I still remember watching early episodes of The Real World when it launched many years ago on MTV. And wow, it was groundbreaking. And fascinating.
These days, there's no shortage of reality television shows. In fact, there are whole television channels completely dedicated to it.
And as much as I indulged in my fair share of reality television, a couple of years ago, I decided enough was enough. And boy, am I glad I made that decision.
I used to make the excuse that after a long day working and caring for my kids, I just needed to sit down and let my brain relax with mindless television. No documentaries. No educational programming. Nothing that required any level of thinking. Please.
Just complete, utter ridiculousness.
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That's why I first started watching reality television, specifically The Real Housewives on Bravo. That's also why I'd grab People and Us Weekly instead of Wired or the New Yorker at the bookstore.
Who doesn't love watching a trainwreck?
I added a few other shows into the mix, for a little variety, I suppose, and that's pretty much all I'd watch on television save a couple of HBO shows. Day in and day out I was satiated on other people's problems and drama.
Then a few things happened:
1. I spent a few days with a real housewife from one of the shows who informed me as to how scripted and programmed the show actually is. I pretty much already knew that was the case, but when I heard to what extent, I was pretty disgusted.
2. I saw an image of one of the stars of 16 and Pregnant on a magazine in the grocery store and something went off inside me. I was angry that they'd exploit kids and their own kids for money.
3. I watched a short online video clip of photographers chasing down Jennifer Garner and her children outside a grocery store and felt just as guilty as the paparazzi because here I was watching the footage they were paid to take.
I'm not so naive to think that people don't make their own choices, and they decide to subject themselves to cameras 24 hours a day and the scrutiny, criticism, and yes, fame that come with it. And I understand that being a movie star or high profile person comes with fandom and an amount of public curiosity.
And sure, there are a few reality shows that are decent, like Project Runway and Top Chef.
But I decided that I would not support this brand of voyeurism. And that I'd rather spend my time enjoying activities that would have a positive effect on my own life, as well as my kids'.
And guess what? I feel so much better.
What do you think of reality television?
Image via unlistedsightings/Flickr