Lifestyle, Movies & TV

Do reality shows expose the reality of a pandemic? Not at all.

Watching grown women throw drinks at each other is just not as satisfying when the rest of the world feels stranger than scripted quasi-fiction.

I am an avid reality television viewer. My younger years were characterized by “Project Runway,” “Dance Moms” and “America’s Next Top Model.” I now indulge in Bravo’s finest programs such as “Below Deck” and “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” among other iterations of the same franchise.

project runway cast at 2008 peabody awards
Cast of “Project Runway” at the 2008 Peabody Awards. While recent episodes of reality shows are a good source of entertainment, it can be difficult to watch reality stars ignore pandemic guidelines for the sake of television. COURTESY OF PEABODY AWARDS VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

For so many people, watching reality shows is an escape into a world much wealthier and gaudier than many of us can imagine. Escaping reality is welcomed by almost everyone, especially during a pandemic that left the majority of the population sitting at home with minimal human contact outside of their household or “pod.”

However, sitting down to watch these comfort shows has been far more difficult than I thought. I’d like to focus on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” since these stories revolve around these women’s lives and families, which is about as realistic as one can get with a reality show.

The most recent episode centers around a pool party that Teresa Giudice threw at her mansion for no reason other than the show needed to host a drama-filled event. Watching this seemingly normal gathering should not bother me, but I’m aware this season is being filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when large gatherings without masks or social distancing pose dangers to public health.

With this knowledge, I cannot help but feel angry, sad and a host of other emotions watching grown adults disregard all the guidelines of a pandemic that is still going on. The drama was not enough to distract me either. It only heightened my ire in these women who have the luxury of not having to work right now.

That is the most frustrating part: they chose to film this season. As a consumer of this content, I understand that many viewers still crave this type of entertainment, especially while stuck at home. One could argue that networks like Bravo wanted to comfort people with their favorite guilty pleasure and continue to film during the pandemic.

However, these good intentions are still tempered by the fact that watching people live their lives as if nothing is wrong is painful. This past year was characterized by people who lost jobs, went hungry and had to connect with family members through screens.

It feels impossible to enjoy one of my favorite television genres without the pang of anxiousness that comes with watching people disregard important safety measures in an attempt to provide entertainment.

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