Reality Ends Here
I have a confession to make: I love reality TV. Well, not all of it. On the flip side of the confession coin, I also must admit that I only made it through about 15 minutes of Who the Hell Did I Marry? I’m not much of a Kardashians fan either, and the episode of Celebrity Wife Swap where the two ex-pro wrestlers switch spouses was too contrived for me to handle. But The Bachelorette? Yep. The Real Housewives shows? You betcha. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? Well…Okay, that too.
I got on the reality bandwagon very early. Lots of viewers watched the first season of Survivor, but how many can say that they watched the first season of Big Brother? We’re talking 2000, with Brittany, Jordan, Eddie…Anybody remember them? Well, think about this: I didn’t even have to use Google before I typed in those names. I knew them, because not only did I watch that show every week, I became emotionally invested in it. I cursed the Houseguests when they kicked off somebody I liked, yelled things at the TV like “How could he possibly fall for that?” and “Really, Brittany? Really??” It’s embarrassing, yes, but it’s true. In my defense, I was pregnant and emotional at the time. But my daughter is 12 now, and I still mainline those shows. It was no passing flirtation.
What, you may ask, is the appeal of these so-called reality shows? Like many writers, I’m an eavesdropper. And reality TV, scripted though it often is these days, remains the ultimate eavesdropping experience. A Big Brother Houseguest forgets the cameras enough to say something breathtakingly stupid; a Real Housewives diva pitches a phony fit for more airtime; Honey Boo Boo’s mom upends a bag of Cheese Doodles into her mouth. Unreal as they may seem, they afford us a glimpse into some of the darkest parts of the human condition. Just like, well…good crime fiction.
In some ways, I find it inspiring. My latest book and first Young Adult novel, Reality Ends Here, takes place in the world of a top-rated, family-oriented reality TV show. As a newbie to such a setting, you can imagine I had a great time writing the book. It also made me aware of how often, in my adult mysteries, I explore themes similar to the ones detailed in my favorite “guilty-pleasure” shows. Betrayal, guilt, and long-buried secrets sustain most of my plots, just as they do on the Real Housewives series. And though I’ve never written a romantic scene as over-the-top as one of Desiree’s dates on The Bachelorette, I’d love to be able to illustrate, as that series does, that often love and pain are nearly indistinguishable. I don’t want to get too heavy-handed here. Ultimately, I watch these shows because they’re fun. Equally important, this writer gets a fly-on-the-wall view of a whole new world, an appreciation for conflict…or maybe just a glimpse into a different mind, however scripted, however brief.
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