Now that reality TV has established itself as a major genre in entertainment, researchers have begun to study the effects it has on viewers. Their findings are disconcerting to say the least. In a 2004 study conducted by Ohio State University professor Steven Reiss and Dr. James Wiltz, for example, researchers found that “the people who watched reality television had above-average trait motivation to feel self-important.”
They also found that reality TV watchers are more likely to care about social status and vengeance than non-watchers, and are less likely to care about morality and honor. I am one of these low-lives. For better or worse, my life improved when reality TV walked into it.
Also for better or worse, it seems that reality TV is here to stay. First appearing in 1948 with Allen Funt’s Candid Camera, reality TV became a mainstay in American culture in 2000, when shows such as Survivor and Big Brother premiered to insanely high ratings in the U.S. Nowadays, Americans spend about one-third of their free time watching TV, and about 67% of the programming watched is reality.
While the demand for sub-genres such as competition and self-improvement has decreased in the last decade, documentary-style shows have become increasingly popular. I’m referring to shows such as ABC’s The Bachelor, The Real Housewives franchise on Bravo, and E!’s Keeping Up with The Kardashians. You know, the high-brow stuff. So if reality TV’s survival is seemingly inevitable, let’s stick to the positives here. Sure, it has been proven than reality TV can be harmful to viewers, but I’ve personally learned quite a few life lessons during the hundreds of hours I’ve spent watching reality stars self-destruct. Here are my top six.
1. “Why don’t you come over for tea?” really means “Let’s brawl, betch!”
If I’ve learned anything from the Real Housewives franchise, it’s that no social event is safe from a fight. In fact, the shows use social gatherings specifically for airing grievances, calling one another out, and accusing one another of lying about the way in which their children came into the world (really, Brandi, was that necessary?). While teatime may seem too proper a spot to let the claws come out (to normal human beings, at least), multiple seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills have proven this theory incorrect.
Last season, during “Tempest in a Tea Party,” Camille Grammer, of “getting dumped by Kelsey Grammer for a 20-something flight attendant” fame, called Taylor Armstrong out on her inconsistent stories about now-deceased husband Russell Armstrong. This season, it was Brandi Glanville and Adrienne Maloof who went at it over tea and crumpets. I’m sorry, Kate, I’m sure you’re disappointed with what we’ve done to your country’s afternoon tradition. I bet Harry, on the other hand, totally gets it.
2. Money can’t buy you class, but it can buy you a record deal
Ever since Jo de la Rosa paved the way for Real Housewives everywhere, ladies of the franchise have been making terribly horrible, awful music. Aside from Kandi Burruss, who had an established musical career long before the shows, the RH women have proven that, with enough money, anyone can record a song. Everyone from Kim Zolciak and Kenya Moore of the Atlanta series, to Jersey girls Danielle Staub and Melissa Gorga, has come out with singles. But the most entertaining may be LuAnn, excuse me, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps’s “Money Can’t Buy You Class” music video. Fun fact: It apparently can’t buy you a good voice, either.
3. If a guy isn’t positive he’s going to choose you over some other girl the night before he proposes, RUN
All of my friends, a.k.a Mom and Dad, know not to call me between 8 and 10 on Monday nights. Actually, it’s probably best to wait till 11 since I need a good hour to digest everything that has happened on The Bachelor. I love this show; I mean, rock-solid abs, drunken dance moves, plenty of injuries – what’s not to love? Well, the show’s success rate, for one thing.
Of the 24 couples manufactured by ABC-sponsored mood-lighting and extreme sports, only three have made it to the altar. That’s a 12.5 percent success rate; when your odds are lower than the national average, it’s a sad day. So why are most of these couples doomed for Splitsville? I don’t know, maybe because the Bachelor is dating women in the double-digits and is still pondering who to choose minutes before he gets down on one knee. So lesson learned: If he’s thinking about another girl when chatting up Neil Lane, do not walk — run. It’s not gonna last.
4. There is a difference between a “donkey booty” and a “stallion booty.” And they both, apparently, exist
Who knew? The big rivalry on this season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is between Kenya Moore and just about every other cast member. But recently, she and Phaedra Parks have been going at it more than the others. After plans to produce Phaedra’s “donkey booty” workout video fizzled, Kenya realized that no one really wants a donkey booty anyways. They want a stallion booty, duh. As she explained to Anderson Cooper, stallion booties are winners – donkey booties are “broke-down.” So on March 5, Kenya’s competing booty workout video goes on sale. Phaedra’s video with husband Apollo has made the best-seller list on Amazon.com. I guess some people really do prefer the donkey booty.
5. Never trust a shrink who agrees to airing therapy sessions on national television
I have always been wary of therapists who allow their patients to bring a camera crew along for their “one-on-one” sessions. Shouldn't their first piece of advice be to NOT be on a reality TV show? Bethenny Frankel filmed her sessions with Dr. Amador for Bethenny Ever After and look at all the good it did her. I’m not just saying you can’t trust their advice, either. You can’t trust them at all. Bethenny and her then-husband also trusted Amador on the high seas and they ended up calling the Coast Guard.
6. Shirtless fighting is always better than shirted fighting
Facts are facts, people. And you probably didn’t need to watch the episode of Vanderpump Rules that I saw to know this. But if you need convincing, this clip will do the trick. Why fight with a cable-knit sweater hiding your abs of steel, when you can rip it off and fight in all your tanned-and-hairless glory? This one’s a no brainer.
And there you have it: the scientifically-proven* facts that reality TV has its perks.
*Absolutely no scientific methods were used in the gathering of this research.