I’ve been watching a lot of reality TV lately. It started innocently enough. A little Real Housewives of Atlanta, solely to get to the bottom of Kim‘s wig fetish. Then I half-watched a few episodes of Teen Mom and wondered why a license isn’t required to have a child. Catfish, a show that provides the opportunity for the internet lovelorn to discover their online sweetie is using someone else’s identity, quickly became repetitive, so I switched to the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to watch women dumped by semi-famous men. That became a gateway to the Shahs of Sunset. Reza had a haircut I needed to study and no one does mean girls, it turns out, quite like the Persians. Oh, and a Persian Barbie who was also a lawyer. Who knew? Every time I watched I’d promise myself it was the last episode, then something shocking would happen and I’d be on the hook for the next show.
And, let’s be honest here, no one watches these shows to learn about life or live vicariously through someone else. We watch because we’re fascinated by the grotesque and ugly things these people do. 450 cc fake boobs, drunken catfights, botox, and plastic surgery combine to make these people look less than human. And the way they live? Not like anyone I know. Daddy or hubby pays the bills. Jobs, if they have them, are as ridiculous as making diamond water (don’t ask) or selling books about the scandals they’ve already covered on the show. They travel in limousines, have outrageous parties, and raise children that are largely absent. Definitely not in my league.
And not a league I want to be in.
I understand that everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame. I know if there isn’t controversy, no one will watch (me sitting on my couch in my pajamas would be an epic fail of a reality show). I acknowledge that good television requires good guys and villains and watching the conflict that develops between them is what keeps me tuning in.
But, there’s something inherently sad about watching people play a role on TV. The jilted lover, the lying stud, the long suffering wife, and the alcoholic, lonely single woman all seem comfortable to lay the pain and ugliness of their lives on the screen and have us watch. They want us to sympathize, understand, and ultimately learn from their story line. Unfortunately all I’ve learned is that the tv viewing audience is no substitute for a trained therapist.
I think I’ll turn off my tv and leave them to their dysfunction.