By Lauren West
The Harbinger (Prairie Village, Kansas)
It’s 8 p.m. on Sunday night. I switch my TV to E! News to catch the newest episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” with a bowl of green grapes on my right. Then, I allow my brain to fully indulge into the wealthy tabloid lifestyle upheld by the Kardashians.
Thirty-five minutes later the garage door swung open as my mom returned home from picking up my little brother from basketball practice. I scrambled from my sprawled out position on the living room couch to find the button that will turn the image of Khloe Kardashian holding her baby bump into a black screen. Too late. My mom scolds me, “Why are you watching this? It will rot your brain!”
On a day-to-day basis, my schedule doesn’t typically entail trips around Calabasas in my hot pink Ferrari or modeling for a Vogue spread. But while that boujee lifestyle may not belong to me, it is a reality for the Kardashians. That’s why we, well at least I, am infatuated with watching someone else’s life unfold in front of them, because it differs from our lives. For some people it’s a life they dream about and for me, it’s a way to escape from my own reality.
We shouldn’t feel guilt or embarrassment for finding pleasure in something that’s so far from our everyday lives. It’s there for our entertainment.
“The Real Housewives” franchise, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills,” “WAGS” (Wives and Girlfriends of Sports Stars) —yes that’s a real show— there seems to be a trend. Society finds pleasure in watching privileged people’s daily routines.
As reality TV progressed into shows like “Masterchef,” “The Voice” and “Survivor” began to top the charts according to IMDB.com. Competitive shows like these don’t get the trashy reputation that people like the Kardashians get because the people watching don’t care if the contestants have 110 million instagram followers, it’s about the competitiveness to a game.
Personally, I’d rather watch Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott’s pregnancy announcement then sit through an episode of “House Hunters” because pop culture is more intriguing than watching a fifty-year-old couple buy a beach house.
There are two different types of reality TV that draws in viewers: the day-in-the-life shows and competitive shows. “Amazing Race” is on practically every night at my house, it’s a reason for my family to snuggle up with blankets and eat Minsky’s while we root for our favorite teams.
Nobody is ashamed of “The Amazing Race,” but when I switch the channel to re-runs of “The Bachelor,” my family simultaneously groans. In the corner of my eye I see my brother trained on his mobile Fortnite round, but his ears perk up listening to the recap from the previous week.
Whether it’s a day-in-the-life or game show, producers maintain the same goal—of targeting an audience. According to the University of Oregon, producers try to mirror society by having an even number of men and women, at least one minority, and at least one person who is homosexual on the show.
Although they’re outrageous, it’s relatable. It’s important to appeal to every type of person, it helps grasp the attention of viewers. As an audience, we need to be able to picture that this lifestyle, regardless if it’s a game show or day-in-the-life show, could be possible for us as viewers.
Another aspect producers look for to entertain is conflict. The constant tension over whether or not Ashley will be kicked off the island keeps viewers invested in the tension of the show, leaving us coming back for more.The more personalities, the more tension is created because people are more likely to disagree.
Professors from University of Haifa conducted a survey and found that people didn’t want to see their loved ones humiliated on TV, but enjoyed living through others embarrassing moments.
I gag at the thought of my brother being the next bachelor in 10 years— To watch him publicly flirt with 25 women would clear the living room at my house. I wouldn’t recommend finding love through a show like “The Bachelor,” but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy staying up till 2 a.m. binging old group dates on YouTube.
Whether you hate reality TV or binge it, you shouldn’t feel guilty for watching it. If you’re watching for drama, relatable content, to stay in touch with pop culture or just something to play for background noise, reality TV continues to dominate televisions across america for a reason — its dramatic plot entices viewers.
Next Sunday at 8 p.m. you can find me snuggled up on the sofa, green grapes by my side, Kardashians whining, but when my mom storms into the house from picking up my little brother, I’ll give her a daring smile.
Photo Credit: Hadley Hyatt