Reality T.V is strangely compelling..

made in chelsea 2

The Wednesday before I left for Nepal, I found myself slumped into a comfortable ball, sunken into the equally as comfortable leather sofa in my front room. My Dad made the unfortunate mistake a few years ago of buying a rather large flat screen T.V, much to mine and my Mum’s dismay – we both can’t think of a lot of things that are tackier and more antisocial than an over-sized screen as the central focus point of the sitting room. After a few weeks of scorning and huffing at the thing, we both accepted that it was here to stay. Needless to say, I’ve now warmed to my HD avec Freeview box, and once again, it had managed to lure me away from some productive (or at least less destructive) activity, into it’s warm glow. Generally, I’m more of a Youtube than a T.V person. I can proudly say just like the common English bee, I am part of a rare and dying breed – black women who haven’t yet watched an episode of Scandal. Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, the Midwife calls or whatever, are all foreign to me. But I can’t claim that I don’t struggle against the dark side of me that wants to watch reality television.
I’m not sure what happened for the first five minutes of channel surfing – it’s all an embarrassing ratchet haze, but suddenly there I was, watching a gaggle of people with more money than sense perform their emotional circus for the general public.
Made in Chelsea is something that in principle, I despise.It exemplifies what is wrong with David Cameron’s Britain – rich people living rich lives while the rest of us get poorer. So I can’t really explain to you why after the first two minutes of seeing this catastrophe I kept on watching. I hope it doesn’t say something too poignant about my character, but I think a lot of us can agree that reality T.V is something that is often ridiculous, but weirdly entertaining. Like chocolate, you know it’s bad for you, but when you’re feeling a little bit rubbish about your own life, for some reason, watching someone else’s life spontaneously combust in front of you, or watching people spend money you don’t have but wish you did, is strangely compelling. Like a straight weave with nappy edges, it doesn’t make sense, but there you are again, watching yet another stereotyped black woman pour Chardonnay over someone else’s Brazilian extensions, or 5 Essex girls walk up and down a random high street engaging in mind numbing conversation.
I still haven’t really figured out why reality TV is so popular. The story lines are often predictable, and frankly nonsensical. We all know someone is going to cheat on someone and then break up with the other person and the two loudmouths will get into a cat fight and the boyfriends will awkwardly do a scripted pulling them apart and then at the reunion show they will be passive aggressive to each other while Wendy Williams adjudicates the breakdown. Not only that, but majority of us can’t relate to the lives of the main stars – if the appeal is the reality, it’s not very real is it? Reality TV shows generally allow us to either vicariously live the lives of the filthy rich, or gawp at the undeserving poor a la Honey Boo Boo. Maybe that’s their appeal. That the reality they depict is actually so far from our reality. Maybe part of the appeal is that we can smugly watch someone else’s life go down the loo and comfort ourselves in the knowledge that no matter how many stupid decisions we’ve made that week, at least we haven’t made a sex tape with someone called Ray J, and we’d never dare wear as much fake tan as that lad from TOWIE. We’re addicted to other people’s negativity – the increasing popularity in recent years of gossip magazines, sites and shows attest to that.
Unfortunately, there’s principle that I think is evident, that when we see something enough we are changed by it. The negativity that we see on these shows might seem like lighthearted entertainment at first, but I genuinely believe that they are beginning to negatively shape the value systems of our whole society. People now aspire to be reality T.V stars as opposed to actually forging out a career that involves some sort of skill or trade. We might think that that’s only a small minority of us, and that might well be true- but I think even the behaviours that are normalised in the majority of these shows – poor ways of dealing with conflict, rampant infidelity, money as a god, horribly dysfunctional relationships, are quietly influencing the way we live our lives. Now granted, not all reality shows are created equal. One born every minute is technically a reality show, and one that I think does a good job of showing real lives of real people that make us all more connected to each other in a positive way.Even some of the more ratchet reality TV shows are possibly positive in demonstrating that celebrities aren’t necessarily happy solely because they are famous and rich.
Overall though, I think any positives are far outweighed by heaviness of the pathology that dictates the narratives of these shows.
What do you guys think? Do you watch reality T.V? Is it a guilty pleasure or are you unashamedly a RHOA fan till death? Is it affecting us, or am I over-analysing this?


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