No, it isn’t because none of it is actually “real.” That would bother me less if what I was being shown was creative or interesting in some way. After all, most TV (and movies, and a fair number of books) I enjoy are fictitious. (Granted, then the argument could shift to one regarding mislabeling, but that would be a separate subject.)
My big problem, my big squick, is that I don’t really find the embarrassment of others funny or entertaining. (At least, not unless they’re complete jerks and totally deserve it. Comeuppance, I can generally get behind.) That’s why this Salon piece about “Buckwild” really struck a chord with me.
On a broader note, I don’t like endless streams of drama over stuff that is of incredibly minor significance. I don’t like rote, formulaic music that so hamfistedly attempts to string my emotions one way or another, so all my feels do whatever dance the producers decide they should do that week. While I realize that media I’d categorize as “enjoyable” also manipulates me in this way, I don’t like when it’s obvious enough that I can see it from miles away. Get to know me before you stick your hand down my shirt, producers. Sheesh.
Are reality shows profitable? Obviously. They’re usually less expensive to produce than scripted television shows, so the profit margins for big hits are greater. That’s a simple thing to understand.
The thing is, I don’t watch TV — or anything, for that matter — because I want to feel superior to someone else. I don’t watch TV so I can count the ways in which I’m better than him or her or them. I don’t watch TV to make fun of people. I find it distasteful, and I think it says something incredibly depressing about a society that thinks that’s OK.
I take in TV and any other sort of media so I can try to figure out how someone’s brain works. Give me ideas. Give me things to think about, things to consider. They don’t have to be deep philosophical meanderings — though those aren’t bad, of course. Show me you’re clever and I’ll clap with glee like a trained seal.
I guess, in many ways, this is a plea. Your brain. Show me it.
If you do, you’ll have a customer for life.
I know that’s asking a lot, sometimes. It’s downright terrifying to reveal that much of yourself to someone — let alone, to an entire audience of people.
But I want to know how it works. I want to see how you think. I want to revel in your brilliance. I want to be inspired by what you’ve created. TV may not seem like a dialogue, but good TV can be. Inspiration is everywhere, as long as you’re open to it.
Maybe that’s the real reason I’m not a reality TV fan. It’s passive. It’s not a dialogue at all. We, as viewers, are constantly being poked and prodded and told what to think and how to feel. There aren’t new layers and depths to explore. There’s no endless debate to be had with friends or in your head about what Real Housewife X really meant when she said “You’re a dumb bitch and I never want to see you again.” It’s all handed to us. It’s all spelled out for us — no further interpretation, exploration, or thought necessary.
Funny, that. I thought zombies liked brains. Oops.
Carved Crayons image by Pete Goldlust and used under Creative Commons license.