(Disclaimer: This post is neither meant to endorse nor condemn any of the following mentioned reality shows.)
As Americans we can agree on one thing: We love our Reality TV.
Why is it that each week we are willing to be glued to the television, faithfully setting our DVR so that we won’t miss a single episode of these so-called “reality” programs? Let’s examine the possibilities together, shall we?
1. We enjoy the competition. To me, no one invokes the competitive nature in a person better than Survivor. For over 15 years they have been engaging their viewers with who will “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast” this season. The basis for the show is pure genius: vote out your tribe members one by one, but know that they must like you enough at the end to cast a vote for you to receive $1,000,000. And if the end player has to lie or cheat to get to that point, so be it. As Jeff prepares to tally the votes they assure him and their tribe mates that they would never act like that in “real life.” It is just part of the game, or so they say.
2. We feel like it can make us smarter or teach us something new. Don’t you feel as if you learn so much by watching a few episodes of Shark Tank? I do. The ideas and products that these people pitch to the sharks and how they are bold enough to ask for $500,000 in exchange for 10% of their company is simply amazing. I always feel so sorry for some of the entrepreneurs who get chewed up by Mr. Wonderful. And I often find myself talking to the screen, “Barbara, you should take that deal! Ohhhh, Mark would be a perfect fit for that business. Don’t you dare say you’re out again, Robert!” Yes, I usually receive sideways looks from my business-savvy husband when I do this, but I feel smarter.
3. We crave a good love story. How in the world does ABC continue to have such a strong audience for The Bachelor or The Bachelorette when it clearly highlights the cattiness of women, the jealous nature of men, and uncomfortable rejection week after week? The answer is simple: because we want to see a man pursue a woman and we believe wholeheartedly in love. Never mind the fact that these potential couples are dating in NON-realistic settings and their love story rarely makes it past the “After The Final Rose” episode. Yet we continue to hold on for the next “Sean and Catherine” or “Trista and Ryan.”
4. We know that our friends are watching, therefore we need to be “in the know.” I realize that I don’t have the time to invest in watching a full two-hour episode plus a 30 minute “Results Show” per week of American Idol, The Voice, or Dancing With the Stars. But I know that the next day in my Facebook news feed all my people will be talking about who got eliminated from AI or who Blake stole from Adam or how darling that couple was when they danced. Is this really a good enough reason to waste my precious nighttime hours with my family? No, but sometimes it can be fun to watch with them.
5. We want to escape our own reality by watching someone else’s. There is a reason why Duck Dynasty has made MILLIONS since it first made its debut in 2012. That is because it provides an entertaining escape from our own lives by watching these self-proclaimed “rednecks” navigate the in’s and out’s of running a family business and blowing up things in the bayous of Louisiana. And even though the Robertson’s will admit that not all that is portrayed on the show is truly their “reality,” they have wisely used their success to proclaim the name of Jesus. Interestingly enough, the stars of Duck Dynasty and I live 30 minutes apart from each other, yet our realities couldn’t be any more different. However, the one thing we do have in common is Jesus.
In the end, I think we can all agree that reality television is NOT reality, entertaining as it is. However, you and I do have our own “reality show” to live in which WE are the “stars.” Philippians 2:13-15 says,
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.“