Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reality television and writing

Over the past few months and years, after I started seriously looking at author websites and bios and wanting to become a published author just like them, I noticed one thing a lot of writers have in common. Well, a lot of things. There's that whole "we spend hours slaving over our works" thing, and maybe even that whole "we're crazy" thing. But another, more unusual thing I've noticed is that a lot of writers have a particular fondness for reality TV.
Former literary agent turned author Nathan Bransford periodically begins a blog post with a recap of and/or statement about The Hills or America's Next Top Model. Divergent author Veronica Roth has written about both Top Model and Project Runway. And Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (aka the best zombie book ever) has an entire list of her reality tv guilty pleasures on the FAQ page of her website.

Fortunately, I haven't heard a single author express a positive opinion about Jersey Shore. (source)

As for me, I enjoy some reality TV shows, but I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of the genre (or would it be a category?). I can't stand reality dating shows because reality shows, despite their name, are already so artificial. I don't like seeing the dating process, which is something that we have already made way too artificial, be made even more phony.

But I do have a soft spot for those MTV reality soap operas. A few weeks ago, I spent an entire Friday night re-watching the third season of Laguna Beach. You know, that "reality" version of The OC that follows a bunch of rich teenagers through their junior and senior years of high school. And season three was the most boring season, so that says a lot about my state of mind at the time.

This is your brain on reality TV and too many rewrites. (source)

And, like the aforementioned Nathan Bransford, I also enjoyed The Hills, the Laguna Beach spin-off in which season 1 favorite (and now quasi oober celeb) Lauren Conrad moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. And apparently author, because she now has a YA trilogy out about -- shocker! -- a girl who moves to Los Angeles and gets on a reality show. She's also working on yet another YA trilogy about -- another shocker! -- a reality show, the first book of which was released a few weeks ago. I have not read any of her books...but I do follow her on twitter. Does that count for anything?

Alas, when The Hills ended, we MTV junkies needed something else to fill the void. Enter 16 and Pregnant, perhaps the most controversial thing to be shown on MTV since Britney wore that midriff top  in the video for "...Baby One More Time." The show is pretty self-explanatory, as is its spin-off, Teen Mom. Plenty of people complained that the shows glorify teen pregnancy, and maybe they do. But for many of us who are no longer teens, it's an addicting guilty pleasure.

So what is it with authors who spend hours slaving over ultimately brilliant prose and then sit in front of the TV to rot their brain with a phony reality? Maybe that's why we do it -- it's phony, but it's an escape. And, after all, isn't that what entertainment is supposed to be?

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