Why we binge on blingy reality TV

Updated on Feb 06, 2021 07:41 PM IST
What makes TV shows showcasing lifestyles of the rich and famous such voyeuristic gems that you can’t help but bingewatch them?
Keeping Up With the Kardashians (left) and Bling Empire showcase affluence
Keeping Up With the Kardashians (left) and Bling Empire showcase affluence
ByShijo George, Shunali Khullar Shroff

“Call it cringe: but reflect on how these shows get us past testing times”

By Shijo George

Shijo says traditional cinema is now passé
Shijo says traditional cinema is now passé

It’s midnight. Realising I am alone, I shut the door, pull the drapes and prepare to delve deep into my guilty pleasure – Reality TV!

Fine, go ahead and call it ‘cringe’. But before you pass judgment on modern pop-culture’s fine gems, reflect on how these very shows got you past testing times. Admit it… when you saw familiar celebrity faces without their customary make-up or grandeur, you too visited the parlour with a universe of possibilities. Sigh! Sometimes I wonder if we give these shows their due credit for their invaluable contribution to our mundane existence.

Moreover, traditional cinema is passe. When I can rather sit on a couch, holding popcorn and evesdropping on 20 strangers put together inside a random TV studio. Now neither am I looking for relatability here, nor satiating my closet desires. But even if a tinge of aspiration accidentally seeps in, as I watch these strangers going on fancy holidays or celebrating larger-than-life lifestyles, reality TV keeps it simple and gives us enough validation and attention even if we merely adopt a signature phrase or pose from our favorite characters.      

Perhaps an alternate reality exists where we get to witness these masterpieces on the silverscreen someday, but until then, we shall strive to continue our binge behind the veil, on mute, on lunch breaks and over cancelled plans, each day, everyday. 

Shijo George is a Delhi-based independent filmmaker

“Watching TV is passive thinking; shows that glorify materialism do nothing for me!”

By Shunali Khullar Shroff

Shunali Khullar Shroff says reality TV makes her questions why people court fame so desperately despite their privileges
Shunali Khullar Shroff says reality TV makes her questions why people court fame so desperately despite their privileges

I can understand the fascination that people have with the lives of the absurdly wealthy. It isn’t unnatural to be curious about how the world’s richest live, and to want a peek into their impenetrable universes made up of private jets, yachts and gilded mansions.

Watching such shows can induce some relief in viewers to discover that even though their struggles are vastly different from ours, when it comes to despair, insecurity and unhappiness, even the obscenely rich aren’t spared. Arguably, sadness looks prettier in couture. But beyond this, I see no reason for their popularity.

I also cannot wrap my head around the fact that these people, despite their privileges and trust funds, court fame so desperately that they have agreed to allow cameramen not only into their fabulous closets but also into their bedrooms. Is nothing sacred to them?

Watching TV is a passive form of thinking. Devouring shows that glorify rampant materialism, gossip, power struggles and petty rivalries – all of which are the things that hook the audiences – does nothing for me. With reality shows, most of the time viewers tend to believe that at least some of what is unfolding on the screen is true.

So even though to a greater or lesser degree we are all voyeurs when it comes to looking into other people’s lives, there is so much else I would rather be doing with my time. 

Shunali Khullar Shroff is a Mumbai-based writer. Her last book was titled Love in the Time of Affluenza.

From HT Brunch, February 7, 2021

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