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Culture > Entertainment

Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Reality TV

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

There is no better way to end a long day of classes than by flopping on my couch and watching an episode of reality TV. Nothing relaxes me more than watching real estate agents from Hollywood, couples who just met two weeks ago or hot British people living in a villa for the summer get into throw-down, claws-out fights. Reality TV just gives me everything I could ask for in a TV show, from complicated, intertwining relationships to funny, quotable one-liners to glitz and glamor. 

Many people say that reality TV rots your brain, and I have to admit, there have been nights that I feel a bit numb after binge-watching a reality show. However, the root of reality TV is humanity and relationships. After watching countless reality shows and having hours of discussions with my friends about what we would’ve done if we were on the shows, I feel that I’ve actually gained some important insights about life from reality TV. Here are five life lessons that I’ve learned from five of my favorite reality shows.

“The Bachelor” – Friendship is just as important as romantic relationships.

“The Bachelor” was one of the first, and arguably the most iconic, reality dating shows. However, as any member of Bachelor Nation knows, the amount of couples who stay together after the show is shockingly low. Out of 27 seasons of “The Bachelor,” only five couples are still together, and only five couples from 20 seasons of “The Bachelorette” are together.

Clearly, “The Bachelor” is not the best environment to form a genuine romantic relationship. Over years of watching the show, I’ve seen far more friendships come out of the Bachelor mansion than engagements. The contestants have nothing to do all day except wait around for the Bachelor/ette, so they end up spending all of their time together. When a contestant is eliminated from the show, they are sometimes more upset to leave their new friends than the Bachelor/ette. In the current season of “The Golden Bachelor,” four of the women—April, Susan, Kathy and Nancy—became such close friends that they called their group “ASKN.” In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, they said that the Bachelor Mansion had been a girls party from night one. Instead of seeing each other as competition, these women saw the value in each other and formed friendships that will likely last much longer than the Bachelor’s engagement. Seeing these types of friendships form season after season while romantic relationships end in tears and heartbreak is proof that friendships are just as valuable and meaningful as romantic relationships. 

“Love Is Blind” – It’s not! And that’s okay.

Out of every reality show I’ve watched over the years, “Love Is Blind” is absolutely the most absurd, trashy and shallow one I’ve ever laid eyes on. The premise is pretty self-explanatory:  people date each other from behind a wall and only meet once they are engaged. Over five seasons, eight couples have gotten married and are still together. This type of success rate would make you think that love is blind. However, actually watching the show would ruin any hope you might have. There have been too many instances of people seeing each other and immediately being turned off. All of the connection and intimate conversations leading up to the meeting suddenly mean nothing when contestants see their fiancé. 

Unfortunately, most people can’t find the words to just tell their fiance that they don’t feel the same way about them or that they’re not attracted to them. Instead, they handle their feelings in a totally mature way: by avoiding, ignoring and even being flat-out mean to their new fiancé! In the end, there is always a painful conversation about one partner not being attracted to another that leads to the breakup.

As much as we would like to believe that love is blind, the truth is being attracted to someone is important if you’re going to spend the rest of your life with them or even date them. What’s more important than saving yourself from an awkward conversation is to be honest with potential partners about your feelings, even if you have to say you’re not attracted to them.

“Say Yes to the Dress” – If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything!
“Say Yes to the Dress” is one of the most popular reality shows on TLC. It has been running for over 15 years and has had 14 spin-off series. It features brides shopping for their dream wedding dresses with their friends and family at Kleinfeld Bridal. Surprisingly, there is all sorts of drama on this show, from brides going over budget to ex-girlfriends of the groom coming to dress fittings. But the way to immediately ruin a bride’s day of dresses is to tell her that you don’t like the dress that she loves. Each time someone special to the bride says that her favorite dress is too revealing, too much, not flattering or just not right, she crumbles. It’s devastating to watch these women try and appease their friends and family or pick a dress that doesn’t make them feel special just because someone else likes it.

Sometimes, honesty is the best policy, and it can be important to give a friend honest feedback. But other times, like when someone is buying a wedding dress, it’s best to just support their decision. If someone is truly happy, just keep your mouth shut! 

“Selling Sunset” – It’s necessary to have some boundaries between you and your coworkers.

“Selling Sunset” is a show about the Oppenheim Group, a group of real estate agents in Los Angeles who sell houses to the rich and famous. The group is owned by a scary set of short, bald twins: the Oppenheim brothers. One of them, Jason, has dated at least three women who have worked for him, but I would venture to guess there are even more ex-girlfriends working in that office who just aren’t on the show. Not only that, but the brothers and the main agents of the show are constantly having dinners together and even going on vacations together. They say they’re a family, but the women who work at the Oppenheim are constantly in conflict with each other, and about half of them are also working for their ex-boyfriend. I’ve never seen an office in need of HR so badly. 

In season seven of “Selling Sunset,” one of the main agents, Chrishell, starts to feel uncomfortable with this work-family mentality and tries to step back. She tries to spend less time with her ex, Jason, and when she opts to stay in a separate vacation house from the rest of the Oppenheim employees and skip a group dinner, she’s verbally attacked by her coworkers. As a viewer, it is so obvious that what Chrishell is doing is normal! Who goes on vacation with their boss/ex-boyfriend?! But to the Oppenheim Group, this is basically treason. Watching this new season of “Selling Sunset” has reminded me that you don’t need to be friends with everyone you work with, and your co-workers and boss don’t need to know everything about you. It’s nice to have a separate, personal life outside of work, and the people at your job don’t need to be a part of it or even know about it. 

“The Simple Life” – Step outside your comfort zone and take advantage of every opportunity you get.

Airing from 2003 to 2007, “The Simple Life” is one of the original reality shows and starred best friends and princesses of the early 2000s, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. They left their Hollywood lives to travel around America and live the “simple life.” In season one, they stayed with a family in Arkansas for a month, where they made friends with the townspeople and took on a variety of jobs from being servers at Sonic to milking cows on a farm.

While this may sound like hell, Paris and Nicole found a way to have fun with everything they did in Arkansas and make viewers wish that they too were sent to a remote, small town for a month. They were constantly making fun of each other and cracking jokes, gasping for air while laughing the way that only best friends do. Even if they completely messed up a job, they charmed everyone they met, making new friends along the way. By the end of their month in Arkansas, Paris and Nicole were the town’s sweethearts, and they were ready to do a second season and take on the simple life once more. Paris and Nicole’s positive and fun-loving attitudes remind me that we should take any opportunity to step outside our comfort zones and try something new. Anything in life can be an adventure if only we treat it as such.

Was this article a way of justifying the hours each week that I spend consuming reality TV? Maybe. But–there really is a lot to learn from watching real people make mistakes, fall in love, get in fights and just live their lives. Reality TV is certainly not the most educational form of entertainment, but it does prove that from the Bachelor Mansion to “Love is Blind” pods to Kleinfeld Bridal stores, you can find life lessons anywhere.

Meredith is a senior at SLU and is excited to write for HerCampus! She enjoys reading, writing, cooking and watching reality tv and dreams about moving to the London to work a for non-profit organization.