Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | By: HiDee

Stranger than Fiction

They say truth is stranger than fiction.  We write fiction, creating unique and different worlds within the pages of our books.  We also create familiar and comfortable worlds, populated with characters readers can relate to, and therefore care about.  But every once in awhile, truth blows us away.  A real life event motivates us to create a story around it, but the idea is so strange that we find ourselves thinking there’s no way anybody would ever believe we dreamed up such a thing, and who would buy it?  And yet the event really did happen.

Is that why so many people are obsessed with reality TV?  Can people or situations presented on TV really exist as they are portrayed?  What’s the attraction?  And why do we care?

The 24th season of Survivor began last week, which means I will be parked in front of the TV every Wednesday night for the forseeable future.  I’m not interested in being a member of the cast.  Are you kidding?  One, I’m not a water lover.  Two, I don’t like spiders and snakes.  And three, just. . . no.  I’m perfectly happy watching from the relative safety of my family room.  I watch the show because of the people.  The writer in me is fascinated with their motivations and interactions. There are obviously different mentalities on how to play the game.  What makes these people tick?  How do their personalities shape their game strategies?  What makes one player “click” with another and form an alliance?  How much trust can you have in anyone playing a game for a million dollars?  My mind churns with character possibilities.

Other than Survivor, I’m not a big TV watcher. I’d much rather curl up with a good book 99% of the time.  But occasionally, as hubby flips through the channels complaining that there is nothing on (again or still), another reality show catches my eye.

Call of the Wildman is unique.  A backwoods kind of guy (Turtleman) travels around removing nuisance critters from buildings and properties.  In lieu of payment, he accepts whatever the owner can pay - ranging from gas money to food to furniture and other goods.  It’s obvious he does what he does because he loves helping people.  He’s funny, but the show is heartwarming, too.  How many people go out of their way to help others and expect nothing in return?

Mantracker pits two people against two trackers on horseback in remote areas.  The people have 36 hours to reach a prearranged spot, 25 miles away, without getting caught by the trackers.  Sometimes the people have wilderness experience, sometimes they don’t.  But their goal is all the same: to outsmart the trackers and reach the spot without being captured.  Many people today are looking for ways to get back to nature. This show offers an opportunity to pit your skills and knowledge against nature and man.

What young girl (and yes, some of us older ones, too!) hasn’t dreamed of being beautiful and skinny enough to be America’s Next Top Model?  Diverse personalities make the modeling world a different and sometimes difficult place, one which not all are cut out to thrive in.  This show provides a glimpse of the hectic pace and the hard work that goes in to being a model.  How far outside your comfort level are you willing to go, especially when your job is on the line?  I vividly remember one episode where the models were expected to showcase jewelry - while “wearing” things like giant cockroaches and tarantulas.  I would have lost that job.

Music and dance reality shows offer people the chance to strut their stuff, to show off their talents and maybe even launch careers.  The Biggest Loser offers obese people the chance to get help with their weight problems and change their lives. Who Wants to be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link provide opportunities for people to match wits by answering trivia questions.  Viewers may envy the singers and dancers their opportunities for fame.  They may watch the Biggest Loser to learn ways to bring change to their lives.  And who doesn’t think they could go farther than at least some competitors on trivia shows?

The purpose of some other reality shows eludes me.  Big Brother – don’t we have enough Big Brother in the world already?  Who needs to live in a house with strangers to experience this?  The Bachelor or The Bachelorette – I know a lot of women who love these shows but they don’t do anything for me.  Fear Factor – um, NO, do not put me in situations you think will make me overcome my fear.  I’ll only hate you for it.

But in my opinion, the worst of them all is Honey Boo-Boo.  Children are supposed to be cute and natural, not made up to look like teen-age celebrities gone bad.  Previews are made to get viewers’ attention and entice them to watch shows, but these previews are downright scary and I refuse to watch the show.  That child is going to be a holy terror as a teenager.  What is that mother thinking?

Reality TV shows represent different worlds, worlds as diverse as those writers create for their books.  Obviously there are people or situations that viewers relate to, or the shows would not be as popular as they are.

What reality TV shows are you hooked on?  Why do you care about the people on the show?  Do they fuel your writing in some way?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


RT Wolfe said...

I'm really not weird, really. I'm busy!!! I haven't watched tv in years. I go to movies (can't do chores or multitask in a movie theater) but I do not watch tv. I miss the Closer. I used to love that one. Great post!
-R.T. Wolfe

HiDee said...

Good point - at the movies you can relax and enjoy, without interruptions (hopefully!). Thanks for stopping by!