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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why We Love Reality TV.

Reality television has become the bread and butter of many a basic cable network. They're cheap to make, require tolerating few, if any diva celebrities, and people - lots of people - will watch them. They're trite, full of less-than-brilliant wannabe stars, and often riddled with violence, nudity, and vulgarity. So why do the ratings keep going up? Whether you call ‘em a guilty pleasure or your greatest joy, you have to admit - you love reality TV.
Americans are, by our very nature, a voyeuristic society. It's the same reason traffic backs up when there's a horrific car crash - we just want to look. Reality stars have the lack of inhibition we often wish we had, but more often than not, are glad we don't. The cameras never seem to stop them from shoving their tongues down their roommates' throats, stripping their bodies bare before a national audience, or using profanity that would make Paris Hilton blush. We wouldn't be caught dead saying or doing these things, but we love watching what happens when they do it for us. And oh the fights!
Admit it. In your head you've smacked a thousand snotty girls or meat headed guys across the face. We all dream of having an excuse to get into a fist fight, just to show what we've got. Well reality stars have found their excuse - the camera - and we'll keep watching as long as they've got punches to throw. Freud recognized those basic human passions for sex and violence, and I think reality television is his proof. We're sick, and we love it!
I don't think I'm taking a huge leap here by saying that reality TV stars aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. Let's remember that these are people who are knowingly exploiting their personal lives for a little cash and fifteen minutes of fame. Reality stars can, however, be depended upon for one thing. When a delicate situation arises, that requires proper judgment, clear thinking, and caution, reality stars will without failure, make the wrong choice. This is great for us because we can learn from them. We can learn what not to do in almost any situation, and their flagrant disregard for logic, can be our guiding light.
Reality thesaurus. Reality shows can also be great tools for expanding one's vocabulary. Watch enough reality TV, and you'll pick up dozens of colorful - and possibly offensive - terms you never knew existed.
Been feeling down on yourself lately? It's probably because you haven't been getting your fill of reality TV. Disaster, misfortune, and personality disorders seem to follow reality stars wherever they go. How can you feel bad about yourself when you see the eating disordered failing actress, who gave up her studio apartment to live with socially dysfunctional strangers, get fired from her fast food job because she's not good enough at math. You're doing much better by comparison right? So tune in and cheer up!
Mental Escape
Our daily lives require a lot of mental energy. Our jobs our stressful and challenging, and often our personal lives are even worse. Our minds are constantly being taxed and drained. Who wants to come home and escape by turning on entertainment with substance? I don't know about you, but after a long day of thinking, I can't handle substance. I want fluff - pure, unadulterated fluff. The less I have to think to understand what I'm watching the better, and luckily, reality TV requires no thought at all. I mean it. My dog understands it. Reality TV is mental Xanax.
Defined as enjoyment taken from another person's misfortune, Schadenfreude is that unspoken, or sometimes outspoken in the case of Perez Hilton, giggle and shot of exhilaration we get when things turn for the worst for reality television stars. When they get caught lying, we smile. When they're embarrassed, we're warm and fuzzy. When they get dumped, we're delighted. Call it awful, cruel, or disgusting, but admit it. You've felt it too. And how guilty should we really feel? Reality shows are nothing new. These people know what they're signing up for, and they still do it enthusiastically. They know that we derive our entertainment from their misadventures, but they're the one's who'll reap the benefits of the exposure. Our right to laugh at their pain is part of the contract we make with each other as reality performer and reality viewer.
So hide it if you want to. Pretend you prefer books and documentaries...but we all know what you're really doing behind closed doors. I say embrace it. So grab your TV listings and some popcorn and let's all thank the gods of entertainment for reality TV!

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