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The Up-Side to Reality TV

The Up-Side to Reality TV

Originally published on The Moderate Mom. 

Many people would disagree, but there is an up-side to reality TV. Clearly, there are far more edifying activities one can partake in than simply perching one’s posterior upon the divan and gazing at the “boob tube”.  But seriously, are we really that uptight? People need to relax their bodies and their brains sometimes. The simple truth is that in the modern US, that tends to involve watching TV. Sure, the theory behind reality TV is that we’re supposed to believe it’s, well, real, but not many people actually believe that. It’s too heavily edited to be real, plus it’s partially scripted. But it still isn’t fully scripted, choreographed, and rehearsed the way “regular” TV is. The people are more varied. What other kind of TV shows have characters like Phil on Duck Dynasty or Maxim on Dancing With the Stars? Where else in the media do you see anything the Hollywood elite looks down on? Where, in fact, do you see people who are not attractive, thin, white, male, young, and all the other things Hollywood so reveres on TV so frequently?

No one is claiming “reality” TV is an intellectual pursuit, but that doesn’t mean people who watch it don’t engage in intellectual pursuits other times. Sometimes, we all just need to rest our brains by doing something totally different.

The Appeal

Part of the appeal, to me, of reality is that most of seems to be (largely) free of the usual Hollywood agenda. There is certainly an agenda to each show and it’s edited (and scripted, at least to a degree) to showcase a certain desired effect. For example, I know someone who was on National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” show and I know darn well they edited that family to look extreme and out of touch – but they didn’t make them look outright crazy.

I see a lot of posts and comments online making fun of people for watching DWTS specifically and reality TV in general. What exactly is wrong with making ballroom dancing look cool? How is making it popular a problem? I can’t begin to guess how many young people, sports fans, and others who would normally never watch ballroom dancing now know the difference between a quick step and a jive when the see them – just because they watch DWTS. I know it’s the reason I could figure out part of my fitness class was based on Bollywood dancing, and that made following along a tad easier.

The Up-Side

Where else can my kids see the kind of business thought processes shown on Shark Tank or Undercover Boss? I know it’s hardly a classroom education, but it does get them to think about things they otherwise wouldn’t. It also clearly shows that the way a person present themselves and reacts to others has very real impacts on their future in the business world. Our oldest is starting to look for a job. Watching those shows has been an education for him in things potential/future bosses look for in employees. Sure, we could’ve told him, but he wouldn’t have listened. It certainly wouldn’t have sunk in the way it did watching those shows.

Even Cupcake Wars and Ace of Cakes definitely increased how much interest my boys have in both baking and cake decorating, and Dude! You’re Screwed! convinced our younger one to seriously start learning first aid. Depending on how long he sticks with it and how far he goes, watching that show could literally end up with him saving someone’s life. That’s a stretch, admittedly, but so is blaming all the ills of society today on reality TV.

Project Runway is a show my mother in law and I both enjoy, and it gives our son’s a never-ending source for teasing me. Since I enjoy sewing, it could be a source of inspiration, but it’s mostly just fun to watch and sometimes make fun of. Why on earth anyone would think any human being would voluntarily wear some of those outfits will have to remain a mystery.

Depending on your kids, there is a reality TV show for pretty much every possible interest.

We need to stop being judgmental of others for everything they do, down to the TV shows they choose to watch to relax. Even those of us who are actively interested in current events and politics need to take a break from it sometimes. We all have some things we cannot, and will not, accept, but really, is fussing over someone else’s choice of TV shows the best use of anyone’s time? Some of it clearly does nothing more than kill some brain cells, but


The Moderate Mom and the Wise Dad have two sons, who are currently in middle and high school. She has published half a dozen books including "The Constitution: It's the OS for the US", a YA zombie series, and a series on survival skills (including laundry, hygiene, and budgeting, as well as outdoor and emergency skills). She also blogs on TheModerateMom.com and contributes to TheSurvivalMom.com.

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