How we reconcile reality TV stars' alleged moral transgressions

25 January 2022

Dr Charlie Crimston from UQ's School of Psychology featured in an ABC article discussing how people feel 'betrayed' by reality TV stars when they are accused of moral transgressions.

The article talks about Netflix docuseries Cheer and the fallout of former Navarro cheerleader Jerry Harris, which forces co-stars and viewers alike to wrestle with the complex moral dilemma of how we should react when someone we admired is charged with a heinous crime. 

It's often easy to put scepticism aside when we're immersed in a character's backstory or rooting for them to succeed, and according to Dr Crimston that's why a reality TV star's alleged transgression can hit us hard.

"It's more emotionally impactful when there's that sense that we've been betrayed," Dr Crimston says.

"We felt we've really gotten to know someone.

"I mean, maybe that's the question: can you ever really know someone?"

Dr Crimston says our connection to the alleged perpetrator — and the intensity of the alleged crime — affects how we respond.

"In this particular case [of Jerry Harris], there's a really strong sense of anger associated with the alleged immoral acts," she says.

Dr Crimston adds that in situations like this, feelings of "disgust" will outweigh any fondness we previously felt.

Read the article