This Is Your Brain On Reality TV

By Kaytlyn Gillis

Every decade has its fads. Some leave us speechless. Some just never leave: how many of us wish that Billy Ray had never left us with the Mullet? (…or Miley for that matter?)

When my college roommates would get together and watch a weekly elimination, reality show, I would first blast my iPod, slowly losing respect for them with each passing episode. However, as all things that are bad for you tend to do, these shows soon became
addicting. My brain became addicted to the drug that is reality TV, and my DVR box found itself recording each episode of “Tool Academy” for my viewing pleasure.

Sometime after Dawson professed his undying love to Joey, someone thought it would be more entertaining to watch “reality”. After all, what could be more fun that watching everyday situations unfold on the screen after you’ve already experienced them firsthand? Families found themselves together once more, this time to watch people just like them compete against each other for large sums of money. As most fads in America do, this “real” TV quickly turned into “make-you-feel-boring-because-you’re-too-normal” TV.

People everywhere began to look at themselves closer, finding that their interpersonal relationships, their jobs, and their midlife crises were just plain old…well, boring. Soon people were competing not only for money, but for more “realistic” prizes, such as life partners.

The emergence of shows like Survivor seemed to unleash our inner Gladiators. Soon Americans couldn’t wait to see who’d be slaughtered next. Thanks to Paris Hilton’s “My BFF”, young girls worldwide now have a grasp on the true meaning of friendship: being able to match this season’s sweater with the hottest new designer bag, all while looking “sexy”. This, along with MTV’s “The Hills” and “My Super Sweet 16”, really brought youngsters down to earth and showed them the true value of life: money, looks, and popularity. I actually found myself feeling bad for one of the girls when her thoughtless father gave her a boring BMW sedan at her sweet 16th party instead of the shiny new Porsche she dreamed of. If my dad did such a careless thing to me I’d…. well I’d…. there I went slipping into “reality” again. I hate when that happens.

As for “18 Kids and Counting”? Yes, let’s praise this couple for having more children than there are eggs in the average carton. It is apparently entertainment to need an entire bus to bring your children into the community. Now we have people competing against each other in cooking competitions, modeling competitions, and even boyfriend competitions (even I felt bad for some of the guys in Tool Academy).

Have we simply run out of ideas for TV? Perhaps Hollywood is being cheap. After all, it probably costs a lot less to hire “average people” than to pay high-profile actors.

Nonetheless, there are always those brave ones who decide to bring things back, and I’m not just referring to Justin Timberlake. Just last week I stood behind a woman with striped balloon pants and a matching windbreaker. I half expected her to start telling me I couldn’t touch things (namely “this”) and that the time was Hammer. I wonder (hope for) when reality TV will become one of these retro-fads, leaving us to ask ourselves “What were we thinking?”

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