An article in Psychology Today highlights why so many of my smart, successful friends share the same guilty pleasure of loving juicy, dramatic, trashy reality TV. They found that those with “intellectual interests” were drawn to reality TV as entertainment with the same frequency as normal people — it seems that shows like The Bachelor, The Real Housewives, and MTV’s The Challenge speak to the human condition in a way that crosses IQ lines.
[*] Seeing the lifestyles of extremely rich or famous (or just very emotionally immature and dramatic) people is foreign to our own lives, so it serves as the perfect escape where we can watch something without our minds being drawn back to familiar stressors.
[*] The cast members take risks we are unwilling to take in our own lives. Getting drunk and made bad, potentially life-altering, decisions is something most people grow out of by their mid-20’s. The idea of seeing people act against their own interests and do things like have bathroom sex with a random person is kind of thrilling to think about, but something that for most of us, is a lot more fun (and safer) to watch than do.
[*] These shows allow us to live our our insane perfectionist fantasies. People on reality shows often have the time/money/lifestyle resources to focus on whatever they want to do. Through watching these shows, we can live our our own fantasies of what we’d do with unlimited resources: get a revenge body like Khloe, dedicate ourselves to an athletic pursuit, achieve beauty standards though money/surgery, or just be a better partner or parent in a way that’s only realistic when you don’t have any real-life concerns. (This may be one reason Rob Kardashian has drawn so much ire, he goes against the grain of the perfectionist fantasy we have about ourselves being in his situation).
[*] We can make real life conclusions about human nature by watching it play out in the microcosm of a show.
Next time one of your friends tries to feel guilty about indulging in their (extremely normal) need for entertainment, remind them that smart people are going to get something to think about out of anything. It doesn’t always have to be something high-brow. If you’re a curious person, anything will make you think and question. (You can also remind them that smart people generally worry about being dumb. Dumb people usually believe themselves to be smart).