When I say that my tolerance for a diverse banquet of television shows is off the charts, I mean it. I’m not a scripted-shows snob or a film school geek who merely comments on award winning, critically acclaimed blockbusters. It’s like if you comment or admit that you watch anything else, it’s somehow a reflection of your IQ. Wrong.
I believe in diversification, and I am not prejudice against non-scripted, reality television shows, no matter how some think that all of it is shit and that it kills brain cells. Besides, it’s the one thing we were encouraged to do in graduate school. After all we were majoring in television, radio, and film, so I suppose it’s worthy advice to notify students they ought to graze and digest as much of a variety that cable television, streaming, streaming devises, smart TV, smart phone, computer and the Internet has to offer.
However one consumes television and on whichever preferred device is not nearly as important as the diverse quantity of shows one ought to consume, especially if you’re a critic, self proclaimed or otherwise, or one who is interested in the Entertainment industry in any way.
There is plenty of smut on TV and in culture for some conservatives or those with justifiable moral beliefs and convictions to blame on Hollywood and television programming. Many in the media are often portrayed as Satan incarnate. Somehow television shows and movies are blamed for mentally unstable individuals becoming violent. The media gets blamed for teaching children to murder, rob and commit crimes. But where is the accountability? Parents have an influence on what their children watch or don’t. If what’s on TV is so evil, then don’t tune in, and don’t let your kids, either. Get rid of your television, or make an honest effort at politics or community action to change things. Otherwise, shut up about it. Everyone has freedom to choose.
This leads me to the next controversial show that has been threatened by protestors from the LGBT community, which hoped to force TLC to not air My Husband’s Not Gay. According to a thinkprogressive.org article, protestors are circulating a petition that went from 75,000 to now more than 90,000 signatures. Leaders in the gay community such as Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, exclaimed that the show’s concept is dangerous because it allegedly promotes that gay people can and should be able to live as straight. A Rolling Stones article, 4 Reasons TLC’s ‘My Husband’s Not Gay’ is Dangerous for LGBT People, states the show has absolutely no redeeming qualities.
The four couples featured in the show are Mormon, so obviously religion plays a part in each couple’s conviction, as the men have formed a group for those stricken with SSA (same sex attraction.) I am not going to get into their religious reasons, but I will point out that there are a lot of conservative beliefs out there that promote that being gay can be somehow undone. I don’t take the show as seriously as some of its critics signing the petition or those who are for the show rooting for its continuation (making it highly unlikely it’ll continue.)
From my personal stand point, I see it from a documentary perspective similar to how a cultural anthropologist would study society and its idiosyncrasies. There is a controversial documentary on Netflix called It’s a Girl about some women in India and China that committed “gendercide” in killing and aborting unwanted baby girls. The documentary even features one woman in India who matter-of-factly talked about being pregnant eight times, and each resulting with the birth of a girl. What happened to her daughters? She strangled all of them. Abhorrent, I know. But in some especially backwards parts of this world it’s the sad reality.
When I pitched the show to fellow friends and family who are Netflix watchers, you can imagine their responses. They cringed and then asked, “Why would you watch something like that?” Well, because it’s reality and it’s something that takes place around the world. It was also a great documentary. Documentaries are about awareness and also informing people and initiating important conversations on the unfortunate reality in life – good, bad or ugly.
Just because I watched It’s a Girl it doesn’t mean I agree with gendercide. Some truths are hard to watch such as the news or, for example, how the extremist group ISIS is murdering innocent people. There are people who really do feel that they can’t watch the news because they can’t handle the reality. Turning a blind eye doesn’t make the truth go away or to not exist. It’s no surprise that the there are many more than just four couples who believe in denying their sexual taste buds for religious convictions. It happens more times than people want to admit, especially in the puritanical U.S.
Do I personally agree with how these men think in My Husband’s Not Gay? No, I think they’re all in denial, and it’s very sad that they feel they must force themselves into living a lie because “God” would not approve of their true sexuality. Even though they each secretly prefer to be with men or at least have bisexual tendencies, they don’t allow themselves to explore because they’re taught it’s wrong.
But, does airing the show necessarily mean that it’s promoting that gayness is something that can be cured by therapy or religion? No, it’s nothing more than producers finding whacky and interesting people who live unique lives. If My Husband’s Not Gay ought to be banned because of its “message” then we might as well ban Sister Wives because the same can be true to its message as well. Sister Wives does not promote polygamy, but instead shines a light on the odd practices of people who might be standing next to you in the checkout line or sitting next to you on the bus. Maybe even at the next cubicle.
It can be said that Jerry Springer promotes fights and ghetto behavior. Perhaps. But guess, what? There is a lot of ghetto in our society. The show simply documents real people and allows them to display their full ghetto fabulousness for the whole world to see. And millions tune in to watch the insanity.
These shows don’t try to change these people no matter how crazy they might be. The shows just make money off of them. And in our capitalist society, how can they be blamed for providing a product that meets demand?
It can be said that the now cancelled Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo banked off of making fun of Southerners with a trailer-trash type of mentality. Did the show make fun of the family? Of course! But, was it the culture of the family to behave the way that they did? Yes, that’s just how that family is, take it or leave it. And they laughed all the way to the bank.
Ultimately, people take reality shows way, way too personally. At the end of the day they’re nothing more than train wrecks, and boy do we love a good train wreck. Give us your ghetto, your bizarre, your little people, those obsessed, obese, hoarding, cheap skates and washed-up stars who desire to revamp their careers by documenting their lives. It’s entertainment people! That’s all. And it’s a big business. I’ll be the first to admit- I watch it all.
Reality shows are supposed to be controversial and interesting, otherwise people wouldn’t watch. I watched My Husband’s Not Gay utilizing the “new on TLC” tab. My own curiosity discovered it; I didn’t watch it when it aired. And honestly, I doubt it’ll get the green light for any more episodes, unless the boycott spurs ratings, which is definitely possible. But, really, it’s just another one of these shows that unfortunately follows interesting and odd people with their own personal beliefs.
From someone who enjoys watching documentaries and also filming them, I’d say reality shows are nothing more than an interesting cultural reflection on how folks on the fringe live their lives. For the most part, they’re not meant to be deep, or dangerous or sub-textually harmful. They just document reality, however weird it might seem. And every once in a while, like with The Biggest Loser and My 600-Ib Life, they serve a higher purpose. But more often than not reality TV is what it is and not worth the time and effort to dissect and over-analyze.