By Ayesha Osman
I am not a snob…a lot of people will be picky about what they read, what they watch and what they eat, but I am not a snob. I relish the generic, and appreciate worldly tastes. I wonder at the beauty of Shakespeare and Rumi, but grew up reading Danielle Steel. I think all art, in any form and shape should be appreciated; at the very least it should be given a shot, or a nod of approval.
I love TV!! LOVE IT! I grew up watching The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Friends, and The X-Files. After 5 days of grueling work, running errands, and pretending to be a good mom, I don’t need intellectual engagement. I need a slow, albeit enjoyable, brain lull. What better to do that than sit with a big bowl of pop corn (your choice of salty or/ maybe and salty snack) and watch a brainless show.
However, I have always stayed clear of the illusive world of Reality TV. Not the popular music shows…no, I mean the mind numbing, selfish shows. The ones who take perfectly normal everyday happenings and glorify them into a season full of jaw dropping moments!
As a dare to my unemployed self, I decided that I would commit to a reality show. I would religiously abide by it, I would Google the people in it and would try and talk, if that’s even possible, to as many willing participants as I can. My commitment would last a month!
So I asked around and scoured the internet and the choices are endless. I came across a lot of weirdness, and some seemingly harmless one. There’s a show about little girls and how they’re prepped to become future Lindsay Lohans and Britney Spears. Another show is about the trials and errors of a couple trying to have a baby through IVF. The list is endless. However the lucky winner was about a family of mainly women: sisters, entrepreneurs, sex symbols, mothers, daughters and wives. I think the only reason I watched this was because the women on the show weren’t stick thin.
So began my grueling month of reality TV. I even promised myself that I would hunt down every tabloid magazine I could find…there aren’t that many in Egypt. At first it was hard getting used to the nothingness of the episodes; it was basically couples fighting, couples making up, couples trying to have babies, and a couple finding love and marrying. However, I slowly began to lose enough brain cells to actually be engaged in their mundane life extravagances. I do not live anywhere near that kind of luxury, and I’m old enough to realize that money doesn’t buy you happiness.
It didn’t stop at me watching an hour of the sisters, I began to genuinely bare concern for the upcoming marriage, anticipate the dress and the guests! And when it all came crashing down after a very brief moment, I experienced disappointment! Then it hit me in a splendid moment of self-reflection, (I’m slow so if any of you out there had figured this out earlier, I’m sorry to have wasted your time)… I was watching. I wanted to know what was going to happen. Millions of us around the world choose to switch on this show, among tens of other shows, choose to take time from our busy schedules and watch a family struggle, used loosely, to find a sort of happiness that many of us don’t understand.
Reality TV at its core is a form of escapism. Many people choose to unwind and lose themselves looking at the blue of a sea, in a book that takes them thousands of miles away, or in listening to music. Now, there are some people out there who choose to unwind a little differently; they curl up in their favorite chair with their choice of snack, or turn on the TV and watch a ‘reality’ show. They spend an hour watching people argue about 10 million dollar cars, about why they lost it at an extravagant party, why it’s so hard to have a baby when they live in different parts of the world, all of this at the backdrop of beautiful houses and landscape. For a brief moment they forget their own problems, their every day struggles and arguments. And for a few, if they look really deep into it, feel blessed for not being celebrities and having their every private life detail scrutinized by complete strangers, even though they’re getting money, a lot of money, for it.
After a grueling month, maybe two, of watching a reality show, I wish I could say that I have become a different person, or a more tolerant person for it. Unfortunately, no. I will reserve this right of being a self professed snob against reality shows. It requires a taste I have not yet acquired. I will say this, however, I will no longer judge you for watching reality shows. I will respect your desire to waste your own time according to your preferred form of escapism…I will however pray for you.