My wife and I really like reality competition TV. I use the term to differentiate from other types of reality TV that turn a camera on some businesses like Pawn Stars or Property Brothers. Those can be interesting, but I can take them or leave them. Other reality shows like Keeping up with The Kardashians or The Real Housewives of wherever are just ways for people to make themselves feel better about their lives by watching rich or famous or rich famous people squabble. I have enough people squabbling in my life to need to watch it on TV.
We like the competition shows like America’s Got Talent, Survivor, American Ninja Warrior, Dancing With the Stars, and Shark Tank. Each contestant has some story of overcoming obstacles. My wife and I tease each other that we simply haven’t overcome enough obstacles to compete, let alone win, any of these shows..
I know that the producers of these shows manipulate our emotions to root for the contestants. And some of the obstacles seem manufactured, especially those contestants who “overcame childhood bullying”. I mean, really? If that were a significant obstacle to overcome, my wife and I would both qualify. Wasn’t everyone our age the subject of bullying? Except for the bullies, I suppose. We just dealt with it and learned to get over it.
The thing we love most about watching these shows, is that in the end, the winner is the person who… well, who actually won because of their skills and talents. OK, our favorite doesn’t always win. Sometimes someone wins by accident or by popularity—no competition is perfect. But the person who does win is usually, though not always, one of the contestants who worked the hardest and did things right. In other words, they represent the American dream.
While the mainstream media is reporting on race riots, affirmative action, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter and white supremacy (and at the same time white fragility), the people on these reality competition shows represent the entire spectrum of races, economic situations, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and whatever other categories the progressives are trying to divide us by. These people shake each other’s hands, wish each other well, hug each other, root for each other, cry when they lose and even sometimes cry when their competitor loses. All of which doesn’t stop them from competing hard and often performing amazing feats of strength, intelligence, endurance, or creativity. Isn’t having this opportunity the definition of the American Dream? We don’t always win, but we know we have a shot at it like everyone else.
My wife and I often cry in sadness for the losers who tried so hard but didn’t quite make it, hoping that they will eventually reap some reward, like an investment or a successful career by some other means. Like dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling who, after losing America’s Got Talent went on to become a worldwide sensation. We also often cry in happiness for the person who spent a lifetime crafting a skill that no one recognized until they won a competition, like singing ventriloquist Terry Fador, who, after winning America’s Got Talent, is now one of the biggest attractions in Las Vegas after years of performing at kids’ birthday parties and nearly empty venues.
The diversity of these winners, based on talent alone rather than “equity programs,” may be best represented by Eugene Landau Murphy Jr, the car washer who had just lost all of his belongings when he was robbed the day before auditioning for America’s Got Talent. He had never sung in front of an audience. A silly, gum-chewing guy in jeans and dreadlocks who opened his mouth to smoothly sing the best Sinatra songs since… well, since Sinatra. He was an anti-stereotype. He won and now has a successful singing career. And like all the winners, he gives back to the community to help others reach their dreams, based on their talents not their identity.
Unfortunately, these shows sometimes go off the rails because the producers decide they need to influence the criteria to be “more fair,” “more woke,” or to “provide equity.” As in the broader society, these efforts fail and undermine the whole concept of competition and fairness. Several years ago, Survivor divided teams by race. From that biased starting point imposed by the producers, the competitors ended up competing and ignoring racial classifications. As they should. This season, the producers picked a particularly “diverse” set of contestants, meaning hardly any white people except those who identified as some “nonbinary gender.” Plus, they decided to be so woke as to modify the game whenever any contestant was offended. So, host Jeff Probst’s signature call to “come on in, guys” was replaced by “come on in,” simply because one contestant, who after a day of thinking about it, decided “guys” was inappropriate. Like corporate America and mainstream media, one tiny minority of easily offended people dictated the rules for everyone else. Survivor had become a microcosm of the worst of America. We couldn’t watch past that first episode.
With that one unfortunate exception, these competition reality shows give me hope. They seem to be real melting pots where someone’s skills and talents outweigh their skin color, their chosen identity, or their ancestral grievances. I truly believe that the majority of Americans want a color blind society. We believe in competition as well as good sportsmanship. We admire the desire to get ahead based on abilities and nothing else. We know that people of all kinds can compete and get along whether they win or not. And we encourage people who lose to try again.
In summary, I believe the America presented by progressive politicians and woke news media is fake, but reality competition TV represents the real America. At least, I need to believe that to believe that America and its principles are alive and well and will endure.