Stuff Gay People Like: Reality TV
December 13, 2011 | 12:26 pm
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 4:01 pm)
For most Americans, reality TV is junk food.
Stations love it because there’s no need to hire expensive actors and writers, so it’s really cheap to produce. Viewers love it because watching everyday people humiliate themselves before a national audience makes them feel better about their own problems, and it lets them fantasize that they, too, could become world-famous millionaires over a span of six weeks.
Reality TV satisfies the worst in everyone. It teaches us that it is other people – the ones who appear on reality shows – who are douchebags; not us for celebrating their suffering. Who doesn’t love to see a cheater get caught? Who doesn’t love to scowl at a rich privileged woman who talks down to everyone while she’s picking out an over-priced wedding dress? Who doesn’t love when the most manipulative jerk on the island is seen for what he is and voted off? Who doesn’t like watching a 45-year-old tax attorney get tasered and arrested on the front lawn of a suburban home, for trying to have sex with a “13-year-old virgin?”
And while it is not socially acceptable to openly mock your 60-year-old war hero neighbor for blinding you with his pale white legs when he mows the lawn in Bermuda shorts, it’s perfectly acceptable to make fun of the strange people who audition on talent shows when it turns out they have none to speak of.
But there are some who see reality programs as more than an opportunity to not think for half an hour. For some, reality TV is education. While most of America’s minds are blank, the more industrious types are taking careful notes.
And gay men, we know, are industrious.
When a fashion guru invents on the spot a “fact” about whether or not you should wear beige to a wedding, it becomes a rule. You want to be in the loop the first moment the knowledge enters American life. Meanwhile, every gay man who knows what his “modeling face” looks like or understands the nuances of mixing plaid and floral fabrics in one outfit got his knowledge from a reality show.
Reality TV is the gay socialite’s PBS.
We believe it’s valuable to know there’s a way to use hot sauce and pork fat as the key flavors in ice cream. Though we lost track of 11 of the 13 ingredients used in the winning dish on Iron Chef, we’ll file it away in our mental library in case we, too, are ever challenged to host a fancy dinner party on short notice serving whatever inconvenient ingredients happen to be in the fridge right now.
From reality TV we learn the value of balance. Too much superficiality is unlikeable, but too little is just stupid. Put some love into your hair if you don’t want your next date to write you off the moment you step out of the car – but don’t make it too puffy, because they’ll judge you to be shallow. Don’t be cocky, but also don’t be too modest or you’re likely to get skipped over in the interview. Obsessive cleanliness creeps people out, but make sure you regularly change your sheets just in case your dateability is someday evaluated by someone passing a blacklight over your bed.
Reality show producers might even have gay viewers in mind considering the number of series titles that include the word “top.”
Finally, reality TV is a warning about what we could become. Wow – do I really seem like that much of a prick when I gossip the way the guys on The A List do? And am I that clingy? Am I that rude to my boyfriend?
The best part about reality TV is that it teaches us what not to become. We can only hope that everyone gets the message.