Friday, May 22, 2009

Reality shows through

Another TV related complaint. Well, not really a complaint because I'm not yet sure how I feel about this. If by the end of this entry I turn out to be ok with this, then fine. If not, you should go back to the beginning and reread, replacing the voice in your head with Folger's Crystals.

On the way to work I heard about a new Reality series on some cable network (specializing in programming for the insomniac or the I-have-been-locked-in-a-basement-by-Kathy-Bates crowd) which tells the story of real people with OCD. One wonders if they replay it again afterwards but that's just a tangential point. This is from the same network that puts us up close and personal with interventions. So just when you thought you have hit rock bottom, smile for the camera.

Why do these shows exist? I think I have been wrestling with that since grad school. Ostensibly, the goal is to have us see that everyone has problems so that we feel more in line with the world when we confront our own skeletons late in the night when we think we are all alone. But these shows don't show us reality. In reality, one person has a cold, one has arthritis and one is in therapy and doesn't want to talk about it with me or some Nielsen family.  A "reality" show that documents 4 people in the space of an hour, all of whom are addicted to crack, beat their dogs and then wash their hands 10 times, left hand first, either so that the world doesn't end, or that they can feel really, really clean isn't showing me that I am part of my world.

The purpose is quite the opposite: it is to show me that everyone ELSE has problems and I should count myself lucky that my only issue if that my bills pile up as quickly as my laundry, and neither gets dealt with until it is a day too late and something stinks.

In case I do have problems, these shows reassure me that, if all else fails and I find myself sitting in a box that I call home, while eating what's left of the shoe polish that the king hobo left for me in exchange for my left ear, I can still get on television as a cautionary tale for everyone else. How comforting.

I'm still not sure how I feel. Should I be celebrating that I am not that low? Should I be jealous that I'm not on television? Should I feel guilty that I watch these shows, or ashamed that anyone else does? Should I be resigned to this and see that at least we don't have another insipid sitcom on the air?

Suggestions for my reaction are welcome. Tell me how I feel and I'll remind you of your opinion.

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