Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Media (in any form) (11/11/10)
TITLE: Reality Television
By Rhonda Egging
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I love reality television. It began with reality radio, the programs where people called in and asked for advice. The person in the radio studio blasted back a cold slap of reality and then thanked the stunned listener for calling. I listened and learned. I learned to shut up and stop disclosing to strangers.
One long hot summer I noticed a television show about teams of ordinary people struggling to survive six weeks with perfect strangers. These contestants volunteered to perform physical challenges, similar to seventh grade gym class while, yes, only wearing their underwear. I watched, my whole body rigid, barely willing to take a deep breath until the end of the show. Each week my new friends and enemies attempted to find favor, gain trust, and survive. Just like my workplace.
As the seasons progressed, more and more reality hit the flat screen. Cooking competitions where people try to impress tough judges with their culinary skills, winning prestige and cash rewards. I watched, stewing in the memories of my own gastronomic critics, age seven and nine. I squeezed my throw pillow tighter to my chest knowing how it feels to put together just the right clothing and stride down the upstairs hall catwalk. Hoping my daughter and her friends will think I am inspired and tell me I’m “in”.
I began questioning my viewing choices when shows began appearing about ordinary housewives. I knew the reality of an ordinary housewife; I live on a cul-de-sac. I watched the first show and noticed these women did not look like my friends, but maybe if I hung around more women like them I would start looking like them. Maybe my husband could earn more money; we could go on fabulous vacations and be the envy of our neighborhood.
The housewife shows multiplied. They started to appear surgically altered. They screamed at each other during their opulent vacations. Their marriages failed. The reality children seemed at risk of becoming just like their parents, discontent and selfish. This reality I did not need.
I don’t watch reality television to feed my soul, or discover how to be a better friend. People and the choices they make fascinate me. It’s all pure entertainment.
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