Like many Americans, I have been following the presidential election closely. This has meant spending several hours watching debates and subsequent political analysis. I have also caught an episode (or five) of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. I’ve noticed that when people admit to watching reality television there are always eyerolls, sucked teeth, and pity for the R.T watcher. I’ll be honest. I can understand where people are coming from. Reality television is a caricature of reality. Yet, I have at some point or other enjoyed this form of entertainment. Why?
Well, I have this incredible thing called critical thinking. It’s amazing. Humans have the ability to not only absorb information but actually process it. For me, Real Housewives of Atlanta is a conversation starter on the intersections of race, gender, class, age, and social media. The show is ridiculous (in ways that are beyond the scope of the time I have allotted to write this piece) but in my opinion, it’s important to understand why such madness is renewed season after season. Especially in a world where the goings-on of social media can change the trajectory of a storyline on a ‘reality’ television series or our presidential election [insert distressed gasp!]
Televised presidential debates are reality television too. Unsurprisingly this election has one of its favorite reality television stars—Donald Trump. If the primaries and debates have taught us anything it is that humans crave entertainment and jump at opportunities to be spectators. Unfortunately this craving has been exploited, marketed, and sold to the concerned and fed-up American citizens in the veil of politics. It’s quite troubling to think that the hiring process for a national leader could turn into a circus but it has and yet, there are many people still enjoying the ride. Cue the applause, feed off the energy of the angry mobs, replay the soundbytes, and there you have our election season in a nutshell.
Being mindful of what you watch and how you watch—it’s a gift to others and yourself. Normally, I would watch a couple twenty-minute Bob’s Burgers episodes per week while cooking dinner. Last week I realized that I now watch television several times a week. It’s because I got caught the sticky web of this election cycle. I was so consumed by every little thing that happened because I just had to have an opinion on it. I had to be an informed, yet critical citizen to make up for so many people who were voting for obnoxious candidates out of sheer anger, right? By the time my partner said he just couldn’t watch the debate last week, I realized that I had gone a wee bit too far. I was beginning to make him suffer because of my crazy decision to be an overly politically aware twenty-three year old voter.
Now, I watch thirty to forty minutes of the debate, sneer at the blatant ignorance, bigotry, and hypocrisy, and go to bed. There will always be twenty-four hour news stations and thinkpieces dedicated to the never-ending saga that is our political process. There will not always be that extra hour of rest and relaxation before a long day or week. It’s nice to return to reality—that is my reality.