Daily Archives: July 25, 2012

Does Reality Television Portend The Apocalypse?

I still remember the appalled chill I felt when I heard of the Big Brother house. Remember that moment?

Cameras in the showers, whaaaaaa?

From there, reality television programming has escalated and given birth like a hydra mating with that broom from Fantasia. It’s given us Kardashians. It’s given us Survivor. It’s given any voyeuristically inclined shlub on the couch with a packet of crisps and a wedgie something to do besides hitting the gym.

(In case you’re wondering, instead of going to the gym tonight I watched the finale of The Bachelorette. Yes, you are allowed to shoot me. I don’t know if I gain or lose points for having to watch it on demand because I missed it live.)

The Bachelorette

The Bachelorette (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Death. War. Conqueror. Famine…Reality TV?

Somehow the latter can’t quite squeeze its jelly-filled buttocks between the formed up Apocalypse Herd O’ Horsies.

Being the pragmatic, logical sort of person that I strive to be, as I sat there feeling really, tremendously awful for Arie Luyendyk Jr., I had to ask myself why it mattered and why I spent approximately 24 hours of my life between January and now watching first Ben then Emily fling roses at a rapidly depleting mound of would-be suitors.

The first answer I came up with was that I was watching a human being in pain, and having an emotional reaction to seeing an open, genuine man (rare as plutonium in a hamster cage on that show) have his shiny future shattered at his feet is perfectly normal. I’d even encourage it. If you can watch even a complete stranger haphazardly scrape together enough chunks of his heart to leave with dignity and you feel nothing, I wonder if your human bean fuses are fully connected.

Even though I know it happened months ago, poor Arie.

Arie Luyendyk, Jr. at the Indianapolis Motor S...

Arie Luyendyk, Jr. at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second day of qualifications for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At least his hair has improved greatly with the passing of the three years since this was taken.

I do think he’s one of the most genuine people I’ve seen on any of the (relatively few) seasons I’ve watched. And much as liked Jef Holm and thought he was a good match for Ms. Maynard, I personally preferred Arie. And no, it wasn’t for his racecar.

Indy racing is, and ever will be, incomprehensible to me. I can’t watch anything go round and round that much without feeling like I’m about to sick up.

I had a point somewhere in there. Recap!

1. It’s normal to have an emotional reaction when you see other human-shaped critters get emotional.

There it is.

So why else do I watch that show? Why am I admitting it in public?

I find it rather fascinating to watch the changes these people generally undergo as the season progresses to its inevitable heap of burgeoning drama. I have to salute them for signing their lives away to be dissected by the aforementioned underweared, crisp munching, gym neglecting shlubs. Especially because the contestants competing for the title of Grand Engaged Pooh-bah get paid only in passport stamps and emotional scars.

If you ever thought the 25 competitors on The Bachelor/ette were raking in the dough for the show, you are…erm…wrong. The leading lad or lass will take home a hefty sum, but those who try and fail at winning hearts go home and hope they still have a job and that they might get some petty cash for appearing on talk shows.

And these people appear to have real Twitter accounts, where they talk to each other like real humanoids talk to each other with a computer and some mysterious WiFi wavelets in the middle. It’s weird.

I guess my next point is…

2. It’s interesting.

If I only had those two reasons to watch, I probably wouldn’t. But as a writer, I have a muse who sits there poking me with her cane while I type, and even though her glasses are thicker than Mason jars, she sees the surrounding world more than I do — and she points me in the right directions to look.

I discovered tonight that one can learn a lot from watching reality television. Especially as a writer. I would like to elevate my description of character emotion above narrowed eyes, clenched fists, churning stomachs, and lips set in a firm line…in anger. Paha.

Watching the live audience’s reactions tonight? Pure, fresh writing tidbits lined out on primetime for me to mine.

3. Inspiration for writing.

And as I contemplated those first three somewhat noble reasons for pasting my eyeballs to a screen to watch strangers try to find love and often act a fool on national television, I realized that the final and most telling reason why I watch is because…

4. I want to know what happens.

It’s a story. It might not have all the elements of structure it needs to be much more effective than a fart in a whirlwind, but I still want to know what happens. That’s why it’s coming up on its twentieth season. Yeah. Yikes. Besides, if all the allegations of how scripted it is are true, that would explain why it’s effective. I mean, there’s a Courtney or a Bentley in each season, no?

If reality television is one of the horses of the apocalypse, I am okay with leading the pony that is The Bachelorette around the corral. I won’t watch Bachelor Pad. It makes me sad. (I rhymed.)

I’ll leave it to you, gentle viewers. Have we doomed ourselves by televising intimate details of human lives, or is it all a scripted conspiracy to sabotage your weight loss goals? Do you have a guilty pleasure reality show you watch? Please share so I don’t hang myself in shame.



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