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I don’t watch reality TV. I’ve seen very little of it and usually what I have seen is from The Soup which exists solely to make fun of this awful form of entertainment.
When you ask someone who enjoys reality TV what they like about it, they first rush to explain that they think everyone on it is ridiculous and that they find them to be abhorrent as those of us who hate reality TV do, but they enjoy the freak show quality of it, the fact that this is how these people behave. They laugh at this desperate attempt to garner attention – and in some cases, respect -because we have created a society where respect is decided by fame, and fame is as easily attained as being willing to get drunk and act like a fool while it’s being broadcast to millions.
I no longer allow the freak show answer to satisfy my question, and often when you continue to push these people who gush over how entertaining it is to watch this, you begin to unravel their own issues. If we look at people on reality TV as acting like cretins and unhealthy humans beings, then how healthy can a person be who watches them?
Humor is one of the most wonderfully fluid and erratic currents that the human race has developed. Laughing at things comes from not always understanding the why of things or looking for absurdity, asking “who’s on first?” or playing with language and traditional representations. There’s a reason that men dressed as women still remains a funny trope in this day and age despite it being a practice that’s been around for hundreds of years.
As humans, we love absurdist humor, perhaps because we’re all absurd. I mean this in a somewhat positive way. We love the silliness and triviality of things. This planet is filled with trinkets and statuettes – every culture for thousands years has passed around tiny keepsakes – and we get excited over the most unimportant stuff like celebrities falling down or not wearing make-up. On some level, humans understand how unimportant everything is because they embrace the least important things.
But the trending way of humor that has emerged from much of reality TV has become a pocket of decay. I’ve noticed that we spend more time laughing at schadenfruede than jovial qualities. We spend so much time laughing at other people…and not just someone falling or slipping or acting goofy.
We find people and we tell them that they’re interesting and that we enjoy their antics then we put them in a house or a room and laugh at how stupid they act. We all watch them and laugh at how much better we are then them and how inferior they are.
I’m not sympathizing with them, don’t worry. Most of these people are wasteful, ignorant humans that do the rest of us a huge injustice. But this is not humor or entertainment. This is like the Roman empire throwing gladiators to the lions. It points to such a deep emptiness as a people. We get joy out of making people into jokes and clowns then we give them money and they keep doing it. They feel validated.
This is not entertainment. In some ways, this is a sick and abusive relationship. Most people defend all of this by saying simply that no one should be looking to reality TV for heroes and icons but we still have a societal fetish for fame and attention, no matter the how or the why.
What message are we as a public relaying to ourselves and others when our entertainment boils down to spoiled, destructive behavior, where we take such pleasure from observing what is truly a disgusting side of humanity? To liken it to a freak show is apt, but to not reflect on how sick and sad that sounds is disappointing. Have we really not progressed in the past hundred years past the point of laughing at people out of our own shortcomings?
Imagine a future society looking back at ours and how pathetic it will seem to them that this was how we passed our time. Not on well written and crafted dramas or comedy based on delivery and trained skill, but just cheap shots at people too pitiable to see what clowns and court jesters they’ve become.
It’s the new vaudeville without any form of talent. At least Eddie Cantor could sing. We don’t even pretend these people have redeemable qualities. They’re selected for traits like the ability to get drunk and cause drama while entertainment with impeccable writing and skilled acting gets dismissed by the masses.
Why are we encouraging this behavior and furthermore, what does it say about us that season after season, year after year, this is what keeps getting made?