Society Needs to Stop Shaming Reality TV Viewers

BORA ZALOSHNJA ’20
OPINIONS EDITOR

It’s 8 o’clock on Monday night and common rooms across campus are being lit up by the weekly antics of ABC’s “The Bachelor. “ For the next two hours, the antics of Corrine and the like light up the screen and we feel like we’re right there with them, amidst the catfights and awkward conversations. Now, I know what you might say: “reality TV is mindless and we’re dumbing ourselves down more and more with every episode.” Here’s the thing. We know it’s mindless and dumb.

When people turn on shows like “The Bachelor” or “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” they aren’t looking for intellectual stimulation. They’re looking for something lighthearted to laugh at and forget about their lives for a second. Especially in our current world where the government is riddled with scandal and global politics grow increasingly volatile, it is nice to have something not so serious to enjoy. Someone’s taste in television has nothing to do with their intelligence or lack thereof.

Many claim otherwise though. In a controversial article published in by HuffPost Living titled “Reality Television is Rotting Your Brain,”  Marcia Sirota argues that “we talk about the ‘dumbing down’ of North America, and while it’s impossible to know whether reality TV is a causative factor or merely a symptom, I’m certain that it’s not doing us any good.”

Shaming of reality television viewers is prominent in the media, and it points to the larger problem of sexism in society. The viewership of reality television is largely women, and dismissing these women as “dumb” because of their taste in television is narrow-minded.

Society has a hard time grasping the fact women can be multi-faceted human beings. In a widely-viewed debate between Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca and Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, Carlson told Duca she “should stick to the thigh-high boots. You’re better at that.” Duca, an extremely talented writer and political commentator, was dismissed simply because she is also interested in celebrity news and fashion. This is rooted in the sexist belief that women can only be one thing. They can either be intellectuals or fashionistas, home-makers or businesswomen, politically involved citizens or reality TV fans. They can never be multiple things at once though.

It’s also problematic in that things that women tend to be more interested in tend to be the things claimed to be “dumbing us down.” Makeup, fashion, reality TV, celebrity news, and astrology are just a few things women typically favor with a negative stigmas of unintelligence attached to them. One could argue that watching sports has just as much intellectual value to it as watching reality TV, yet men are not seen as dumb for following sports. Why is it that a man can be a CEO and a football fan, yet the second a woman turns on “Real Housewives” she’s seen as stupid?

It’s time to stop shaming women for their interests because men don’t find the same entertainment value in them as women do. I don’t understand why anyone would spend hours of their life playing video games, but I’m not going to rush to any snap judgments about someone’s intellect or substance because that’s how they choose to spend their time. For the most part, we know some of the things we enjoy are fairly mindless. No one is turning on Entertainment News to get an education. People do it to get their mind off life for a while and immerse themselves in something fun and lighthearted.

Some of the people tuning into these shows are coming home from jobs as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other highly intellectual professionals. These people are often the ones that have the most reason to do so because they have such high-stress lives. People should stop criticizing others or making snap judgments about others because they have different interests.

It’s not entirely our fault when we do this. Society has programmed this into us. “We have all been programmed to respond to human differences between us with fear and loathing,” explains feminist author Audre Lorde, but we must make a conscious effort to be accepting and respectful of people with different interests. If how you choose to destress is reading Chaucer and listening to Bach, good on you, but you have no right to judge me for choosing to de-stress by watching bad TV and reading about which cupcake my astrological sign would be.

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