Yes, I watch reality TV. There…I said it.
Has reality TV become completely out of hand?
However, I feel it can have great therapeutic benefits if used wisely.
OK, hear me out…
Where did my love for reality TV begin? Well, I consider myself to be somewhat of a voyeur. Back in my teenage days, working retail at the mall, I relished in being assigned the “greeter” position at the entrance of the store. Oh boy, I get paid to people watch? Fantastic! Then, there was the ground breaking documentary, ”Truth or Dare”, which chronicled Madonna’s Blonde Ambition world tour. There, we were given the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in a celebrity’s world. Then, there was the mother of all reality shows, “The Real World” on MTV. Oh, who didn’t love watching this amazing “social experiment”? There was the virgin girl from The South, the ghetto rap girl, the Seattle grunge boy, the fabulous gay boy, the angry black boy and of course, representing my home state, New Jersey, Eric Nies “The Jersey Boy”. Oh I LOVED it! I was sooooo hooked. This show was my gateway drug.
Although there seems to be a fine line between “reality show” and “documentary series”, I feel that my vast experience in this area has helped me decipher between the “mostly real” and totally fake scripted shows. For example, one night I was driving down Route 22 in North Plainfield, NJ around 9:00pm passing by The Gatsby Salon where they film the show “Jerseylicious”. There were bright camera lights out in front of the salon as they were, obviously, filming after hours for the show. So, I decided to go there, myself, for a haircut and get confirmation. When I probed the stylist at the salon, she exclaimed “I HATE REALITY TV”, there verbalizing her, obvious, disdain for what her salon has now represented. She hinted to me, “Do you ever see any of them ACTUALLY cutting hair?” Huh? I guess I never noticed. Maybe my eye wasn’t as trained as I thought.
Unfortunately, many natives to our great state of New Jersey feel that Reality TV has truly tainted The Garden State. The “Housewives of New Jersey” and “Jersey Shore” being the two major culprits to bring down the level of class associated with our state. However, I’m very torn when it comes to this debate. For one thing, when I would watch Jersey Shore, I would think, “OMG, I totally know these people”. But others would argue, “They aren’t even FROM NJ! That’s not what we’re like!” Hmmmm. Ok. Your opinion. But I tell you, if you put my high school boyfriend and Mike “The Situation” in the same room, you would feel you were seeing double. Again…that’s just my experience. And I’ve definitely had a Snookie or two in my life. One could say, that those cast members could represent the entire Northeast. I’m sure there are “Snookies” in Boston and Philly. And now that I’ve had the pleasure of being exposed to Atlanta, Orange County, even Melbourne, it seems the world is full of “Snookies” and “Situations”. Unfortunately, New Jersey takes the blame for exposing this phenomenon.
But I am not here to throw shade. I’m here to discuss the therapeutic benefits of Reality TV. Yes, you read that right.
When I was in graduate school, my Anatomy and Physiology professor was a very stoic, tall, dark, African man (think Sydney Poitier) who took his lectures VERY seriously. One day, as he was lecturing, preparing us for the seriousness of our upcoming cadaver dissection…he interjected with a… “By the way…did anyone watch ‘The Flavor of Love’ last night?”
(insert roaring laughter)
“That New York, she’s crazy!”, he shouted.
As the laughter died down, he proceeded to justify his recommendation of this ridiculous reality dating competition show.
“You are all studying so hard. In addition, many of you go to work and take care of your families. You NEED to have some escapism for your brain. You NEED to go home and decompress. You NEED to engage in something totally mindless”.
Well, I guess it doesn’t get any more “mindless” than reality TV, huh?
I truly took that advice to heart. I continue to work in healthcare and when I come home, I am so physically and emotionally drained. It brings me so much pleasure to go upstairs to my bedroom, and bask in the mindlessness of the most recent “Housewives” episode that I DVR’d.
Go ahead and judge.
We all need to find our escapes. We all need to find what works for us. It doesn’t hurt that watching shows like Housewives makes me feel better about my financial strains (“Hey look, that lady is filthy rich and her life is CRAP!”). Or I could be watching the Bachelor and think, “Hey, look at that gorgeous, educated, successful woman! Even SHE can’t catch a man!”
My point is, sometimes watching Reality TV can make us feel better about ourselves and our situations. I find myself muttering “Heck at least I’m not THAT” very often. I also feel that reality TV has given “Middle America” the opportunity to get to know people they may have never had the opportunity, given perhaps their region or culture (i.e. homosexuals, transgenders, and various other ethnicities). The show “Amazing Race” can inspire people to travel. The real estate show “Million Dollar Listing” can be informative and again, inspire people who work in that field. However, “Teen Moms” should, in fact, be a cautionary tale, not a lifestyle option. Let’s get that one straight.
So again, judge away. I feel reality TV can have its place, like any drug, when used appropriately with caution. So please…use your Reality TV wisely. If you’re feeling down about your life, use it to give yourself perspective. Or maybe, you see similarities to your own situation and you get to learn from other’s mistakes in their relationships or financial decisions. All in all, it’s about people. It’s about all types of people. The common thread is that we all have our struggles and that we can’t judge by fancy houses or lavish lifestyles. Struggles in relationships with family, friends, children and significant others is universal and the great equalizer. However, peaking in to the world of others can give us comfort that we’re not alone. So, Bravo to BRAVO and all the others who give us that opportunity to be flies on the walls. You just saved me a bottle of meds and a co-pay.
Janice M. Woerner, M.S., OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist, mother, blogger and breast cancer survivor. She is the founder and key contributor of JGH&W.com. Janice is a clinical educator and advocate for those afflicted with cancer and their families.
Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or (914) 772-3870