Reality TV is one of those trends I’ve always looked down upon, like sweatervests, manifestos, or any non-nasa item of clothing. At first I was highly excited when my friends told me about these new reality shows. I was under the mistaken impression that reality meant the same thing to tv executives as it does to the rest of us. Finally, I thought, someone had the courage to make a tv show about us normal people. I was dismayed to find that this reality tv did not, in fact, showcase people doing activities like typing on a computer or taking a drink of water out of a glass. This has been the reality that I’ve been living with for many years and I was hoping that by prominently being featured on tv it would suddenly become cool to type on computers. But, alas, it just can’t be that simple. Turns out when tv executives try to think of what reality is, they think of their own life. In their own life, I’ve been told, they’re often pitted against each other with their bosses adding in ridiculous twists like coming up with a show that has the appeal of game-shows without the intellectualism of trivia questions. As everyone knows, English is a tricky language. Words often have two meanings. One meaning of reality is the universe that all of us live in day to day. The other is the most artificially dramatic universe you can think of.
When I first saw reality tv, I resented it for taking away one of my few chances of being cool. But my resentment gradually boiled over into full hatred when they started to take over the programming of every single channel. My parents are anti-television (despite, or possibly because of, the fact they watched it practically non-stop when they were kids). They never payed for cable so as tiny Quinn I was limited to public broadcasting channels that spent half their time trying to teach me trite moral platitudes and the other half of the time trying to take all my parents money with a limited time offer of a plush toy resembling whatever show happened to be on with a limited free offer if you donated just a little bit more than you wanted to. At the digital switchover my parents decided to just screw it all so I’m now forced to go to the interwebz for any tv I want to watch, something I’m far too lazy to do on a regular basis for most shows. So when I went to hotels I used to get real excited that I could now watch documentaries on the history or discovery channel (I’m a nerd). This made hotel visits one of the highlights of getting to travel abroad for me. “Quinn, don’t you want to see the grand canyon?” my parents would ask. “Naw,” I’d reply. “They’re showing an awesome documentary on the history channel! No time.” So I was shell-shocked when the history channel suddenly became transformed seemingly overnight into a channel to watch “real men” chop down trees or drive 18 wheelers in Alaska. According to psychology, there are famously five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. I tend not to believe this five stage model as I’ve never progressed past anger. “Destroying reality television” quickly entered my list of life goals, right behind making typing on a computer cool and taking a trip on the TARDIS. I laid all sorts of groundwork for this goal, like creating a Facebook. The initial plan was to friend everyone in the world and complain so loudly about reality shows that everyone stopped watching them just to shut me up. This didn’t exactly pan out. Until recently, I’ve been laying in wait. I know reality tv shows will go too far one day. And I’ll be waiting for them at that moment. They’ll rue the day they decided to mess with Quinn’s hotel time! That’s the sort of stuff that happens when you mess with awesomeness incarnate.
My view was, however, turned around last night, at least partially. My family had just started on a beach trip. Within minutes my mom managed to get stung by a stingray. Not life threatening or anything. Just extremely extremely painful. I’m pretty sure the entire rest of the waiting room was rooting for her to quickly be taken because she was screaming with pain and pretty much everyone was unnerved except the nurses and doctors. It actually occurred to me that the most likely explanation for stingrays was a wildly successful government experiment in torture that accidentally got out. Anyhoo, once my mom was pulled back to be treated there was only room to bring in one guest. My dad decided to take on that duty. I got the wonderful opportunity of sitting in the waiting room and wondering what was going on. By this point I was racked with sympathetic pain. It had been a most unpleasant drive and wait. I avoided looking at other people by checking facebook on my phone until the battery ran out. Then I had no other option but to watch the food network. Apparently, reality shows have taken over the food network as part of their long term and ultimately successful plan of global cable domination. But it turns out at that one moment seeing a bunch of world class chefs have to make one morsel of restaurant quality food with only the ingredients found in a fourth graders lunch box on a car grill while it was raining for $10,000 was exactly what I needed. Perfect mindlessness.
I’m still not a fan of reality shows. I even prefer soap operas. But perhaps I will leave a tiny remnant of reality shows instead of destroying all of them after I make typing on a computer cool. They do serve an occasion purpose. If you need to escape from reality, reality television is where you go.