Oct 102011
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

There was a time in my not-so-distant past in which I could name every “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, tell you how pristine their “two-step” was and recount exactly what type of cheap weave they wore in in the previous episode, all the while performing a solo rendition of the Viennense Waltz I’d just learned from the show.

In high school, I was a reality TV fiend.

And back then, it wasn’t just “Dancing with the Stars” –– I’d devour anything Bravo, the E! network or TLC had to offer me (Yes, even “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant”).

I could shamelessly tell you about how much better the dreamy British “Bachelor” was compared to the last guy, and then I’d give you all my “American Idol” predictions, because Simon Cowell was only sometimes right, and Paula Abdul was always heavily drugged.

So when my mom called recently and asked what I thought of the new “Dancing with the Stars” season, my heart sank. I didn’t know. I hadn’t watched a single episode –– not one sequence-filled clip. I desperately tried to salvage my former glory by relaying some fact about this season’s Chaz Bono controversy and agreeing when my mom said he seemed “surprisingly light on his feet.”

But it suddenly became official: My title as “Reality TV Connoisseur” had been stripped. Not only have I lost the time for it, but I’ve lost most of my interest as well. And (sorry, Mom), I’m glad I’ve been reformed.

The truth is, I still think some reality TV is worthwhile, and not all of it should be reserved for secretive viewing, locked in your room with a leopard-print Snuggie and a bucket of fried chicken –– the air filled with shame.

Because some reality shows like “The Amazing Race” and “Project Runway” are actually pretty great, filled with quality production and a unique premise. They’re prime examples of reality TV done correctly.

But like any recovered addict, there’s the one drug I’m really apprehensive even admitting to have used. For me, it’s the crystal meth of reality TV: “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

I started watching the Kardashian sisters say “like” every other word and complain about their “really stressful” love lives when the show first aired in 2007. I justified watching it by saying, “Ooh I just think it’s funny to see how dumb and materialistic they are. I don’t actually enjoy the show.”

But that –– just like druggies saying they’ll do meth “just once” –– was a complete lie.

I watched the Kardashians, and the array of other trashy reality TV shows, because it was frivolous, mindless entertainment that was satisfying in the moment but ultimately not good for you –– just like eating an entire bag of Cheetos Puffs.

The thing is, reality TV like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is easy; you don’t have to think about it, and it’s a distraction from any other problem you may be dwelling on.

And really, it’s harmless if watched in moderation. But when people begin caring more about Kim Kardashian’s recent wedding to NBA player and neanderthal look-alike Kris Humphries more than, say, the job crisis, then we know there’s a problem.

It seems that, as apathy from our generation toward political an social reform increases, so does our affinity toward Kardashian-fueled entertainment and other shows like “Jersey Shore.”
But what can we do to stop it? How do we climb up from our seemingly inevitable descent into lives filled with water-cooler talk about who hook-ups and scandalous marriages into something more profound?

I wish I knew the easy answer.

But as a recovered addict, I’m on the cusp of making up for time lost in the world of reality TV. I’ve begun again the elusive, ancient practice of choosing to read a book over watching cast members of the “Bad Girl’s Club” say, “Hold my hoops! Imma’ ‘bout to pop-off on this hoe!”… but it’s still a constant struggle.

Yet I think if our generation wants to overcome the cultural label of superficial apathy we seem to be developing, it will indeed be a constant struggle.

We need to start making a daily, conscious effort to not become Kim Kardashian.

Instead of staring at the Facebook newsfeed for a half an hour, let’s choose to spend the same amount of time catching up on actual news.

And instead of spending our free time reading Texts from Last Night, perhaps lets start reading texts from more than two decades ago … like … the Constitution.

No? Too far of a stretch? Well, let’s at least start trying to read things more than 140 characters.

Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

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