Friday, August 14, 2009

The Cult of Personality: Why Are We So into the Real Housewives of Atlanta

My wife is a very intelligent, very well-educated person with impeccable, refined taste. Usually she acts as my cultural compass in matters such as the proper televisions shows and movies to watch. Left to my own devices, I would watch a bunch of corny b-movies and old blaxploitation flicks. I’m well-rounded that way. So, that is why I find it so curious that she actually watches and enjoys the Real House Wives of Atlanta.

Before this season, the only television she watched was the Sunday night HBO line-up which was cool because I enjoyed that too, but this whole stop everything on Thursday while I watch the Real Housewives has me perplexed.

However, I have found a certain compromise in our Thursday night domesticate situation. While she watches the Real Housewives, I follow the Twitter conversation on my Tweetdeck and laugh hysterically.

But for the record, I find the show to be deplorably cringe inducing. The show is shot through with every reprehensible, overblown stereotype—NeNe the outspoken sista’ girl, Kim the gold digger, Dwight the fabulous and outrageous homosexual. And not to mention that most of the "Real Housewives" are not wives at all and a couple seem dangerously close to losing their houses altogether.

From what I understand, though, this show has received monster ratings. In addition, the show has made minor celebrities out of all the women involved. But I must ask the question, “What have these women done to so command our attention?” And even further, “Why have reality shows become so popular?”

By this time everyone must realize that reality shows bear little semblance to reality, right? I mean some of the most popular reality shows are so blatantly scripted, and if the scripting is not plain, by the time the raw footage goes through the whole editing process, we are left simply with the director’s version of reality. And this version is the most sensationalized, outrageous version the raw footage has to offer.

But we know this, yet we continue to watch. Why?

Are we all simply voyeurs excited by the misfortune and dysfunction of others? Or could it be perhaps the real reality of our own lives is so absolutely dull and boring and without meaning that we clamor for an invented reality to put it all in perspective for us?

Or the better answer might be that reality television has created a cult of personality of sorts. They have managed to posit manufactured, overblown images of reality that simultaneously repulse us even as they lure us in. Our curiosity overcomes our better judgment, and we continue to tune in week after week to see what instance of dysfunction will occur next and how it will be dealt with.

We see in the outrageous personalities people from our own lives, some of whom we even despise, and before long, we develop a certain affinity with the characters.

And lastly, despite the hyperbole, the chaos and unpredictability of that reality bears some semblance to the chaos and unpredictability of our own reality, and we find solace in the seeming normality of it all.

But the danger arises when we begin to actually believe and believe in that reality, and we adjust our own reality in accordance. We then allow ourselves to become cartoonish caricatures of caricatures; our lives then become the real representations of a very false, very manufactured, very ridiculous, unreal reality.

Are you a fan of The Real Housewives of Atlanta or reality TV? Why or why not?


Denisha said...

I haven't watched any season of The Housewives of ATL or any Housewife show. When reality shows became popular, I loved watching them because it seemed they were less scripted compared to shows now. All my girls watch the ATL show, discuss the characters, and it's true...some aren't even wives from what I was told. If I gain nothing positive from a show (even stupid comedy offers laughter for your soul lol) then why watch it?

Kim said...

I'm a fan of the show and I don't like so call reality tv. I only watch Kimora's show and Housewives, but I don't know why people have a problem with the show.. If it's not your cup of tea then you have a remote or pliars depending on what your situation Anyone who expects television to uphold thier moral standards of what's decent needs a reality check themselves. I have a moral oppostion to pornography so I don't watch it, I don't purchase it, I don't support it in anyway. I have a moral oppostion to a man seedig my womb without the benefit of marrying me, so It won't happen. See how that works out well for me...LOL

md20737 said...

I find it hilarious that most of them are not well off but have a tv show about being well off. That is my motivation for watching it.

I also find that no matter how classy, or educated you are as a women you can understand the social dynamics within the group. Thats the same reason I watched girl friends, every woman has a her role in the her group.

I also think its a fascination with women of color having money. Bc we all know black people known for spending money. People want to see what they will do with it.

I like you used the original picture of them. I think her name is Deshawn, im not sure if thats her name or not the one that kicked off the show. I think she got kicked off for being acting like she had to much sense, which is a shame.

A. Spence said...

Are we all simply voyeurs excited by the misfortune and dysfunction of others? Sad but very true.

md20737 - Deshawn was kicked off because she didn't 'act out' like the other ladies. I like her because she gave a calmer balance to the show.

Anonymous said...

Again, ashamed of outing myself for watching this foolishness but I have to admit I get sucked into "reality" TV. I don't know why but, as a social worker, I try to convince myself that these graphic social experiments are case studies that sharpen my skills in identifying antisocial, sociopathic behavior. That's my rationalization and I'm sticking to it!

Rhythm said...

guilty. it's like any other vice. contrary to outward appearances, i'm not the educated, sophisticated, polished black woman 24/7. sometimes i indulge in what i call "crack tv." and it is soooooo good.

shaun. said...

"Are we all simply voyeurs excited by the misfortune and dysfunction of others?"


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