At the advent of reality TV, I thought myself better than everyone else because I refused to watch shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette or any of those other programs showcasing cheesy, forced romance and contrived drama.
I did not count my personal favorites—Survivor and The Amazing Race—in the ridiculously-fake-reality-TV category. I told myself (and everyone else) that I enjoyed those shows because they highlighted adventure in exotic, faraway lands.
Was I at all addicted to the “drama” that took place on beaches and jungles on the opposite side of the globe? Maybe. Because now there is a wee bit of evidence supporting the theory that I, just like everyone else, most likely was.
I have recently developed a slight addiction to a certain show that has made me question my self-proclaimed exemption from the desire for drama-on-display. The show is Hoarders. And I am actually rather obsessed with it. Like a horrific car crash by the side of the road or gruesome crime scene photos shown on Dateline, I cannot seem to look away. I find myself consistently drawn in by the ewwww-factor and the UGH-factor and the oh-this-is-so-absolutely-sad-and-disgusting-and-unbelievable factor.
I have long been fascinated by the inner workings of the human psyche. And based on ratings alone, I am not the only one. Let’s be honest… you’re Norman Rockwell neighbors, working 8 to 5 and grilling out on the weekends don’t exactly make for an interesting case study. But your crazy lady-next-door-with-a-million-cats-and-60-tons-of-trash-on-her-front-lawn kinda does.
Questions spring to mind such as: Why is he or she like that? What is wrong with them that they feel the need to cling to dead squirrels, pre-WWII cans of tuna or rotted jars of peanut butter? When are they going to tire of climbing over laundry, furniture and pizza boxes to get to their toothbrush? How are they OK with rats and roaches running rampant over heaps and piles of junk collecting in every nook and cranny of their living spaces?
I’m not sure if it is a form of escapism, or a way for us to affirm our own “normalness” as we watch others so tragically struggle just to keep both feet on the ground. Perhaps it is nothing more than our innate voyeuristic nature at work. But one thing is for sure… As long as there are humans on this planet and television cameras rolling, we will tune in and watch other people’s drama (be it real or fabricated) while it unfolds before us in our living rooms, with the curtains drawn and a bowl of popcorn in our lap.