Reality TV: A love, hate relationship

I would be lying if I said that I don’t keep up with the Kardashians.

I would also be lying if I said that I haven’t watched at least one episode of nearly every TLC show.

It seems that an overwhelming majority of Americans are viewing a wide array of reality television shows such as “The Bachelor,” “Duck Dynasty,” “The Real World,” “The Biggest Loser” all the way to “American Idol,” among many, many others.

They are the shows that I often find myself rolling my eyes at due to the unimportant, over-dramatized and mundane content — yet I admittedly, and even shamefully, watch some of it with a strange fascination, as do many others.

Essentially, reality TV is like the tabloids of television — leaching unimportant, unartistic, and sometimes trashy, work onto our screens.

What is interesting as well is that many of us do use words and phrases like “shamefully,” “embarrassingly,” or “guilty pleasure” to describe how and why we watch these shows — like how I always have my tail between my legs when I find myself immersed in an episode of “Dance Moms.”

So what does that say about this genre?

It seems to say that most of us collectively see the hilarity and ridiculousness of some of these shows — where roses are handed out ceremoniously, tiaras are bestowed upon 5-year-old girls, hair is pulled, rivalries formed and 19th babies are born (and counting).

Yet reality TV is supposedly one of the most popular forms of entertainment.

Because of this, as well as the comparably low production cost, we are bombarded with more and more reality shows revolving around themes of competitions, drama-filled strangers living together, accounts of unique individuals and eccentric American families.

While realizing the absurdity of many of these shows, many of us still seem so invested in knowing who got eliminated on “The Bachelor” or what the current relationship status is on Khloe and Lamar, and maybe it can be explained through various media theories.

In one media approach, people choose what specific media to consume based on a uses and gratifications theory that emphasizes how people actively seek out content to satisfy a wide array of needs and desires. These might range to anything from passive entertainment to a desire to fill a social need, or fulfillment by living vicariously through others.

In another approach, the limited effects model, it is said that people tend to choose media that will support their already-existing attitudes and therefore media does nothing but reaffirm their own values — although I can’t imagine anyone sharing many of the same values as the cast of “Jersey Shore.”

Or maybe there is no rhyme or reason at all to why we choose to watch reality shows other than out of convenience and amusement.

But regardless of the motive behind why we watch, it still remains that many of us find ourselves concerned with what is going on in the everyday lives of other semi-ordinary (and borderline crazy) people who we don’t even know. And it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for why that is, so we refer to this as our “guilty pleasure.”

We find ourselves having a strange curiosity to know the latest gossip both on and off the screen — but also discovering we know way more than we care to about topics like the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin.

When it comes to television, we give as much attention to Honey Boo Boo eating a bowl of cereal as we do to Walter White producing millions of dollars-worth of methamphetamine.

But it is almost no wonder that reality TV is so popular and relevant considering it has trickled its way into various networks like a virus and has dominated many television stations.

So while I strongly hope a new genre of television is on its brink of domination, I will settle for a casual, eye-rolling episode of “Toddlers & Tiaras” and continue to wonder why I stoop to the level of reality television in the first place.

Nicki is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @NickiHalenza.