Is reality television altering the way people think about or view romance?
Today’s post starts with a question that may have a frightening answer—at least, for me it may. Before I dive headfirst into this abyss of a rabbit blackhole, let me begin with a brief explanation of what brought this question to mind. Throughout the week, I’m busy with work, but on Sunday evenings, I have some time to relax. It is then that I enjoy engorging my mind on junk tv that doesn’t require me to think too much to get a good chuckle. Several years ago, my television watching began to change—first out of curiosity, then out of choice, and then because out of limited choice. The cable company changed and affordable cable came in a reduced package. Initially, I began watching reality tv to see what it was all about. What was the hype? I enjoyed the elimination challenge shows, the ones where individuals were given some outrageous (but accomplishable) task that needed to be solved by the end of short deadlines, the most. At the time, there still was a variety of sitcoms and dramas. But that began to change. Reality tv went from a novelty to the norm, with no genre being left unscathed until they saturated daytime and prime time.
Not that reality tv was ever a reality, I did enjoy that some elements seemed unscripted and genuine. I felt that I was gaining a sneak peek in someone else’s more exciting life. But the more I watched, the more draining and depressing they felt. Then one day, it dawned on me, this “reality” stuff is all (or the majority) of what millennials may know and respond and what older generations are being forced to adapt to.
I’m about to reveal my age when I say this next because I truly feel old now. I remember when computer dating held a stigma. Now, it’s the status quo. Young physically flawless women are lined on the tv in droves to compete for the affection of a single man and are destroyed to tears after an episode or two when he does not pick them from the liter. Are they truly convinced they are in love? And why would a woman do this? I asked a female friend this who pointed out something startling. She asked me if I’d been to any bars of clubs lately. My answer was no. Then, she asked me why. My jaw dropped as I began answering. In this area where I was sitting, there are no bars. The closest thing to a bar is a restaurant (e.g., Buffalo Wild Wings or Applebee’s) that serves alcohol. A group may go there just for drinks, but more likely, people go mainly for the food. As far as clubs, there are a few, but they are all geared towards the “don’t know I’m not twenty anymore” crowd. What I mean is the target audience is the local college scene. Who shows up are pervs and cougars hoping to pounce on young, tender, inexperienced meat and mothers squeezed into their teenage daughter’s clothes? Fights are almost a constant, and as a result, many of the venues look like Harpo’s place in The Color Purple. Mostly, the college students do not go there, preferring private house parties or fraternity/sorority soirees. However, even if they wanted to go clubbing, many could not afford the jacked-up admission fee that does not include the cost of drinks.
The business professional types largely stay at home, as in the Bible Belt, it is looked upon negatively to be seen in any establishment that serves alcohol, and many surrounding counties are dry. Their recreational excursions revolve around church events. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking church functions. However, the old adage, “meet a nice boy in church” appears mythical. Everyone in church is already coupled-up.
That leaves malls and grocery stores for meeting people. Gone are those days, too. Malls are the graveyards of dying retailers with the few that remain open having few venues and limited stock. It is a sad state that more people are not invested in keeping brick and mortars around and pumping breath into local communities. Let me stop and say that I am a huge supporter of mom and pop stores and buying local. I have been heavily criticized for my position with some citing it as being political. I see it as residents being able to support their families and a check and balance system against blatant monopolies. I do not view anything political about a person wanting to put food on the table, a roof over their head, and non-designer clothes on their backs. If this view upsets people, I do not make any apologies about holding it, but mom and pop stores are one of the cornerstones of this country, which appear to be fading out of existence. In my teen years, malls were booming and place for anyone who was anybody to be on the weekends. But a trip to the mall here is a very different experience.
Instead of stylish display windows, they are covered with paper. An occasional cellphone chime has replaced constant chatter, footsteps, and speaker music. Kiosks have been replaced by vending machines. One would have better luck panning for gold than finding a mate in a mall in this area. Outlet malls once were the diamonds. Now, even those are closing.
The state of grocery stores is similar. Few “grocers” are opened. Most are large chain supermarkets or mega department stores that sell food. Patrons who frequent them are nose-deep in text messaging and are interested in getting out as quickly as possible. Chitchat detains them, and they don’t like that. They are annoyed by the crowds, waits in line, and having to self-check.
In my desperate attempt to think of some hub for meeting, I considered parks, spas, and gyms. Well, there are no spas, so I can cross that off immediately. Gyms are a beast of a different nature. There are basically two kinds in the area—male and female. I don’t think it’s the owners’ intention that they are that way, though. I know that is not how they are advertised. However, if you look into the windows, it rare to see mixed crowds.
There are several parks, but they are all small. The largest one is surrounded by a small walk track (eight laps equals a mile). It gets a lot of traffic for all ages. However, most walkers have earbuds stuffed in their ears as they exercise, likely to drown out the screaming kids that dart across the path on the way to the swings. The thing about the parks is they seem to be all or nothing. Either they are crowded with barely enough room for people to exercise or desolate. There’s not much seating, and the park is divided into three sections. One section has no parking and no paths. The landscape is very uneven and few people go there.
Even when there are city-sponsored events, that area is unused, except for parking. The largest section has a sprinkle of benches and has what is called an “amphitheater” that runs along the outskirt. Even the newly developed dog park is utilized. Only two parks have lights. The first park is used for little league soccer. Those lights are only turned on for games. The other park, the largest one—the one with the three sections, only has one area with lights. In short, unless there is a hosted event, the park is not ideal for meeting new people. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone here claimed to have met their significant other at one of these parks.
After dissecting my current living area, it became clear to me: I’m not in Kansas (or in my case, Louisiana) anymore. My investigative nose got a bug, and I began to question how people found spouses/partners here. What I quickly learned is that most couples are natives to the area, meaning they’ve always known each other, or, at least, have known each other since grade school. A few stated that they met their love interest in college (and there are several colleges nearby) and have been married for years or they are currently enrolled in college. The single scene for adults really does not exist.
But wait. I bet you’re thinking about dating apps. Hmm. I remember when those used to be stereotyped. Now, they’re the norm. But even those are a letdown. In small regions, there are few compatible matches in close proximity. A potential love connection may be a hundred miles away, a.k.a., long-distance relationship.
And that leads to reality tv for people to get their romantic fix. Watching these as the only examples of romance, one begins to normalize it as dating reality. Patience is thrown out with the bathtub, baby, and all the diapers. Insta-love is the belief du jour. Actually, it’s not even insta-love. Forget dinner and a movie or even the three-date rule. There’s one reality tv program that participants meet each other at the altar (or wherever) seconds before getting married. Women wait in droves to get selected as the chosen one to be wined and dined on frozen television dinners by a pool. Not to knock anyone’s hustle, but what real woman (or man for that matter) would put up with that. Well, apparently a lot. However, it is being exposed frequently that many of the persons on reality tv are actors with scripts, which is fine. Or it would be fine. But how about calling a spade a spade as the old folks say? Instead of calling it reality tv where viewers expect some portions of dialogue and circumstances to be a quarter of a centimeter true, say it’s a drama, sitcom, or some work of fiction.
I know I never expected reality television to be “real,” but on some of these “dating” shows, I did hold out hope that what I was seeing was true love—that maybe the situation or setting may have been manipulated but the feelings were real. Now, even my faith in that is shook, as some networks are brassily supporting cheating and adulty. Lies and deceptions are being upheld as reality standards that should be accepted by some networks. Now, I say some and not all. And I’m not pinpointing or singling out any one particular television production.
In all fairness, anyone watching television should not be using television as their only source for a moral compass. However, it does cause one to wonder with the seeming evaporation of romance in many smaller communities and the use of the word “reality”, how are people defining romance?
What are your thoughts on romance? Do you feel that the definition of romance is changing? What do you think is romantic? Have your thoughts of romance changed? I’d like to hear your opinions. Please leave a comment and let me know your opinion. Also, let me know if you like this type of content and would like to see more of these kinds of posts.
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