Reality TV is not real life

Joey Garcia

My buddy’s girlfriend sits home all day watching reality TV shows like Love and Hip Hop and then accuses him of doing the things that the people on the show have been caught doing. I can swear he isn’t doing any of the stuff she accuses him of doing. He’s a good guy and completely faithful to her. She creates a lot of drama and that causes him a ton of stress. I try to help him out, offer suggestions and the like, but feel like I’m coming up short. Any advice?

Tell your friend to get ahead of his girlfriend's game. Love and Hip Hop is an over-the-top television show about making it in the music industry. It plays into the stereotype that creative people can't thrive without extreme emotions, and so creatives stir arguments by any means necessary, ignorant of the adrenaline it causes or the addiction to adrenaline they're forming. It is categorized as a reality show, which means that each character's role leans into a pathological type. Reality show scripts are written to trigger chaos and filmed to enhance the feeling of being a voyeur. Viewers too easily forget they are watching a fantasy.

The next time your friend's girlfriend lobs an accusation, he should check a fan podcast that offers episode summaries or, better still, the show's Twitter account. From her accusation he can scroll through and figure out which episode she watched. Then he can quickly determine the show's theme and use it to create distance between fantasy and reality. It's easier than it sounds.

Let's say she calls your friend and accuses him of ignoring problems. Your friend can scroll the show's main Twitter account. When he does, he will find a 15-second clip in which a character named Trick is said to be struggling with denial. Your friend can use that information to formulate a response: “Did you see the new episode that dropped with that guy named Trick? I watched a clip that made him look like he didn't have a clue about the difference between privacy and secrecy. I don't believe in keeping secrets from you, unless it's a birthday surprise or something like that, but I value our privacy.” By shifting the conversation from emotional drama to emotional intimacy, your friend can keep his relationship together. That is, if his girlfriend is also willing to grow in her capacity to love. Without her commitment, the relationship is stuck. In that case, he should move on. Otherwise, he'll be her emotional punching bag.

The other issue is this woman's creative energy. People who possess a talent for the creative arts but lack an outlet will infuse creative thinking into areas of their life where it doesn't belong. So if your friend's girlfriend channels her imagination into writing stories, making collages or another form of expression, she will have less energy to pour into developing storylines in her life that mimic what she sees on reality TV. After all, the acronym LHH also means Laughing Hella Hard, which is what we should do anytime we catch ourselves thinking that a reality show is real.

Meditation of the week
“If women talk in ways expected of them or project a feminine demeanor, it’s seen as weak. But if they talk in ways associated with men or bosses, then they’re seen as too aggressive. Whatever they do violates one or the other expectation,” said Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics. What stereotypes do you give your life energy to keep alive?

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