In defense of garbage: Why reality TV is a positive form of escapism

Some pandemic outlets look different than others.

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Jordan Cuskey

Nine seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” later…

Liz Macias, Staff Writer

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, it’s natural to reflect on the past year and remember what the world was like back then. Memories of brewing whipped coffee, binging “Tiger King,” tie-dying your clothes, baking banana bread, playing Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch, and exercising alongside Chloe Ting videos in your childhood bedroom likely come to mind. For me, I used the time to focus on myself: I became fluent in French, picked up a minor in Religious Studies, and wrote the next great American novel. Just kidding. I watched a truly ungodly amount of reality television. You name it, I probably watched it. All seven seasons of Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” — like many other fans, I refuse to acknowledge the eighth season after the irreplaceables left. Seasons four and six of ITV’s “Love Island UK” — Dani and Jack forever! The first season of “Love Is Blind” —sorry to all the other contestants who weren’t Lauren and Cameron. Seasons four through eight of Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — why was Santino ever allowed to be a judge? Season two of “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars” —Katya deserved it. And last but not least, seasons four through six of “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked” — “back rolls?”

And you know what? 438 episodes later, I don’t regret it. Calling the past year emotionally exhausting or difficult is the world’s biggest understatement. So, if the way I coped with it all was watching “garbage TV” with my sister in my childhood bedroom as I came to terms that my senior year of college would likely be online, or that I would be turning the big 21 without getting to celebrate with my friends, I think that’s okay. While my sister Meli and I have always shared an extremely tight bond, despite our five-year age difference, spending the time together yelling that Nia and Chloe deserved a duet way before season seven of “Dance Moms,” or laughing while another absurd challenge took place in the “Love Island” villa truly built an even more unbreakable bond.

If I can defend the oft-rebuked genre of television, I think people are far too harsh in their judgments. Reality TV never tries to be anything it’s not. It’s garbage, and it knows it. The over-the-top editing, sound effects, absurd copyrighted free music, and producer-incited fights to incite drama among castmates almost seems to say, “We know you just want to be entertained. It’s okay. We’re here.” In a time of such uncertainty and strife, watching reality TV was a fantastic way to escape the insanity of what seemed to be the end of the world.

So, the big question becomes: is it a waste of time? Well, no. All TV is a form of escapism and wanting to delve into another world, whether it be a drama like “Breaking Bad” or a comedy like “Parks and Recreation.” Reality TV is just that, too, only more self-aware. Go ahead, say that I’m wasting my brain away. Watching the predictable unpredictability of all of these shows meant that I also spent that time growing closer to my sister and making memories with her. To me, that is never a waste of time.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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