September 28, 2017
“It’s my guilty pleasure.”
Chances are, you’ve probably heard this phrase, accompanied by an eye roll and a bashful grin, used to describe reality TV. But what’s so guilty about it? Sure, watching Kim Kardashian hysterically cry over a lost diamond earring or listening to all the suitors on “The Bachelorette” repeat over and over how “excited” they are to get to know Rachel may not be particularly intellectually enriching, but who’s to say it’s wrong? Why are we ashamed in the first place?
We’re a culture that loves to hate reality TV. But for a society that talks about how trashy and embarrassing it is, we sure watch a lot of it. According to entertainment news website Refinery29, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”’ two-part special celebrating the wedding between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries raked in 10.5 million viewers alone. Our appetite for reality television isn’t just a global or national phenomenon, either. According to a recent survey, 44 percent (37/85) of KHS students watch reality TV.
Ever since the birth of modern reality TV with 1992’s “The Real World” on MTV, which had the simple premise of making strangers live in a house together, the genre has received criticism for being staged and fake. We tend to forget that no matter how much a show is edited, the people and situations depicted undeniably exist. That’s more real than any scripted show.
We can’t deny that these shows are embellished. But let’s face it, If we had an actual reality show, it would be drier than a pack of saltine crackers with no water to wash them down. Reality television is exactly that: reality mixed with television. It wouldn’t be television without entertainment value.
In fact, reality TV can teach us a lot about society. Stars are more relatable when they’re depicted as part of our world. Existing alongside them makes their messages more accessible. In a way, being able to follow reality stars on Instagram and Twitter bridges the gap between viewers and creators.
Reality TV also exposes us to walks of life we don’t normally see and gives a voice to communities often left unheard. One prime example of this is “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” VH1’s hit competition show for drag queens. “Drag Race” showcases the talented individuals tucked away in a corner of the already underrepresented LGBT community, and it has managed to make drag culture mainstream. With shows like this, marginalized people are given a chance to shine.
With that said, I’m not about to go on a tangent about how Snooki, Simon Cowell, Kris Jenner and Honey Boo Boo are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I won’t analyze depth that isn’t there. As Cher Horowitz from 1995’s “Clueless” said, “Searching for a boy in high school is like searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.” While the Shore I’m referring to is Jersey rather than Pauly, the sentiment is still the same. Not everything has to be packed full with symbols and meaning; sometimes we just want a laugh or a distraction. Ironically, reality television is often the perfect escape from reality.
Reality TV only becomes an issue when you start taking it seriously. Until then, there’s no crime in grabbing your popcorn and watching the “Big Brother” contestants hash it out for an hour or two. So don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t enjoy watching. Because that’s just like, literally, so *beep*ing rude.