By Sasha Debevec McKenney
Whether we want to admit it or not, reality television has become an American staple. It is on every channel at every time of the day and night. It exists in dozens of forms and deals with a wide variety of topics and people. In fact, those crazy people we knew in high school are probably auditioning for “The Real World” as I write this. And while many of us have embraced the beauty that is reality television, some have yet to realize its true brilliance. Some might argue that it is a pure evil sent up from Hell by Satan himself in an attempt to make our worldly lives that much more upsetting, but those people are wrong. And probably kind of pretentious. And they’ve obviously never seen the episode of “Teen Mom 2” where Janelle finds out her mother is suing for custody of her son Jace.
If, like me, you are a hyper-judgmental person who is too nice to make fun of anyone in real life, then reality television is already something you hold near and dear to your heart. I love reality television. I love that our nation decided to take the documentary form and run with it until it turned into “The Bachelor.” You might be depressed that Bravo’s antithesis of art, “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,” ever existed, but that’s because you never gave it a chance. You also missed out on a lot of boobs, some pretty good art, and rolled your eyes in delight a lot less than I did this year. I could list a hundred amazing reality TV moments from the past year alone that were as dramatic or moving as any scripted drama I’ve seen. A contestant from “Top Chef: Just Desserts” breaking down and screaming “the Red Hots were for my Mommy” immediately comes to mind.
In fact, “You’re Cut Off,” VH1’s group therapy/fake eyelash extravaganza, is unashamedly one of my favorite shows on TV right now. Eight super-rich “Princess Rehab” participants trying to figure out how boxed wine works was funnier than “The Office” has been for a long time. Don’t even get me started on my long-standing passion for “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.” I truly believe that you will never understand the darkest depths of humanity until you’ve watched an episode of “The Challenge.” Every season is essentially a different variation on horrible people doing horrible things to each other, but with some climbing and heavy lifting thrown in. What more could you want? And if neither of these last two paragraphs made sense to you, then get yourself to the nearest Internet and fast.
Every reality show has its merits—even the worst ones. “The Jersey Shore” gave us this generation’s (albeit slightly misguided and grammatically confused) feminist prophet, J-Woww, who famously repeats over the opening credits: “after I have sex with a guy I will rip their heads off.” Don’t write the entire genre off just because you saw ten minutes of “Keeping up the Kardashians” once. I’m not arguing that every show is secretly genius, but a few actually are. If you think you’re too good to watch reality TV, then reality TV is for you and you haven’t even realized it.
Reality television almost always makes you feel good about yourself, your upbringing, your friends, and your current life situation. Most importantly it makes you realize that you are better than those people on the television. It is a no-effort ego boost of epic proportions. Maybe that’s not the intention of the producers, but that’s what reality television has become: the most brilliant kind of stress relief, the most wonderful way to forget about your homework for an hour and remember how lucky you are.