Our fascination with stupidity and chaos

image courtesy of John Saddington (aka @tentblogger) taken while on a visit to Houston

Stupidity is fascinating, isn’t it?

Why else would I be sitting here attempting to write to no avail because I can’t tear my eyes away from the local new coverage?

Coverage of what, you ask? Severe thunderstorms, hail, a couple of funnel clouds spotted and at least one tornado which blew through someone’s garage. Which actually is pretty newsworthy considering the severe drought we’ve been experiencing. But that’s not what’s got me glued to the boob tube.

Instead, I’ve been sitting here for the past 30 minutes or so as the new anchors continually cut back to a reporter standing on a sidewalk as car after car drives into a flooded street. Car after car stalling as the floodwaters splash over the hoods of their cars. In a city where anyone who’s lived here more than a year knows which streets flood quickly during a heavy rain, where we’ve adopted an official slogan of “Turn around and don’t drown” because this happens so often. Where the most prudent and logical thing to do is to simply pull into the nearest parking lot and save their car, people instead choose to believe that their car will be the one that will make it through the water.

Stupidity.

Live and in color.

Fascinating.

Which is not to say that I am immune from blatant acts of stupidity. I’ve committed a lion’s share of those. Fortunately, most of those acts were committed before the invention of phones with cameras and the explosion of the interwebs, before there was such a thing as reality television, where it seems the stupider the actions, the higher the level of chaos, the better the ratings. Why is that?

Because we are fascinated by train wrecks and remarkable acts of stupidity, as long as they’re happening to someone else.

I was introduced to reality television in 2000, when I watched the very first season of Survivor. I believe that first season set the tone for all subsequent seasons and the plethora of reality shows to follow. I’ll admit I was fascinated with the participants and how the interacted with one another, but my fascination turned to disgust when the winner turned out to be Richard Hatch, whose actions and interactions on that show colored him as a pretty deplorable human being. As uncomfortable as the following speech was to watch, Sue summed up fairly well what I find so offensive about this show and the hundreds of others that followed:

If you have cable or satellite television, the sheer number of reality shows to choose from is staggering. The subject matter of said shows varies wildly, but most have a common denominator: People whose lives are a bigger mess than yours is, usually by their own stupid choices. They make us feel better about ourselves in comparison, don’t they?

The cast of Jersey Shore

I grew weary of these shows a long time ago, but not all of them. There are a few that don’t fit the mold of train wreck television. I’ll spotlight one of my favorites, along with others shows you should be watching this year.

Until then, what’s the most horrible reality show you’ve ever seen?

What reality shows do you like?

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