Pop Culture Gone Awry

By Meri Ulrich
Nov. 13, 2012

There are many so-called reality television shows currently being aired on almost all of the networks and cable channels. Some are harmless (Married to Jonas) and some are terrible and violent (Basketball Wives and similar shows). Some are annoying (The Real Housewives of various cities) and some are trite and stupid (Keeping up with The Kardashians).

I can list many, many more and I can even tell you that shows like Top Chef are fantastic and lots of fun. Some like the talent shows like Dancing With The Stars and American Idol contribute real entertainment value and some are contributing to the fall of American society (in my opinion).

Watching black women punch each other and call each other horrible names seems to contribute nothing more than a bad image for black women and the Housewife shows allow us to see how the rich and wannabe rich act and how petty and mean-spirited they can be. There is enough racism, low class behavior and violence to assure that any young viewers watching these shows will learn how to behave like savages while aspiring to earn a lot of money and a lot of recognition (all for the wrong reasons, I might add).

The big question is why many of us watch these shows...the good the bad and the ugly. I watch some of them because I have gotten bored with the sitcoms that all seem to have the same plot or the crime shows that lost their luster a long time ago. I got tired of watching the same plot repeated over and over again so I switched over to vh1 and Bravo to try and find a way to be entertained.

I have to admit that I am not even close to being young nor am I aspiring to be a "real" housewife (Bravo style) or to "Redneckonize" the beauty of eating road kill (ala Honey Boo Boo and her strange family). I started something that I seem to have gotten addicted too and don't know how to quit watching. I might miss a huge fight or a juicy piece of gossip or a children's beauty pageant where the exploitation factor is out of this world and over the top.

The Real Housewife franchises are probably the most fascinating of all of the reality shows that I tune into because they spend all of their time trying to out do each other and it amazes me that people with successful careers and lots of money want to put themselves on public display like animals in a zoo.

Since the start of the television age and the eventual shows where people competed to earn millions of dollars and huge careers for being....just people...I have noticed that seemingly sane people will pimp themselves out to the highest bidder for attention. A new word was coined along the way...famewhore...and these people fit that title well.They will say and do just about anything to become famous. They will sacrifice their family and their pride and their good judgment to stand out from the rest. They will allow the cameras to follow them as they get stinking drunk and make asses of themselves, admit to being addicted to varying substances and even let the cameras watch them go through detox on a rehab show. They will risk the humiliation heaped upon their children who are often bullied at school as a result of their parents behavior on a television show and they will sell their own mother's down the river for 15 minutes of fame.

Are we so desperate that this is a viable way to earn a living? Is throwing pride to the wind okay now so that we can be recognized in a restaurant or super market? Is being on the front page of a tabloid really something to aspire too?

What has happened to the values in this country...this society.... that allows and encourages people to make such fools of themselves, ruin their lives in some cases and sell out for a quick buck and some camera time. What has happened that I am among those millions of people watching this stuff and coming back for more and more and more.

Is this a sign of the times or just a phase that we are going through because "REAL" life is too difficult to bear and escapism is the only way out of our misery?

I haven't discovered the answers to these questions as of yet but I hope that one day someone will write a book about this phenomenon and explain it to me. I will turn off my television set and turn my back on the people who so fascinate me and actually read that book. Or...maybe there is a rehab coming soon for reality show addicts? Maybe I can join the group and allow them to televise me as I withdraw from reality television?


About the author: Meri Ulrich has a Medical/Legal background and is a former forensic researcher specializing in psychological profiling.

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