Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reality TV

I like reality TV. I would say it’s a guilty pleasure, but there’s really no guilt. The popular opinion seems to be that reality TV is proof of the decline of Western Civilization. Well, I can say with some confidence that the decline of Western Civilization was already well established in the heavy metal years (if you’re not convinced, see The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years). It’s not that I like all reality TV shows, but I like the genre because I am (obviously) easily entertained by people’s actions and possible motivations, especially in unusual situations. And I have to say, I’ve been in social situations where people are stiff, not talking, and maybe it wouldn’t be the ideal time to bring up something controversial like politics or heavy like the economy. Throw something like The Bachelorette into the conversation and suddenly everyone in the room has something to say because of watching, hearing gossip, or hating. It's an ice breaker.



On Monday nights after getting the kids in bed, I am guaranteed an empty living room around 8 p.m. My husband is as committed to avoiding The Bachelorette as I am to watching it. Tabitha and I have an occasional habit of madly texting each other throughout the evening, possibly as late as midnight since we DVR and watch it at different times. During the season premiere, there were so many texts that my husband came running downstairs,“What is it? Did something happen?” I explained that we were discussing The Bach. He wondered, "What could you possibly have to say?" I scrolled through my texts . . . um, let’s see . . .

“Are you watching”

“Im at the first greet its so embarrassing”

“I had 2 hide my face”

“Its hectic”

“Wow those guys are catty”

“What do you say to an angel best quote so far“

“Just you wait lots more cringers”



And that was just the warm-up. If you went through my text inbox now, it would look like a middle school girl had hijacked my cell phone.

“I like ed”

“I luv jake”

“Omg r u watching”

“Wills got to go”



Another recent reality show that I found endlessly amusing was True Beauty. The premise was a group of people were invited to compete for the title of the Most Beautiful Person in the World. What kind of person thinks: I just might be the most beautiful person in the world? The twist was the contestants were secretly being judged on inner as well as outer beauty, so the producers set up situations such as a cyclist being "hit by a car" (it was, of course, all pretend) in front of a contestant just before an important moment in the competition. Some of the contestants stopped and helped in these situations. Others maintained their focus on themselves and breezed right by, not batting an eyelash. Boy, were they humiliated when they were shown the video clips of their thoughtless and selfish behavior in front of the judges. I don’t mean to sound judgmental. Depending on the day, my response to a situation might appear altruistic or egocentric (but for godsakes, I hope that I would help a person hit by a car right in front of me). It’s all part of the human condition.



I’m not going to argue that I’m doing anything of social importance when I watch a reality TV show. I’m not enriching my mind or embodying the best values. I won’t let my kids watch. I just really like to be entertained for entertainment’s sake once, maybe twice a week. And this is honestly what it reminds me of . . . a long time ago, before TV and movies and computers, there were stories like the Iliad that people recounted for entertainment. And those stories were filled with love, arrogance, betrayal, sex, deception and violence - all based loosely on real events. I think there’s a real human need for distraction from the grueling nature of actual reality, and there’s no need to apologize.

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