You’re Watching Reality TV Wrong


All fans of reality TV competitions tend to make the same two mistakes. (If your immediate response to this is, “Is watching reality TV competitions one of them?”—good one! Also, you’ve had your fun, now leave.)

Alright, where was I? The two mistakes. To be clear, I am not excluding myself from these mistakes. I have made these mistakes in the past. I will probably make these mistakes again in the future. I simply want to pass along what I’ve learned.

The first reality TV mistake is ROOTING FOR YOUR FAVORITE. Wait, what? That’s crazy talk.

Hear me out. Of course, it’s natural to want your favorite to win. You want them to take down all comers, reach the top of the reality TV mountain, get bathed in a victorious sea of confetti. But here’s the rub: With a few notable exceptions, reality TV winners tend to disappear from our TV screens. This is particularly true of the winners of, say, The Bachelor or The Bachelorette series, at least some of whom do annoying things like “get married” and “have children” and “live happily ever after.” As for the losers? Well, after the tears, the regrets, the self-recriminations—the possibilities are endless. They can show up on Bachelor in Paradise! They can appear as a contestant again! They can become The Bachelor or The Bachelorette! (If their name is Nick Viall, they can do all three!) And this is also true on Drag Race (my favorite show), where the winners simply, well, win, whereas the losers—if they are good enough at drag and popular enough—get to come back on All-Stars. One of my favorite queens, Manila Luzon, appeared on Season 3, then All-Stars 1, and then All-Stars 4! She lost all three times! Huzzah! If I like seeing Manila Luzon on my TV screen—and I do! I really do!—why on earth would I want to her to win? (It’s true, I had an absolute cow when Manila was unfairly voted off of All-Stars 4. Sometimes I forget my own rules. I am but a mere mortal—and Naomi Smalls did her dirty.)

The other mistake reality TV competition fans make? WANTING THE VILLAIN TO GO HOME. Villains make for prime entertainment. They annoy viewers, they antagonize fellow contestants, they cause a ruckus. Ruckuses are the best! Have you ever noticed that once reality TV villains get voted off, the shows become less good? The perfect example is the current reality TV boogeyman, Luke P, of The Bachelorette. Luke P is, objectively, the worst. He decided right out of the gate—way too soon—that he was not only in love with Hannah but that he was the clear frontrunner, and he’s been stunned, hurt, and baffled (he’s easily baffled) every time Hannah doesn’t treat him like the king he believes himself to be. He’s downright troglodyte in his opinions about women and sex—he thinks women’s bodies are temples and that they should save themselves for marriage (but he, Luke P, has had sex many, many times, thank you very much). And he’s constantly gaslighting Hannah, insisting he didn’t say the all horrible things he actually said when she calls him out. The WORST. But! Luke also causes confrontations and fights at the cocktail parties, and drives Hannah to (telegenic) tears. Thanks to Luke, the studly Tyler C looks that much better (he called Luke out on his slut shaming) and the otherwise sorta dull Garrett delivered the best line of the season: “Sweet dreams, Luke.” (This was said with a shit-eating grin after Luke begged Garrett not to share certain details of his toxic behavior with Hannah.)

And yet, week after week, people on Twitter get enraged when Hannah saves Luke. Don’t they realize that Luke has MADE this season? Luke is the gift that keeps on giving. Every time Hannah pins a rose on his steroid-enhanced chest, it guarantees another week of beautiful chaos.

In closing, of course, there is something in human nature that compels us to root for our favorite and against the villain. Resist! Go against your instincts! You’ll be a hell of a lot more entertained because of it.

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