Look, I don’t hate reality television. I don’t like it. But I also don’t want to fall into that camp of people who talk about how they hate reality television, as though they only watch CNN and The History Channel. I’m not that person! I watch tons of trashy television! Every week, I watch Gossip Girl, mouth agape, wondering whether it’s all a fever dream. But I just can’t seem to get as into reality television as some people can.
And by some people, I mean TheGloss office. Everyone here loves the Jersey Shore and The Hills and The Real Housewivse of… Someplace Where People Get A Lot of Botox. And I just… don’t. I’ve probably watched six episodes of all of them combined.
Really, it’s mostly because I don’t much care for the people on them. The men seem to be bumbling macho fools, and the women always seem to be shrill and catty and backstabbing, or else overly plastic eye candy. Who is there to sympathize with on these shows? Where are the witty, cool people I know in real life, and who I’m convinced would make more interesting television without even doing anything? And by “anything” I mean these bizarre trips they always seem to be taking to Fiji, or the offices of Elle, or anything to give them some semblance of a personality?
Oh, okay, I guess there are some exceptions. Tim Gunn. Well, yes. Tim Gunn does seem lovely. And contest shows seem different. But shows that are just about monitoring people’s lives never seem to hold much of an appeal. Because, really, the people on them just don’t seem interesting enough.
At least as far as I can see, the people on them mostly seem awful. If I had to work among any of those people on daily basis, I’d quit my job. If I had to sit next to them in a restaurant, I’d change my table. I don’t really want to be exposed to most of these casts in large or small doses. And I can’t imagine taking the time to track the development in their lives, because they seem less complex than real people I actually know, and therefore, I don’t care about their lives.
I remember reading somewhere (Valerie Vogrin) that if you’re a writer creating a protagonist, he or she should be smart, or rather, as smart as they can be. A main character might not be a quick person, or particularly well educated, but for him to be likable readers can come away saying “that character makes bad choices, but he’s trying hard and doing the best he knows,” but not “that character is dumb.” I come away from most reality shows thinking “wow, these people are really dumb.”
I think I want to take that statement about characters being smart one step farther. I’d find these shows a lot more enjoyable if the characters were not simply smart, but way, way smarter than me. I want to come away from gazing rapt at the screen murmuring “I will never be so clever.” I like something to aspire to.
I get a little bit of that with Gossip Girl. For instance, why are the characters always rerouting their bank accounts through foreign countries so as to disguise their locations from one another? Why are they printing conceptual statements on one another’s fashion designs? Why always the Valmontian levels of plotting? Why? What sense does it make? Why? It doesn’t make any sense! So they must do it because it’s really easy for them. Because they’re so smart. That’s probably why Wallace Shawn is on Gossip Girl, because he sort of sees it as an extension of My Dinner With Andre.
I’m really just waiting for a reality show called ”Disaffected, Attractive Erudite Young People Sitting Around In Evening Clothes Talking Genuinely Wittily About Marxism.” So, basically, I’ll just be here in my apartment watching Whit Stillman movies on repeat loop. Get together with me when you want to gossip about Rick Von Slonecker.