Movies + TV, Pop Culture

I hate that I watch reality television, but I can’t stop

But recognizing problematic content and our responsibility as media consumers is the first step to being a better consumer.

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Every time I turn on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I feel exceptionally guilty. As culturally-competent young woman, I know that I need to be informed and that I should be supporting a better television program, but I still love reality television.

I love reality television because it's so easy even though I know it's very problematic in both content and consumption. Click To Tweet

I remember the first time I watched reality television, I was in middle school and it was way past my bedtime on a summer night. I was with my cousin and we were looking for a show to watch, and somehow we found Prank My Mom. The show wasn’t particularly funny or interesting, but I loved how easy it was to watch. Unlike watching the news or a documentary, reality television is easy. You don’t have to be paying attention and you still know what’s going on. There are no facts to check and or things to remember, the content just washes over you.

But as consumers of media, do we have a responsibility to do consciously? I think we do. As a political science major, I am fully aware that being uninformed citizens can have really terrible outcomes. This includes people voting without knowing about the candidate or legislation, people not speaking up when something is happening in government that negatively affects them, or people not knowing their rights and being taken advantage of. As consumers of media we should be watching the news and staying informed, but it is so exhausting.

But as consumers of media, do we have a responsibility to do consciously? I think we do. Click To Tweet

When I am at the gym after a long day, sometimes I don’t want to think about the terrible things happening in the world, whether it be global warming, politics, or natural disasters. Sometimes I just want to get on the treadmill and watch the Kardashian sisters go on vacation together. And it makes me feel terrible about myself.

For awhile, I tried listening to philosophy podcasts while I was running outdoors and I tried watching CNN at the gym, but it just wasn’t the same as Say Yes to the Dress. I know that reality television is very problematic in both content and consumption. At the same token, it’s what I want to be watching when I am working my butt off at the gym.

Reality television is not a documentary, the editing done by producers is to make it more entertaining. But in doing that, it misrepresents real life. Click To Tweet

Reality television is problematic in content because a lot of them perpetuate negative paradigms  and pretend to be “reality.” Most reality television shows are somewhat scripted and the seemingly “real” scenes are heavily edited so that the lives portrayed on the screen do not reflect the lives of the actors. This is problematic because the audience doesn’t get to know what’s real and what’s created as it’s all under the guise of “reality.” Reality television is not a documentary, the editing done by producers is to make the show more entertaining to viewers. But in doing that, it misrepresents the actors, their lives, and the contexts they live in.

Reality television is problematic in consumptions because it’s so easy. Rather than engaging viewers or imparting them with knowledge or skills, they get to watch some actor’s day, a beauty pageant that happened in the past, or heavily edited family drama. And that time could be better spend elsewhere.

I make conscious choices about reality television's place in my life and how much of it I am consuming. Click To Tweet

I make every effort to be an informed, culturally-competent citizen. I wake up and read the news every morning. I have multiple newsletters sent to my inbox that I browse while I wait in line. I know what is going on in the world. So I give myself a break when I am at the gym. I am already doing something good for myself by being active and there’s really nothing like running to an episode of WAGS Miami or a show on Food Network.

By understanding why some of my media consumption is problematic, I make conscious choices about it’s place in my life and how much of it I am consuming. I am not perfect, nobody is. And by accepting that sometimes I will watch reality television, I am so much happier. So when you turn on the television, go on YouTube, or scroll on Instagram, think about the content you are consuming. Life is about making choices, both big and small. And I am choosing to have both my news and reality television.

Grace Wong

Grace Wong

Storyteller and content creator studying Political Science at Wellesley College. Inspired by creative-community building, where ideas become reality with authenticity and kindness. Working towards equality, empathy and kindness, daily.

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