Take stock of this: TV’s not reality
These days, it doesn’t take much to be famous.
Just turn on the TV for proof.
You can have a baby at a young age (16 and Pregnant), reinforce stereotypes of the Garden State (Jersey Shore), search for love that’s almost sure to fail (The Bachelor), gossip and fight (The Real Housewives of Orange County, New Jersey, Atlanta…), fluctuate in weight (The Biggest Loser), date an old guy (Girls Next Door), pose for pictures (America’s Next Top Model), or, really, just do nothing at all (The Hills, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Real World, etc.).
Reality television can catapult ordinary people to a certain version of fame, a kind that equals thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, some extra money and maybe a few tabloid articles here and there. And that’s intriguing. But the reality TV kind of stardom often dwindles quickly, and there’s little else this kind of programming offers its participants.
Likewise, what does reality TV present viewers? Unhealthy obsessions and wasted hours? Images of drug use, plastic surgeries, domestic abuse and underage drinking that, especially to kids, might be misconstrued as positive?
For many of us, Survivor and American Idol started the reality TV craze, and millions have tuned in since to see who wins the million dollars and who’s voted off.
Certainly, this kind of television can provide needed leisure – an escape from everyday life – just like sitcoms and music and sports can do. And, we hope, reasonable people understand that reality TV is pure entertainment.
But sometimes it’s best to remind ourselves.
Reality is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti, the health care debate, the housing market’s collapse. It’s religion and politics and education. It’s finding a job and getting married and having kids. It’s illness and anxiety, success and triumph.
There is a place for reality TV in our culture. But, to be fair, there is little real about the genre. At best, reality TV represents a small segment of the population and daily living. At worst, it distorts what life in America really is.
A new decade isn’t likely to slow down the steady march of additional reality shows. But maybe a late New Year’s resolution could be to focus more on our own lives and less on reality TV stars’.