Oh Chad and Evelyn.
I knew the two of you would be together forever since you first met on the VH1 reality show "Basketball Ball Wives." Your heated Skype sessions proved to me that your love was true. The two of you were the beacon of light for monogamy, and I know you two will forever sit on your throne of matrimony among other successful reality show couples.
Evelyn Lozada filed for divorce? Chad Johnson allegedly head-butted her?
This just can't be!
Oh wait, yes it can.
Newton N. Minnow famously regarded television as a "vast wasteland," and that truth couldn't be more apparent today. The frenzy surrounding the domestic dispute between Lozado and Johnson would have some believe that this type of debauchery is a one-time thing. But have we, as a television audience, become so jaded that we actually miss the reality in reality shows?
My instincts point to yes. Since the advent of realty television with MTV's "Real World" series in 1992, we've had a different kind of introduction to entertainment. For once, there was a show on television that exuded the scandal that we craved without the script. It was the view we all wanted, similar to James Stewart spying on his neighbors in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 mystery thriller "Rear Window".
But the first few episodes of "The Real World" were boring, which was far from the expectations of producers and the audience. So over time, "The Real World" stopped becoming an intriguing sociol project and instead transformed into an animal house where producers pinned people prone to argument together in a small house. The result? Lots of drama and higher ratings.
Today, reality television has spun a myriad of shows from fighting mob wives to dating disasters, and even competitions tow in astronomical amounts of money. The cast of reality shows are actors, whether we want to believe it or not. They are characters with insane stories, and whether or not their stories hold any validity, they put on an entertaining show and always receive a standing ovation.
This is what keeps us jaded. On "Basketball Wives," Lozada was notorious for her trash talking and glass throwing. She was seen as promiscuous and possibly the most devious until Tami Roman appeared on the show in season two. When Lozada began dating Johnson, many thought their relationship would tame her inner beast, and for once, people began seeing Evelyn in a good light.
This image remained until their dispute in August 2012, and as expected, we reacted like anyone would to the climax of a really good movie. We gasped. The director had managed to surprise us because we really didn't see that twist coming in the storyline. Of course this emotion is just fine sitting in a theater, but it's odd when we watch real people on television and react the same way. The truth is, no matter how much producers pin them to this image, reality television personalities are not actors. Their persona on TV is who they are — there's no costume removal after the cameras stop rolling.
So what next? Reality television rules the airwaves now, and with millions of loyal fans I'm sure networks won't stop pumping out new shows anytime soon. As an audience, we will continue to watch reality television as a staple for our entertainment. Our responsibility is to watch reality television a little more intelligently.
But how can we manage that?
The point of watching our favorite characters is to escape for 30 minutes or an hour into a realm where misspelled expletives is comedy, and we really can believe that a perpetual philanderer and a woman prone to violent tendencies and jealousy can succeed in marriage. But it's the aftermath that matters most. As the scandal continues to unfold, the media will address the dispute from numerous angles to gamer ratings and readership. But what's really left to discuss? After all the probing, no one is entirely sure of what happened in their home the night of the fight, and the story might end twisted.
What's really important is to understand that they're only people, not characters. We are only setting ourselves up for failure because we placed them on a pedestal they never deserved. It's the same problem we have with celebrities, and it's probably an innate instinct to continue to hold certain people to higher standards.
Regardless of whether or not we make an effort to change our ways as an audience, one thing is for certain. We will continue to watch reality television. Just try and separate the character from the person next time you tune into your favorite show.
— Victoria Wright is a senior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.