Let’s face it, the best thing about reality TV is its ability to make ourselves feel better about our own lives. Bumming ‘bout your bubble butt—hey, at least you’re not as large as the peeps on “The Biggest Loser.” Angry your boyfriend cheated? Jerry Springer will make you grateful he was banging some coworker, and not knocking up your mom.
Oddly enough, most of these shows seem to be trying to deliver a message or lesson. The problem is that there’s a huge discrepancy between What They Want You to Learn (WTWYTL) and the Actual Lessons Learned (ALL). Luckily, I’m here to translate.
“16 & Pregnant”
WTWYTL: Having a baby is rough, teenage boys are the devil, and once you give birth, you’re never going to have any fun anymore, EVER.
ALL: If this show had been on when I was a teenager, I’d probably still be a virgin. Yes, it’s great they show the hard side of being a teen mom, but shouldn’t they also give some time over to discussions of pregnancy prevention? And, hai, abortion? Still legal! (I realize that showing a teen who’s having an abortion would turn her into a target, but it’s rarely even discussed as an option.)
WTWYTL: The Patty Stanger Skankover™ involves a straight iron, a shiny, tight, micro-mini, sky-high heels and a day-glo orange, artificial tan. If you follow Stanger’s instructions, your payoff will be a socially awkward, physically unappealing, shallow dweeb with coinage.
ALL: Make your own dough and feel free to date someone who doesn’t cause your vagina to seal itself shut in protest.
“Real Housewives of Wherever”
WTWYTL: Money, faux friendships, self-serving altruism, and jerky partners make for a glamorous life, filled with fabbo vacations, true love and spendy gems.
ALL: It seems clear that no matter what any of these women are doing, if you want a happy life, you should do the exact opposite. Whether we’re talking about New York, New Jersey, the OC or Atlanta, these broads are bitchy, whiny and irritating. In fact, their collective misery seems the only unscripted thing about any of these shows.
WTWYTL: Downing a dozen Jager shots and jumping in a hot tub with a group of horny near-strangers while an enabling film crew records it all for posterity is a one-way ticket to fameballville—just ask Snookie.
ALL: Did you know it’s possible to catch genital herpes from sitting on a hot-tub seat? True, the odds are low, but they go up with every infected reveler and I’m guessing the viral load in this cast is sky high. Hot tubs can also lower sperm counts, which might be a good thing if you’ve got yourself a Situation.
“Rock of Love”
WTWYTL: RoL is where old strippers go to die. The lesson gleaned here is that misshapen implants, a bottomless capacity for boozing and a non-existent gag reflex can snag you a rock star.
ALL: Unfortunately, your troubadour will be a) rocking an unfortunate weave, b) decades past his sell-by date, and c) prone to quoting Wayne’s World.
“Sober House,” “Celebrity Rehab,” “Sex Rehab”
WTWYTL: You’re totally able to wear tiny bikinis in rehab—even if you’re in there for a Tiger Woods, can’t-keep-it-in-your-pants type condition. Also, men and women are housed together and you can be as bitchy as you wanna be with very few repercussions.
ALL: Rehabs are generally segregated along gender lines for a reason. And what kind of medical “professional” puts a lady-beater into the same rehab as the woman he abused? Apparently Dr. Drew will. The only thing this show gets right is the fact that rehab rarely takes the first time.
“Kell on Earth”
WTWYTL: It’s possible to give birth to the world’s most adorable, charming child and have a sane, healthy relationship with your baby daddy even though he lives thousands of miles away.
ALL: Putting aside the fact that Ilario, Ava’s daddy, makes me weak in the knees, this message is aspirational, positive, and sane. Oh, that all parents were this mature. Kelly, you need to talk some sense into those girls on “16 & Pregnant.”