Reality TV: The End of Shame

When the end of the world comes, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse won’t greet us; The Real Housewives of New Jersey’ll tear us to shreds.

Television long ago brought something to the world that should never have been mixed: entertainment and reality. Because the moment you stick a camera in the face of reality, the reality gets lost. What you end up with is the ability for a camera to be on while a human being sheds all traces of its shame. That place where one openly cowers in a passive emotion while being in a public place.

I love a good car crash, not the sort that involves a motor vehicle and some poor slob texting-in his fantasy baseball picks. I’m talking about the car crash that is “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Like a rubbernecking commuter getting one last look at those pretty flashing lights, I can’t take my eyes off that show. Its complete lack of shame coupled by the site of human beings unconsciously relishing in their own self-destruction is thrilling to me.

Shame is the lost gesture in today’s ugly world of reality TV and we need it back. It’s what separates us from the animals.

In one of the shows more shameless moments, a 45-year-old divorced housewife, we’ll call her Danielle Staub, asks her boyfriend, 20 years her junior, if he’d like a blowjob in the bathroom. It’s not that she asked that question, “Would you like a blowjob in the bathroom?” over dinner in a restaurant; in real life that sounds like fun. But when a camera is on you and you know it, do you really mean it? Or are you just saying that for the camera?

But don’t get Danielle wrong, this particular housewife has a resume. It reads like this:

“You either love me or you hate me, there is no in between,” says the single mom of two daughters. She prides herself as one of the first female American Express Black card members in New Jersey. She is also active in her local parish and regularly attends mass.

That’s how the resume reads of a human who has shed its veil of shame and now lives in the make believe world of reality TV. But reality TV is never real; it’s always produced, manipulated or rigged for a predetermined outcome.

The loss of shame is not a title exclusive to “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” it belongs to every bit of media that crosses our path today. You can hear it in the lyrics of Eminem. See it in the films of Woody Allen. Download it as Pam and Tommy, or Kim or Paris. And for the first time in history you can watch a reality TV President on ABC, CBS and NBC.

“The Real Housewives of New Jersey” is over, and I’ve come to my senses. Now when I find myself in glee of another human’s shameless moment, I shut the computer down, turn the radio off and I back away from the remote. In the end, it’s what separates me from the animals of New Jersey.

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