Spending time with my parents means spending time with Big Brother, Tipping Point, MasterChef, The Bachelor, and several other pointless TV shows I would never normally bother to open my eyeballs to watch.
But when I’m there with them, even though I HATE the shows, I find myself utterly compelled.
That’s the point, right? They’re junk food for the brain.
I recently spent almost three weeks with my folks. When I’m with them, they watch a lot less TV. Mostly because we’re hanging out and talking. But also, because I’m such a snob about reality TV and they feel a bit ashamed to watch them with my accusing face looking on.
I have always dismissed these shows. They’re so cringeworthy and awful. They seem to demonstrate the worst of human beings instead of the best. I genuinely hate them.
But as I sat there with my mum, watching the second to last night of Big Brother and – at the same time – some other equally important MasterChef episode, channeling up and down to catch the important bits of each, ignoring the boring bits, I finally realised their value.
They are stuff.
And we all need stuff.
My stuff is books and documentaries and hand feeding abandoned kittens at 2am. My stuff is taking courses and playing music and learning Italian. I think my stuff is pretty important. But other people have different stuff.
The thing about stuff is, you don’t really know what your stuff is until you try out a bunch of different stuff. And reality TV stuff allows you to try other people’s stuff.
My mum watches these shows because she really is interested in what these other people are interested in. She’s interested in their lives and the decisions they make. She wants to see them argue and make up and scheme and work together.
It’s a kind of vicarious stuff.
But you know what else is vicarious stuff? Reading.
I love books. I love to read. I think it’s important to read books. But really, I’m interested in the lives of the characters and the decisions they make and how they fight and overcome their obstacles.
Reading is vicarious stuff.
You know what else is vicarious stuff? Music.
I get great pleasure from listening to music. I’m fascinated by the choices the musicians made, what the lyricist is implying, what the whole amounts to and how it makes me feel.
Music is vicarious stuff.
So here I am, being a snob, thinking that my vicarious stuff is better than any other vicarious stuff.
Thinking that reading books and listening to music are any better than what my parents watch on TV.
Do you know how many people are involved with creating a TV show? Hundreds! I may not personally enjoy it, but there are hundreds of creative people working on everything from project management to set design. That’s worth more than my snobbery.
I’m not going to start watching Big Brother or MasterChef on my own any time soon. But maybe next time I watch them with my mum, I won’t moan so much.
(no promises, though, Ma!)