Cable television never fails to offer a new plethora of cringe worthy programming called “reality TV.” Or more commonly known as “every single show on TV.” No matter what secret fetish you enjoy–there is a show for you. Rebellious Amish life, Mormons with wives, Christians with kids, and young, glamorous toddlers who dawn tiaras offer more than enough hours of viewing pleasure.
After programs like Keeping up with the Kardashians infected our homes, we began to idolize superficial drama more so than ever. Suddenly, the streets of small town America were filled with Kim influenced fashions. These reality stars now sell any type of product they can brand their names on. Fans can now walk into Macy’s to purchase a bottle of reality TV celebrity scent. We continue to cozy up with these celebrities more than once a week. Some days they are the last people we see and they often have more influence on our sub conscience than we would like to admit. The term celebrity has become a vague adjective in our modern times. Anyone married to a decently attractive, one time musician can now call themselves celebrities.
The best decision MTV ever made was to produce a show that merges two of their most popular reality programs into one master program. Thus, The Challenge was created. They literally make casts from the past fight each other for money. As ridiculous as it is to see The Real World’s Eric from 1992 fighting Brad from 2004 in a relay race, MTV did it right. To be on a MTV reality show is now a career. They will nurse you to the limelight then deliver you a sweet pension plan.
The appeal to capitalize off this flashy success is intoxicating, I assume. We have seen a steady stream of celebrity based reality programs within the last ten years. Common themes involve money, money, and Los Angeles. But somewhere between watching Kourtney give birth in our living room and Honey Boo Boo winning a trophy–our appetites shifted.
Anyone with a remote can now scroll through the listings and quickly see the trend taking place. Gritty, bearded, hardworking men who may or may not be missing a toe are seducing America. Viewers are finally running far, far away from Hollywood. We are reverting to the wilderness and into the arms of men like Eustace, Si, & Jim Tom.
On any given evening, at least four similar shows with bearded men can be found. A few of my favorite man lives in the wild while cameras film shows include: Mountain Men, Duck Dynasty, Alaska: The Final Frontier, and Moonshiners. There is nothing glamorous about these programs besides Jewel’s family is the cast of one of them. For the most part, it is a bunch of men trekking through the woods while they breathe heavy sighs because winter is coming. The problems and challenges they face are the polar opposite from my own. It truly makes for compelling television. The villains are usually inclement weather, wolves, or something else life altering. You will never see Eustace Conway (History Channel’s Mountain Men) crying over a blog post or taking a bath in jellybeans.
The rise of this theme parallels with society’s current efforts to revert from Hollywood. Viewers are searching for stories that offer a chance to escape their own suburban nightmares. The story arc in Mountain Men has revolved around a threatening pack of wolves. More than half of all viewers have probably never even touched a wolf. Other stories involve a man getting a smaller than expected paycheck for his seasonal supply of fur. What seems like a very simply plot is actually deeply human and thought provoking.
Upon my first viewing of certain programs, I too laughed at the toothless guys mixing up moonshine in the woods. But I kept watching and damn if I didn’t fall in love with those filthy fellas. There is something incredibly endearing about these men who are living in drastically different conditions than myself. I watch out of curiosity and find myself holding my breath as a long winter comes to a close. It is too easy to make hasty jokes about the often less than sophisticated characters. The cast of Duck Dynasty has somehow allowed us to laugh along with them instead of at them. The emergence of this real life reality television has given us a chance to build some empathy. Our knowledge of other worlds within our own country has been expanded and brought into our homes on a weekly basis.
The rise of this everyday man displays a few characteristics about our taste in entertainment. Have America’s preference for pithy, bronzed bombshells on TV come to a halt? Perhaps we are finally seeking out a little more meat–pun fully intended. But as sure as the sunsets in Montana, this trend will probably pass. I will forever hold these gritty, bearded men in my heart especially once they gain syndication.