Our culture has a weird tendency to vilify vapid enjoyment, like Reality TV. But, realistically, is there that much of a difference between reality tv and football? My short answer is no. In fact, I think it’s pretty natural that most people are at least interested in the idea of reality tv. We are all curious of others’ lives, and shouldn’t necessarily be ashamed that we consume media that highlights this slightly voyeuristic aspect of our nature.
One thing our society has been scared to discuss for years? Taboos. But, interestingly enough, some of our most viewed reality tv shows delve into the taboos of our world. For example, the Bachelor (and Bachelorette) gives us a view into how we deal with taboos and negatives in the dating world (knowing the person you’re casually seeing is likely with other girls, the awkwardness of flirting, and the raw honesty that is sometimes demanded of you to share).
Thus the Bachelor, as a case study, creates a platform to view these ‘hurdles’ of dating in a safe space. It also acts as a way to discuss these with friends, coworkers, and others in a relatable way. Typically, dating is intensely private…but dating shows like the Bachelor allow for the pitfalls and triumphs of datings to be discussed in abstract, while still being able to analyze your own dating life, without divulging any personal anecdotes.
Taking it one step further, shows like Hoarders, The Biggest Loser, and My Strange Addiction are able to humanize people we might otherwise automatically categorize as bizarre, disturbed, or unlikable. By opening their lives, these people who commit “taboo” actions in society are made to be, at least, somewhat more understandable and multifaceted. Although some may say that these shows gawk at these types of people, I would argue that they actually make people more relatable through sub-plots, storylines, and sharing personal stories.
Finally, reality tv also offers a specific kind of escapism. To be specific, shows like Iron Chef, Project Runway, and the Voice allow us to follow regular people who are given the chance to attain their dreams. Career-based competition shows highlight not only how difficult some careers are to enter into, but the gratifying growth of the individual making their dreams come true. A regular person, similar to the viewer, is able to change their lives through, largely, hardwork and a little bit of natural talent.
Overall, let’s be real – there are some bad reality tv shows that are likely harmful to society (here’s looking at you, early 2000s MTV shows like NEXT), but I think there can be a brighter and more optimistic side to our society’s near-constant consumption of reality tv.