Saturday, June 23, 2012

The reality of I'm not.

I have a confession to make. Actually, it's not much of a confession since I'm sure I've mentioned this less-than-gleaming aspect of my character on my blog before. Maybe it was just in passing and maybe you didn't take it too seriously, and thank goodness for that.

But now I'm ready to share my shame with the world.

Thanks to my friend Dana, I am now hooked on The Bachelorette. And before you sit there behind your computer screen and judge me with squinty eyes and a wagging finger, let me say something: Sometimes we all just need a break from reality.

For some of us this, ironically enough, manifests itself in a love for reality. Reality TV, that is.

If someone suggested this to me a few months ago and I would have vehemently protested. Why would anyone want to watch a show that purports to be giving a glimpse into real life when it's actually more staged than even a multi-camera sitcom? There's no excuse for the misconception that reality TV is in fact reality, I might have said.

But now I scoff at my previous perspective simply because it wasn't addressing the real issue here.

Before I started watching this show again (and I'll explain why I'm using the word "again" later on), I was happily detached from any sort of relationship with the program and the genre in general. A show about people finding "love" and looking for a "soulmate" certainly has no value or interest. Why take it seriously? Why even take it as a joke?

Well that's exactly it. It's a joke. And it should be taken as such.

When I was in elementary school, there was a big surge in reality television on basic network television. The Bachelor had its first season, as did The Apprentice and other wonderful television shows that I'm sure you all have heard of even if you'd rather not have.

Because my mom was the typical crappy entertainment junkie, I became aware of what these shows contained. The covert sexual implications, the uncomfortable close-ups on people crying, the underhanded alliance building and childish rivalries. When you're a kid, naturally you love all of these things because they're outrageous. If you can love the failed realism on The Disney Channel, you can obviously appreciate the similarly miserable attempts on ABC.

But as you grow, you begin to think yourself better than what you watched. Maturity becomes a reason for no longer watching Omarosa take on Donald Trump week by week.

There comes a time, though, to realize when a childhood fascination has tiptoed into the realm of acceptability once again. This is true for animated film. It's true for toys. It's true for kid foods. And it's true for reality TV.

I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that at this point in my life I'm more in tune with my inner child than I was when I was actually a child. On a daily basis, I get wrapped up in finding out what the newest Disney Animation feature film will be. I still tune into The Fairly Oddparents and Good Luck Charlie on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel respectively. My room is still home to stuffed animals and my house still has a host of board games including Wizard of Oz Monopoly. For lunch on any random summer afternoon, I might consider eating some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

And though my maturity might rank me beyond reality TV - oh, the years of falling asleep to MSNBC - I still get really excited about tuning into The Bachelorette every Monday night.

Some people scoff. Some laugh and say, "I would be embarrassed about that" (you know who you are). Some tell me to stop talking to them (in jest, I hope).

But I now find myself incredibly pleased to meet someone who heartily accepts and goes along with my enthusiasm for a show like The Bachelorette. For a while I didn't understand the need to locate fellow reality television fans among my peers. Dana would talk about The Bachelor or The Bachelorette and say she wanted to blog about it for our campus publication. She'd invite me to see new episodes with her, or show me viral videos based on the current season. This was weird to me.

Then I started watching and the community aspect of reality TV finally made sense.

Watching them alone, it can be hard to achieve just the right effect. Instead of being the worldly wise viewer who is aware of the irony of watching a show just to laugh at it, seeing The Bachelorette without someone to comment on it with could turn me into the same zombie that has seen every episode of Say Yes to the Dress on TLC (I'm convinced this show is just some sort of advertising conspiracy that people like me have bought into. That being said, I want to buy my wedding dress at Kleinfeld). But I won't let reality TV do that to me.

Watching these shows is just the perfect exercise in tongue-in-cheek humor. We don't actually believe that these people are going to find the loves of their lives on TV. We don't think that you can see two people form a committed relationship in a game show-like atmosphere. We don't even know that the events we're watching aren't 100 percent staged.

It's why a show like Burning Love that is a full-on parody of The Bachelor can be such a pleasant mode of entertainment. Almost as good as the actual show, if not for its short length and occasionally disturbing tips into the realm of the off-beat, I've seen every episode in the web series.

For this reason, I feel I need no explanation for my love. Or for my desire to cultivate a community of fellow Bachelorette fans. Why should I defend what I know does not reflect badly on me?

The past few weeks have had me trying to convince at least two of my friends into watching The Bachelorette. The feat might be a lost cause, except for the fact that there is a legitimate argument in favor of watching this show. It's funny. Legitimately funny.

I just wish more people understood.

I think that's the true motto of anyone who watches these shows. The fact of the matter is we're being taunted for taunting what we know is ridiculous. And just to go along with the southern theme of this season (the Bachelorette is from North Carolina), everyone would be better off if y'all understood.

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