The anti-exceptionalism of America

I’m reading a book that was recommended to me by a friend called “What’s so great about America” and I have to say I am really enjoying it. He talks about all the reasons other countries, ethnic groups, religious groups, etc. have to truly hate America. I can think of one.

Reality TV.

If you’ve ever sat and wasted an hour of your life watching Jersey Shore, the Bachelor/Bachelorette, Survivor, or any of the other truly mindless shows that currently dominate the nightly television lineups, then you know why I am saying all of this. These shows create D-list talents, faux celebrities, and contribute absolutely zero to society in general. Whether or not people want “an escape” from real life, this isn’t what I’d call an escape. People get more worked up over decisions they have no say in than they do over their own lives. People deserve better programming than reality tv.

Some will say that American Idol gave us Carrie Underwood (I say it gave us William Hung). I can’t say much about it in all honesty…. (I actually sat in the cold for a few hours years ago to tryout for the show. I got a wristband and an appointment 3 days later. I didn’t go back).

I do think that it puts people on TV for 8 weeks that have one of the following:
a) awful parents/coaches that won’t break the news to them that they probably shouldn’t go or
b) no talent but must prove something to themselves no matter the cost or
c) fame-hunger issues and are looking for ANY kind of press or notoriety
d) an amazing discovered talent that people like me really want to see

FOX will literally spend weeks broadcasting hundreds of people who cannot sing, don’t know it, and think they have a shot at Hollywood and the final show. It’s comparable to watching Nascar for wrecks, or Hockey for fights. People don’t care so much about seeing someone do really well, rather I think they wish to see someone crack under pressure.

So, I took the time to add it all up. Observe. Wikipedia reports that each season of the Bachelor, all 14 of them total, have averaged 10 million viewers – with a decline more recently. Anyway, 14 seasons, 8 episodes per season, 10 million viewers per week translates to (Drumroll please..)

1.12 BILLION hours of human time wasted. And that assumes the shows are always 1-hour shows, and I know some of them are 2-hour shows. Think of the time lost. As I type this out, people are tweeting about how angry they are. Imagine if people would have just read a book for themselves, or one to their children, or to any child. Imagine if people spent that time thinking about how to better themselves through faith, work, family, exercise, etc.

It took me 20 minutes to write this and look up the stats. I wasted 20 minutes. Not a good use of my time. But, I have to think, at least I was doing something real. That’s what life is all about anyway, I think.



2 responses to “The anti-exceptionalism of America”

  1. Megan says :

    I'm definitely not going to yell at you about this. You are absolutely right. Reality television (and most non-reality television) is a sorry excuse to escape our own lives. And if we walk outside with a decent attitude in the morning and take a look around with our heads on straight, I think we all might find there's no reason to escape in the first place.

  2. Wes Hartline says :

    Thanks Megger. I just cannot understand where the value is found related to those shows. Life is already too short. I don't want to waste it watching "real" people live out a written life. That's not reality.

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