People love to demonize reality TV as evidence of decay in Western society, but have these people actually seen a reality show lately? They aren't all vehicles of Schadenfreude and exploitation. And even so, what's wrong with that? Even Jersey Shore has its purpose.
Contrary to popular belief, reality TV serves a variety of useful and important functions and I, for one, am a better person because of it. Here's why:
It helps prepare us for the real world Growing up fairly sheltered, I was not exactly prepared for the responsibilities of adult life, but I wasn't completely naïve either. Thanks to hours of marathoning HGTV, I am a self-professed expert apprentice when it comes to buying and selling real estate and know how to do a few DIY upgrades on my own.
And as if my own family wasn't warning enough, Newlyweds: The First Year helped me understand that marriage doesn't necessarily mean "happily ever after" in the traditional sense. The couples on the show fight, hide money from each other and even go to therapy — but how much they love each other is never in question. None of the couples on the series have the idyllic newlywed year they imaged, but thanks to watching their ups-and-downs, I'm far more prepared for the reality of marriage.
It reminds us things can always get better While the United States is making strides in the fight for equality, we are in no way living in an accepting society. Being gay, let alone a drag queen, remains challenging, as many RuPaul's Drag Race contestants have evidenced. But instead of exploiting the contestants' struggles, Drag Race focuses on their successes. There wasn't a dry eye in on the runway (or in my apartment) when Monica Beverly Hillz broke down in tears and came out as a transgender woman last season. No matter where they came from or what they endured, ultimately each queen fights their demons and embraces themselves for who they are. Because as Ru preaches each week, "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anybody else?"
And that things can always get worse Whenever I have a bad day, I turn on TLC. My Crazy Obsession, My Strange Addiction, Hoarding: Buried Alive — almost anything the network airs (that's non-wedding related) immediately lifts my spirits by relativity, because being dumped is nothing compared to living in house full of 100 dead cats! I realize that I should just be grateful that no one has ever propositioned me to do a coffee enema and that even though I might be home watching TLC on a Saturday night, at least I don't spend my time pretending to be a mermaid. Compared to these people, I've got nothing to complain about.
It can help you learn from the mistakes of others It seems like everyone nowadays is on OKCupid (even the characters on The Vampire Diaries), but after Manti Te'o's girlfriend was revealed to be a man, many people became hesitant towards online dating. Not me! I've watched every episode of Catfish and am well-versed in the tell-tale warning signs. Whenever anyone says they're a model or doesn't provide pictures, back away from the profile immediately!
It exposes you to different perspectives and cultures I'm quite happy with my life, but that doesn't mean I'm not curious about how the other half lives. Thanks to reality shows like Shahs of Sunset, Princesses: Long Island and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, I learn all about different cultures and perspectives. Do I think Shahs' Reza and his friends represent all Persians in L.A.? Of course not, but it's still an in-depth glimpse at part of the world I otherwise never would have known about.
Reality shows can also serve to debunk cultural stereotypes. The Robertson family struck a chord with millions of Americans through Duck Dynasty, which avoids hickspoitation and focuses on good, clean family values. So thanks, Duck Dynasty, for teaching us never to judge a redneck by his beard.
There's nothing wrong with pure entertainment People love to use phrases like "guilty pleasure" and "hate-watching" to excuse the reasons they watch reality shows. But why? There's nothing wrong with enjoying a series like Splash, Whodunnit? or Jersey Shore in earnest. Life can be hard! Sometimes you just need an escape. This can be hard to do with many critically-acclaimed series which can be so gritty and depressing, they almost hurt to watch (here's looking at you, Breaking Bad). For an hour a day, people should be able to escape into the feel-good world of celebrity diving, drunk guidos and silly murder mysteries. Just embrace it and have fun. That's what TV's for, isn't it?