The Toxic Dump: Reality Television

The Toxic Dump is dedicated to the unedited chapters, traits, and tools of Toxicology that were left on the cutting room floor.

You guys remember when we were riding the reality television Bandwagon HARD?! Like it was all reality, all the time? Thank Goodness scripted television has made such a glorious return, because that was a hard phase of viewership.

This chapter was cut from Toxicology because as the reality wave crashed and the tide turned, it didn’t seem as relevant or important to highlight what many people already determined: The only thing real about reality television is how toxic it is.

Seeing is believing. That applies to everything in life. What we view changes, alters, and even defines our perceptions. As we spend more time in front of the television and less time directly interacting with one another, it is naive of us to believe that our visual experience is not rapidly becoming our actual associations for behavior.

One of my favorite television shows, that I have watched regularly for my entire life is I Love Lucy. Well-acted and always entertaining, Lucy and her continuous antics have provided for hour after hour of humor. The success of the show throughout time is a testament to how great it was, and still is, for its many fans.

However, it took me evaluating all things toxic in my life to conclude, Lucy was a horrible friend! She and Ethel had one of the most toxic relationships I have seen in my life. Constantly fighting, nitpicking, throwing each other under the bus, and being distrustful. I laughed as they ripped their matching dresses off one another while singing of friendship, the irony, but that is not the kind of friendship I want.

It is great that within that thirty minutes they are always able to forgive and forget, but I would much rather have a friend who thought twice about always involving me in situations that are not in my best interest. Of course, this is an extreme example. A comedic show such as I Love Lucy should be watched for entertainment, not as a reference of friendship development. Still, this seemingly obvious statement is not always clear when the lines are blurred by the title of “reality television”. These relationships we see between women aren't the scripted hilarity of Lucy comparing the attractiveness of her child to Caroline Applebee's, by the way little Ricky was clearly cuter, but real “friends” embracing anarchy as the standard of camaraderie.

And so, we spin on the reality wagon. This wife, that ex-wife, this hairstylist, that bad girl, have all been thrown into our world with their warped sense of actuality, promoting everything toxic along the way. We invite them into our homes on a weekly, or even daily basis, and allow their issues to permeate our ordinary with their extraordinarily dysfunctional ways and relationships.

It is terrible, but we love it at the same time.

Fortunately, most of us can recognize these women are not the norm and that is what lends to their sensationalism and provides for “good” television. They are required to coexist with people who they would not likely associate with on a regular basis and these unnatural interactions lead to unnatural reactions. I know of no mature woman who has ever thrown a drink or blow at someone one night then proceeded to have lunch with that person the next day to talk about it. I do know some women that after many unsuccessful attempts at rectifying a strained relationship, continue to not just see, but interact with a former friend. So, these scenarios exist, even if the culminate with different results. Nevertheless, typically, we do not participate in our frenemy relationships to the extent they do, because there is no financial benefit to be found in us doing so.

Their “keep it real attitudes” and “bully personas” highlight the toxic nature of The Pack in its full glory. If we are to be honest, they aren't keeping it real, they are being reckless. They are not strong, they are weakened by entitlement and unable to translate their emotions into a sensible action. They are choosing to relabel “irresponsible” to “provocative” but that does not change their behaviors from “helpful” to “harmful”.

And we still love it.

Somehow, we manage to rationalize their performances. We end up rooting for The Bully, while dismissing the nonviolent person as weak. We cheer these toxic outbursts as if we all walk around throwing tantrums and expensive wine bottles in nice restaurants. We clap and laugh at their reads, backstabbing and rudeness, knowing that that should never be tolerated in our own lives. Just by watching, we accept the premise that these are normal women who just have unique lives that we want to understand and the drama that occurs along the way is just a bonus.

In reality, these women, and their relationships are about as authentic Gucci slides from Wish and they are greatly compensated for the spectacle they participate in.

With the more logical women being replaced ever seen for characters, I have said enough is enough. These women, the people who promote them, and the people who support them all know the more outrageous the situation and response, the more face time they will get on the screen. The more time on the screen, the more valuable their presence becomes for the success of the show. The more successful the show, the more money they receive. Time is literally money and being toxic literally pays.

But just for these women. Because their behavior, outlook on life, and representation on television benefits no one but themselves.

I am not knocking anyone for making money. The role they play is how they pay the bills. The confusion comes when they attempt to convince the masses that these moments on television are not the full spectrum of their personalities. Or that they should not be judged solely by the negative things they do. When they open their lives for that exact thing to happen. I am aware that there is a spin for ratings and that these women do more in their day then eat lunch, throw parties and fight. But to feel entitled to the benefit of doubt that you are not a terrible friend, when that is what is directly shown in your “reality” show is asking the viewer to do a lot.

My views on these kinds of shows would be a lot different if they were not called reality. If these were scripted sitcoms, we could easily sum up their importance to make believe. But is this what we want to endorse as the kinds of friendships we have to look forward to, for real? If you begin to include perpetual animosity and tension into your definition of a typical relationship, or find comfort viewing relationships you can recognize as unhealthy, you need to reevaluate your toxicity. Just as these women embrace the negativity linked to allowing viewership dictate their actions, you must go out of your way to embrace that sometimes too much toxicity, in whatever form, is unhealthy.