This week we’re obsessed with… Reality TV

Megan Patsavas

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I sat down with my bracket and started filling it in. Who would make it to the end? Who would get cut early on?

After a little research and a lot of guesswork, I had finally narrowed it down to one-the winner-the woman who would get the final rose, and most likely, a televised marriage proposal and gigantic Neil Lane engagement ring.

Cleary, I’m not talking about March Madness or any other sports tournament. For me, the most interesting thing to predict on television is the outcome of reality shows. To be honest, “The Bachelor” brackets that my best friend and I filled out were made more in jest than as a sign that we believe that the series, now in its 16th season, can actually result in “true love.” But, week after week, we still watch it.

Admitting that I watch “The Bachelor” (and a lot of the shows that I follow) is difficult at times, especially during the obligatory introductions at the beginning of almost every RTVF class I take. While some of my classmates are naming obscure, avant-garde or foreign films as their favorites in an effort to appear to have the most highbrow, refined taste (or maybe they’re just that cool), I’m thanking my lucky stars they don’t know about all my not-so-guilty pleasure reality television show addictions.

Needless to say, there is a giant stigma attached to so-called lowbrow television. While I understand how ridiculous such shows can be, I think that they are still an important part of our culture. If 7.6 million people tuned in last week to watch MTV’s gang of glowing fist-pumpers on the fifth season premiere of “Jersey Shore,” that’s got to say something about our society, and there has to be a reason.

While one could argue that the taste of average audiences has declined so much that only pure ridiculousness captures their attention, this phenomenon can also offer a sort of insight into the human condition. Perhaps audiences enjoy watching absurd characters and over-the-top lifestyles because they serve as a sort of escape from mundane, everyday life.

This quarter, I’m taking a class taught by RTVF assistant professor Max Dawson about reality television through the lens of the highly successful CBS hit “Survivor.” I can’t explain how excited I am to study a genre so underrepresented, especially in the academic world. I think that Professor Dawson, and the course in general, will really break some ground in the way students, and hopefully those outside Louis Hall 119, look at reality television.

But from a purely non-intellectual standpoint, I love these reality shows simply because they depict the polar opposite of reality-both my reality and the reality of many others.

Never in my life will I drink and party like the cast members of “Jersey Shore” or “The Real World.” Although it would doubtlessly be a life-changing experience, I’m much too content with heat, electricity and indoor plumbing to audition for a spot on “Survivor.” And thank goodness I don’t have to-I can experience these things vicariously through reality stars, observe their antics like some sort of poorly-designed psychology or sociology experiment and then go back to being me.

Even bachelor Ben knows that reality television is not the same as real life. In the first episode of the latest season of “The Bachelor,” new bachelor Ben Flajnik mused, “I’ve never juggled 25 women” in his wannabe-sentimental, overly cheesy introduction. Really, Ben? Dating 25 women at the same time isn’t something you’re used to? Huh, that’s interesting.

– Megan Patsavas