The Reality of Reality TV

A little part of me died the other night; it was the last
episode in this series of ‘The Only Way Is Essex’. I’m aware that in admitting
I watch that programme I have probably lost the respect of half of you and
formed a lifelong bond with the other half; however it has to be said. ‘The
Only Way Is Essex’, ’Made in Chelsea’, ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’,
they’re all equally brilliant. There is nothing I like more than watching
people just like me, (albeit a bit more orange, or a lot richer, or eating
kangaroo ears), failing at life in exactly the same way I do. It’s really quite

It is hard to pinpoint what exactly the appeal of these
programmes is. The majority of the people on them are unbearably smug and
arrogant, the kind of people I would ‘accidently’ want to, you know, publicly
humiliate and destroy, not the kind I would choose to be my friend. The people
on these shows are hardly likeable role models, most of the time they are unlikeable
un-role models, however that is the joy of it- they’re all just as silly as we
are. Unlike films; where we have to watch Daniel Radcliffe effortlessly saving
the world from ruin, with reality TV we are presented with entertainment we can
actually relate too. Harry Potter films are, in fact, grossly unfair. They make
us feel terribly inadequate because we are not out there fighting Voldermort,
when really, Voldermort never even existed, so we couldn’t be as heroic as
Daniel Radcliffe, even if we tried. Thankfully, in TOWIE, there is at last a
challenge to overcome that is actually within my reach- there is every
possibility I too can over fake tan my armpits.

Let’s be honest, life  doesn’t happen like it does in the films. At last, thanks
to reality tv, we can watch real people acting realistically; relationships don’t sort
themselves out after a suitable 68 minutes of tension and nobody gets to have sex
with Natalie Portman. The appeal of reality TV is purely an indulgent one- it makes
us feel better. It is the modern day equivalent of going to watch criminals being
hung at the gallows. Human beings, insecure and self-loathing as we are, like
nothing more than to watch other people screw up their lives even more then
they have, and pass judgement on them from afar. Going on ‘Big Brother’ is the
21st century’s more technological equivalent to sticking your head
in the stocks- the only difference being that the people in the stocks are
better dressed than their medieval counterparts and tend to have had boob
jobs.  Just as throwing rotten tomatoes at a criminal distracted our ancestors
from their own sad, poverty-stricken lives, so does watching wannabe celebrities’
mess up their relationshipsdistract us all from our own problems. I say that like
it’s a bad thing, it’s not; at least it doesn’t have to be.

But of course we must remember that distractions are just
that, distractions, they don’t actually solve anything. If the crowds who
flocked to mock the criminal in the stocks stopped throwing the fruit at him
and actually started eating it, they probably wouldn’t have been so hungry and
miserable in the first place. Similarly if we all stopped channelling our
emotions and opinions into a meaningless television programme, we might
actually have enough left over to sort out our own lives.

This is the potential problem with programmes like TOWIE, I
know it makes me sound like a cliché life coach off ‘Glee’ or something, but
the more time you spend watching other people live, the more you’ll forget to
do it yourself. Again, sadly, I offer myself up as an example of what you can
become. Not only do I cry more for girls on TOWIE than I do for myself, I also turn
down going to the pub in order to watch it. Now okay, before you all cast aside
this article, declaring no more to read the words of a girl who clearly has no
life, I only did this once. It was the finale of TOWIE, I was very very tired
and the pub was a very long and very wet walk away. I can promise you now
reader, that if I ever reach the horrifically low point of actually turning
down drunken nights out purely in order to watch other people have drunken
nights out, I will tear the television from my wall with my own two hands and
give it away to some homeless man on the street, before taking up yoga,
quitting my degree and working for a donkey sanctuary- on that you have my

As a form of light-hearted fun, there is nothing wrong with a little trashy
TV decadence. The problems only arise when we become too obsessed,
when the lines between fantasy and reality blur, when we spend so much time
in their world that we forgot about our own.  Despite consisting of real people; with no
dragons or Natalie Portmans in them whatsoever, programmes like TOWIE are still
not really real at all- as in they are not real to you. We all have a different
sense of reality; but yours belongs in Egham sadly, not in Essex- unless that’s
where you come from. Throw metaphorical tomatoes at the contestants on the ‘X Factor’,
as they stand in the stocks of the British media and sing to us out of tune,
nobody can deny it is fun, and unlike the criminals of medieval times they did
choose to do it. Just don’t forget, we aren’t perfect either, and pointing out
the flaws and failures in other people unfortunately won’t hide your own- and
neither will fake tan for that matter.

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