Monday, July 20, 2009

Reality Check

Trashy reality TV has always appealed to me, especially those shows on basic cable. I love "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?" and regularly bring up "16 and Pregnant" in conversation (much to the amusement of my coworkers). Quality shows like "Mad Men" and "30 Rock" may be my official favorites, but many a Sunday in my house has been rendered unproductive by a "What Not To Wear" marathon.

The guilty pleasure I derive from viewing these shows leaves me conflicted as a feminist. They are voyeuristic, putting others' flaws on display. Part of the fun of watching pregnancies, weddings, and makeovers is passing judgment (who hasn't felt superior after watching an episode of "Clean House" and realizing that her messy room is not that bad?). But who am I to judge these people? And there are a host of other issues involved (weddings are a patriarchal institution and billion-dollar industry, pregnancy shows rarely, if ever, mention abortion as a safe and appropriate choice for women, makeovers hinge upon socially constructed beauty standards, etc). I won't even broach the Jon and Kate fiasco.

Yesterday, however, I stumbled upon a new show that may be the most awful reality tv I've seen--and not in a good way. I had to turn it off two minutes in.

"Most Popular" is a new WeTV show. Seven women stand on stage as 100 women in the audience vote them off one by one. There is no real competition and no talent is measured. It all depends on the instincts of the audience. Whoever is left standing at the end wins up to $10,000 and the title "Most Popular."

This show seems to be the epitome of all that is wrong in our society. These are grown women on display, humiliating themselves for some money or fame (WeTV fame, but whatever works). And those are grown women in the audience, readily offering their opinions on other women's weight, face, or clothing. Their motivation is less clear.

This is woman-on-woman crime. And it needs to stop.

So yeah, maybe I will cut back on my reality tv. I may not be as mean-spirited as these women, I may be rooting for the girls on "16 and Pregnant" to be good mothers, get their GEDs, and kick the dumb boyfriends to the door, but I am still a part of this culture. And I am partially responsible.

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