Why we should appreciate trash television more
Jordan Cockrum | Friday, September 21, 2018
I am just going to come out and say it: I love trash TV. I love the entire Bachelor franchise. I enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians every Sunday night. If I’m free, I’ll watch Jersey Shore reruns on Thursday afternoons or Friday mornings.
Why is there so much shame involved in loving dramatic, sometimes staged reality television?
I’m aware you are not likely to gain some profound knowledge from watching Kim Kardashian call her sister the “least interesting to look at,” or Tia and Colton breaking up on “Bachelor in Paradise.” But, that is not the intention behind watching reality television.
Reality television is a release. It doesn’t take a lot of mental energy, and it’s fun to watch a life more dramatic and chaotic than yours. In the same way that as a child I turned to reading to feel transported into another place, I now use reality television as a form of release from everyday life and concerns.
There are also other real, substantial benefits to watching reality television and letting your mind rest. For one, it can open you up to different perspectives and worldviews. I have never participated in pageants — nor would I want to — but, “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Kim of Queens” gave me a glimpse of what it is like to prepare and participate in them. I was not and am not a mother, but “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” allowed me to see the difficulties that women face when they become pregnant during their teenage years.
Reality television can also be grounding. It can show viewers that there are people who face more difficult challenges. Watching programs such as “My Strange Addiction” make it easy to see that there are people that may have more difficult struggles than you do.
In addition, reality television presents stories of minorities often ignored by the other sectors of television. A 2017 study conducted by UCLA entitled the “2017 Hollywood Diversity Report” examined more than 1,000 television shows, most of them reality. While scripted television still contained mostly non-diverse characters, there was a broad range of representation in reality television. Reality television has much more diversity than scripted television, according to these findings. This gives all viewers the ability to open their eyes to the range of diversity that is within our nation and is a good stepping stone to more minority representation in the media.
And, at the end of the day, reality television is just entertaining. Reality television has been a staple in my life, and I have no shame about claiming my “guilty pleasures.”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.