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What’s So Darn Alluring about Reality Television?

Updated on June 3, 2011

How does ‘Snooki’ or ‘NeNe’ become household names? What caused dinners around the table turn into dinners around the television? Thank the reality television movement.

On any night of the week, millions of viewers huddle around their televisions to follow the lives (more or less scripted lives) of others. Can we blame MTV’s The Real World for planting the seed of this epidemic back in 1992? Since then, shows have spawned like The Anna Nicole Show in 2002, then the Biggest Loser in 2004, followed by A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila in 2007, next came Jersey Shore in 2009, which opened doors to every has been singer or rocker having their own reality show as of today. Hating reality television as much as I do, I have succumbed to shows like Celebrity Apprentice and Flavor of Love (just the first season –New York was crazy). But what is the appeal of reality television when there is little to no ‘reality’ in the television show?

Reality is defined as: The world or state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.Nothing can be further than the truth when it comes to a majority of these reality television shows. Almost every cast member of every Housewives of (pick your city) has a job, a nanny looking after their kids and is involved with their spouses’ business in some aspect. The last time I checked, the definition of housewife was a married woman that cared for her home and held no other job/business/position/career among the working class. Almost every cast member on Basketball Wives is no longer married to a basketball player. The show should be renamed to Basketball Ex-Wives to better suit the cast members (and while we’re on this show, why is this airing on VH1? What do basketball wives have to do with music videos? Everyone just wants a reality show to their name I guess.)

Kendra and Tori & Dean are one and the same. The camera follows money padded individuals to give viewers a sneak peak into lives which viewers will probably never live. Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Braxtons are cut from the same recipe. What’s so alluring about watching Shania Twain or LisaRaye go through their social and professional dramas?

Because people in general enjoy the lure of gossip, what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s next. People enjoy seeing the personal failures (and to some extent achievements) of others being aired for all to see – the vulnerability of it all. These shows are a slight nightly reminder that the lives of those watching is not as crazy (again, to some extent) as others, a way for some viewers to live their fantasies or dreams through the lives of others, or feel as if they have some control over the directions of the lives of others. Shows such as American Idol and America’s Got Talent provide an emotional attachment between the viewer and the contestants. For the price of a hotline call or text, viewers can feel that their vote determined the person that will be what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s next. With enough smoke screens and mirrors, there is no realer ‘reality’ feeling than that.

Where do you stand with reality television shows?

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