Modelling life on not-real-life
By Natalie Serafini, Assistant Editor
Over the holiday break, I must confess, I got a bit trashy. Throwback Thursday kind of trashy, in that I spent hours marathoning that revolutionary reality TV show of bygone years, The Hills. The show is a cesspool of cattiness, drama, and stupidity, but the people (or more accurately, the characters) on the show display an almost admirable reckless abandon—one that, to an extent, I’d like to advocate adopting.
That sounds odd and off-putting if you start reaching back into the recesses of your mind, remembering The Hills’ penchant for backstabbing friends and bar fights galore, but bear with me.
There are layers to the appeal of this indulgence. To start, the characters are largely untethered by people and situations that aren’t good for them. They know what’s in their best interests. Granted, there are those who hold onto something that isn’t working, or who hold grudges and refuse to move on; for the most part, though, these characters are self-indulgent, self-interested, and self-serving. Sounds awful in a condensed version, I agree. Yet, in smaller doses, this attitude is good. It means that you recognize when something isn’t working for you and you move on from it. Myriad reasons exist for why we might hang onto a person, thing, or situation that doesn’t do us any good. Moving on can be hard, but sometimes it’s what’s best, and it requires knowing what’s best.
Maybe this is because every weekly episode presents a new drama—alongside ongoing past drama, and the ominous foreshadowing of future drama—but the players of reality shows don’t sweat the small stuff. This is very good; the small stuff is not worth sweating. No one has to have everything in control, or have their life figured out. Worrying excessively about inconsequential matters doesn’t solve anything, and in fact wastes time and energy. Regardless of what happens, life will move on and you’ll move along with it. Since you can’t control everything and life marches on whether you like it or not, you might as well cultivate some laissez faire rather than worry unduly.
The Hills was trash, but it was trash with heart, as are a lot of contemporary reality shows. The people act with pure emotion and good (and sometimes shady) intentions. Emotion and passion—which most people in real life tamp down and ignore—make us human. As much as ignoring our feelings is something that real humans do, it isn’t realistic. Admitting that you’re vulnerable doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it can take bravery to be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean wearing your emotions on your sleeve, or sobbing when they get your order wrong at Starbucks. Perhaps just acknowledge that you’re human and emotional, and express that in constructive ways to the people in your life.
Reality shows don’t always present the best aspects of humanity, but they present self-interested humanity incarnate. True, the characters are condensed and intense—but a moderated, realistic version of what we see on screens might be more reasonable than what we currently present to the world. It’s like how high-fashion runway looks get made into ready-wear pieces for the real world. The liberal and liberated attitudes we see in reality TV—of being self-interested, of not worrying about little things, and of displaying emotion in all its ferocity—could be made into “ready-wear” attitudes in the real world.