To judge is human nature but the extent to which we do it must most certainly be a choice. I discovered the other day why I don't get much into reality TV...especially the kind of shows where women are presented bickering over nonsense and tearing each other down. A big part of the appeal of reality TV, it seems, is the commentary and judgement that happens during an episode or after an episode has aired. There are tweets, blog posts, talk show mentions and constant talk about who did what to whom and what it means or could mean. It is often surprising to me that so many women find entertainment value in the kind of content in reality shows. I have tried on occasion to watch reality shows, like the housewife franchise but I simply cannot get into it. It leaves me feeling drained because I spend half my time feeling bad for the women on the show and in a lot of ways feeling bad about myself. I get that some of what happens on these shows is a part of real life but why would I want to watch it? Why would someone's actual broken marriage, poor financial situation, bad friendships, bad hair, bad makeup and moral bankruptcy provide me with entertainment? I get that the shows are edited to present the most ratings grabbing bits but why do we watch? Why do we find so much entertainment in real people crashing and burning? Why do we find entertainment in the misery and misfortune of others? Why do we get together to collectively judge others?
I like a good movie and I watch all kinds but the reason I'm able to enjoy them is because I know that what I'm seeing isn't real...even if based on real life events. (Trashy) Reality TV on the other hand is presented as real and who knows what percentage of it is actually real, maybe it's 10 percent maybe it's none at all. Even with a really poorly written script there is a plot that follows a certain formula. In reality TV there doesn't seem to be any plot outside of attention grabbing. The audience is simply asked to find enjoyment in a group of people living out various portions of their life. While I get the appeal of seeing how 'rich' people live, this is not the case with most reality shows. Often times, these shows have cast members who are famous for being famous and who are far from rich. In the absence of any real entertainment we speculate, talk among ourselves, judge and comment on the lives of these 'stars' based on our own view of the world, our view of ourselves and to some extent our views of our friends. Maybe it's called reality TV not because what we are seeing is real but because how we interpret and interact with the content is based on the real us.
I often ask people why they watch reality TV and most describe it as a guilty pleasure. Something that is done to escape the stress of everyday life....something that provides distraction. If the means by which you distract and entertain yourself in your down time is filled with vitriol, how much of that energy is transferred into your own life? Guilty pleasure or not, we give relevance to bad reality TV and we open up our lives to what is shown on screen.