concern. It tells people that decency in workplace relationships and civility between friends aren’t important. If reinforces that bullying, even among adults, is acceptable, perhaps reinforces this even more because the show is a “reality” show and not fiction.

Pawn Stars would be as entertaining without making any of the participants the butt of jokes and unkind remarks. Chumlee provides a modicum of gentle humor without being a victim. The bullying leaves a sour taste and make the stars less likeable. Eliminate it and I might start watching again. Especially if Rick stops giggling.

Do you agree with my opinion of bullying on Pawn Stars?

Are you aware of any television shows where the characters bully each other on a regular basis?

I’d love to hear from you.

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10 responses »

  1. Michael says:

    You are aware that Pawn Stars is totally scripted and contrived aren’t you? All the bullying that chumlee receives is scripted and even the sales are set up because in reality the stars of Pawn Stars don’t actually work out front in the store anymore. Whilst the people in the show genuinely do work there and own the shop, the reality is that everything on the show, even when chumlee messes up, is a scripted, set up event purely for entertainment.

    • Karen Coombs says:

      Thanks for your comment. Of course I realize PS is scripted. That is why I wrote “reality” in quotations. It is also why the post included the following: “I realize the show is meant to entertain and much of it is likely scripted, even Chumlee’s role as victim. However, whether it is their intention or not, stars on television have the power to influence viewers, and, real or fake, I believe the amount of bullying that occurs on Pawn Stars is a concern. It tells people that decency in workplace relationships and civility between friends aren’t important. If reinforces that bullying, even among adults, is acceptable, perhaps reinforces this even more because the show is a ‘reality’ show and not fiction.”

      Real or fake, it sets an example for people who watch. And many of the viewers don’t realize it’s scripted or they might be easily influenced to imitate poor behavior. We all can be influenced by what we see in the media. Even I, as noted in my post called “Do Popular Media Encourage Bullying?”

      Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), very little in the world of reality television is true reality. But that doesn’t negate its power to influence behavior. Too bad there weren’t more programs that set the behavioral bar higher rather than lower.

  2. If you put Austin “Chumlee” Russell’s brain into the skull of a bird, the bird would fly backwards.

  3. anonymous says:

    You’re a total pussy.

    • Karen Coombs says:

      Hmmmm. I’m not certain to whom you’re directing your comment, but I suppose it’s better to get even a critical comment than none at all. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Jason says:

    I agree. It seems like every “reality” show on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, etc. follows the same basic formula. The recent trend of mixing the shows together is really getting old. Acting or not, Chumlee is allowing bullying to be perpetuated. I find the way Corey portrays himself to be even more ridiculous. Is he that proud of being a jerk? Rick cracks me up, and seems to be quite knowledgable in history, or maybe he is just a better actor.

    If you want to see something really horrible, tune into ‘Finding Bigfoot’ some time. I think it’s on Animal Planet. Reminds me of those Ghost Hunter shows, yet slightly more insulting.

    • Karen Coombs says:

      Yesterday, Finding Bigfoot was on while I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The people/actors are so earnest, but it was so totally boring. So many shows are choreographed and scripted, which makes the attempt to create tension phoney. I’m fascinated by the unknown and believe there is much in this world we still don’t understand, but I’m not going to run around in the bush all night searching for it and hoping the people filming me can then chop up the scenes enough to make it look as though something momentous is going to happen or be revealed any second. Sheesh! Well, on second thought, if the pay was tremendous, I might reconsider, knowing all the while it’s not truly reality television.

  5. I aggree with you Karen. 100%

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