I was in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day, getting visually assaulted by all things Kardashian (this is by far the most shallow link I could find about them) or Jessica Simpsonesque. What else was there? Apparently, Brangelina are simultaneously planning their wedding while breaking up again, and Jennifer Aniston may or may not have finally found the love that may or may not give her the baby bump of her dreams. Glammy teen moms talk about what an actual trial motherhood is, while that tool from The Bachelor runs around and…acts like a tool. I’m sorry, I wish I could elaborate.
Wait, scratch that. No I don’t. That indicates I would welcome more knowledge about this. Which I don’t.
So I was in the grocery store, trapped like a cow in a slaughterhouse death chute and vaguely hoping someone would blast a steel bolt into my brain (Anton Chigurh, where are you when I need you?), when I looked to my right and saw this:
I do take some minor comfort that of the eight frightful heads featured on this cover, I only know who half of them are, and that’s only because they’re big names (relatively speaking, of course). That, unfortunately, means I know who four of them are, but at least they’re the four who are known for other things besides being on reality TV (including Sharon Osbourne, who I know made her own name as a reality TV judge but has pretty famously managed to be ardently and unabashedly married to Ozzy Osbourne since 1982, which indicates either an internal fortitude or a gluttony for punishment that are unmeasurable by current standards). But oh! Holy! Crap! It’s a tabloid about reality TV! Here are a list of the things are are wrong with this item’s existence, in no particular order.
1. Reality TV isn’t about reality, and has been sorely misnamed since MTV’s The Real World first launched in 1992. It’s about a television producer’s specific version of reality, which is entirely subjective and at the mercy of ratings and viewers. As much as we would like to imagine we are the stars of our own television show the fact is, we don’t have nearly as many viewers or as high a rating as we might like. Calling this rag “Reality” is like Charlie’s mom in So I Married an Axe Murderer calling The Weekly World News “the paper”.
Forward to about the three-minute mark to see for yourself.
2. Reality TV is pretty much always divisive and brings out the worst in people. Do you watch The Real Housewives of… (pick a place) so you can learn all about them and enjoy their witty repartee? No! You watch to see how big of a nightmare-slash-freak show these people are, so you can theoretically feel better by comparison. Did anyone watch Jon & Kate Plus Eight because of their overwhelming love for the children? I watched exactly one episode of that show, and it was late in the game, after he was gone, and I still thought, “Holy smokes, I wouldn’t let that harpy in my house for love or money.” People always said she was mean, I can only suppose they watched in anticipation of her screeching meltdowns. Do you watch the Real Housewives series to learn…something? Or do you wait around hoping to see one of them slip into drug-addled ramblings? I wouldn’t want to hang out with these people if they were standing right in front of me; why do we think it’s OK to let them into our homes electronically? Even the tame-ish, quasi-instructional shows like What Not to Wear are still an invitation to the train wreck. WNTW viewers (of which I am one), who doesn’t like to see how terrible the “contributors” look at the start of the show? And as a follow-up, who doesn’t self-evaluate against the train wreck and think, well…at least that’s not me?
Howard Stern was hired for America’s Got Talent so they could have someone who is as brutally unlikeable and socially controversial as that Simon putz from American Idol. He retired and I thought, well, at least he won’t pollute the airwaves any longer but no! It’s like there’s a TV-world hydra of hate; cut off one head and Howard Stern emerges. Is anyone surprised that America’s Got Talent‘s ratings have gone up recently? Don’t be, but please ask yourself why we find it so acceptable.
3. Can we evaluate for a minute here? Whatever is going on in Brad and Angie’s lives, or whether Jennifer Aniston’s belly remains bumpless, however much weight Jessica Simpson gained and lost with her baby, and why in the hell the Kardashians need to be kept up with, have no bearing on you. Unless you’re a cousin or employee or BFF (legitimate, not imagined as in, “I just know if me and Kimmy K ever met we’d totally get along great!” because that? Becomes creepy) their personal lives are NOT. Your. Business. Because they are not your reality. Words have meanings, and if this genre of media were called “Voyeurism” or “Watching the Harpies” or “Idle Time-Sink” media (because we can indeed mesh print and TV, as seen by the above cover) then I probably wouldn’t have half as much problem with it. But we call it “Reality” and in doing so, change the definition of reality.
Parents, can you name who’s on the school board and making educational decisions that affect your children? Or can you name all the Kardashian kids (including the younger Jenner-flavored Kardashians)? People, do you have a set goal for yourself that you’re pursuing? Or do you content yourself to watch Celebrity Apprentice? Do you understand what it takes to budget, parcel out time and manage a household, or do you assume daily home and interpersonal management results in bitchzooka-laden meltdowns a la The Real Housewives…? Because seriously, folks, if this is “reality”? Check, please.