We are all inherently narcissistic whether we choose to admit it or not.
The appeal of being famous has crossed our minds, especially mine.
I can remember the first time I saw MTV’s The Real World when I was about 8 years old. At that age, I thought it was a cool idea to be on television and live in Hawaii.
And as I got older, my understanding of the concept of the show, as well as the growing scope of reality television made me think I would be great for reality television.
The realm of reality television is so vast from reality competition programs (i.e. The Bachelor, Survivor) to reality social experiments (i.e. Big Brother, The Real World) to reality docu-dramas (Sister Wives, The Real Housewives) and a mix between reality and scripted (i.e. The Hills, Duck Dynasty).
Lastly, there’s the celebrity driven reality show documenting any given celebrity train wreck (i.e. Lindsay Lohan). You name it, I’ve watched it, binged it, digested them all. I’ve also learned from my countless hours of viewing what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to being on reality television.
When I finally turned 18 years old, the floodgates of reality television applications opened. The possibilities were endless. As I said in the beginning of the story, I was fascinated by The Real World.
I told everyone and anyone that I was going to be on the show. I even won “Most Dramatic” during my senior superlatives.
I had the bumper sticker hanging on my wall at home that said “what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real?” (A phrase from the opening sequence of the show.)
The stars should have aligned right?
I should also note that I take the Jeopardy online test at least once a year, in hopes of winning some big money. Unfortunately I have never gotten past the initial test. I’ll enjoy sitting at home shouting out both incorrect and correct answers from the comfort of my couch, much to the amusement of my girlfriend.
Every season I would fill out my application and hear nothing. I googled casting tips (prior to the ease of access of Twitter and Reddit), then moved my stalking to Twitter for any tidbits from former castmastes, production company employees, even going as far as engaging in borderline harassment to get their attention.
I was a man possessed by a dream.
I was a man possessed by a dream.
I took it another step further and drove two hours to casting calls in hopes of being discovered. That didn’t work out as I had hoped.
I was not going to give up though.
As we entered the Spring of 2014, a new opportunity to apply for the next season arose and a a chance of turning nothing into something was mine.
For three days, I sat and contemplated what I wanted my application to say.
This was my first impression, and I wanted to make it count. With the rise of Vine and Instagram and these “instant-fame” outlets, it was becoming harder and harder to stand out and be unique.
I also knew that as a loyal viewer of the show that I needed to have a voice. One that was definitely out front and center. After a lot of internalization and mini panic attacks, I finally clicked submit and awaited my fate.
Two weeks later I received the most incredible e-mail I thought I could ever receive.
Having received what I assumed was my own version of the “Golden Ticket,” I drove two hours to the casting to what turned out to be the most shoddy and poorly run event I had ever been to.
The “VIP” wasn’t VIP at all. I had to wait around just like everyone else did who walked in off the street. I wasn’t given any preferential treatment. I was treated like a regular person. It was extremely disappointing.
Yes, I was guaranteed to go into the casting room, but it was in a large group setting with 10 other people and they ask you ONE question. In what world does that mean VIP?
Sitting there in that group interview listening to people talk about their strained relationships, drug and alcohol addictions, lavish lifestyles (and how they got them) made me realize I’M TOO NORMAL for reality television.
Reality television is an abyss that sucks it’s cast members and spits them out at a rapid pace. Look at any of The Real Housewives.
Over the course of numerous locales and countless replaceable women, their relationships with their loved ones soured and ended, they file for bankruptcy, get bad plastic surgery, and the list goes on and on.
The most infamous reality television contestant, Richard Hatch, was sentenced to federal prison on tax evasion.
These of course are the most dramatic and most noteworthy of what life is like after reality television. Look at the girls on America’s Next Top Model for instance; did any of them truly become household names? The Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants vie for the opportunity to be the next man or woman looking for love and maybe a summer in a nice house to win some money by being awful human beings.
The cast of Big Brother and Survivor, two staples of the 2000s, have seen their fair share of racists, bigots and homophobes.
If you were to search for any of the cast members from any MTV or ABC reality show on social media, their accounts are filled with them posing for cheesy selfies hocking whatever product they’re getting paid to advertise, or their promoting bar and club appearances.
Many go back to their real lives, the ones they left prior to their television debuts, hoping their time on television doesn’t come back to haunt them.
The most glaring issue with reality television is that it gives people a false sense of security.
For the viewers, it’s an escape from their daily lives by watching other people ruin their own, while those on the programs we watch are hoping to change their lives financially by participating on these shows. They don’t often consider the long-term effects of their appearance.
For better or for worse, reality television will continue to be around, but the men and women who grace our screens will be scratching to extend their 15 minutes of fame. A fame I no longer find desirable, especially if I need to make a mockery of myself to attain it.
The actress Meagan Good said it best: “make sure your desire to do what you’re aspiring to do is deeper than just fame and being a celebrity.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.
Cover Photo Credit: Justin March/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)