There are seemingly hundreds of shows on television these days that show people whose lives are worse than yours. That must be the appeal of these shows. From Intervention to Hoarders: Buried Alive and Toddlers & Tiaras, there’s an entire genre of television to make viewers feel better about their own lives, behaviors and choices. It’s sort of like our fascination with horror porn—we watch shitty-lives porn for a newly-inflated pride in our own, comparable excellent lives.
Intervention, and all of its various spin-offs, is quite obvious in its shitty lives appeal. If you haven’t watched the show, it follows drug addicts and the family members whose lives have been run into the ground by their family member’s problem. By the end of the show, the family asks the drug addict to get help, and fix their lives.
Certainly, it’s not difficult to say that your life is better than a drug addict’s. A mediocre job, a few close friends, a small house and a broken-down car seems quite a lot shinier in contrast with an addict who uses his last ten bucks to get his fix. Perhaps the terrible economy contributed to the huge upsurge in Intervention-esque programs—people’s lives aren’t what they expected so they look to people whose lives are even worse to improve their own life outlook. It’s quite cruel to compare your average—if dull—life to the lives of people with serious addictions.
Hoarders: Buried Alive scratches the same itch. This time, family and friends don’t always stick around the hoarder, and also the hoarder lives in a pile of trash. Viewers may not have particularly nice homes, but at least they are clean and well-kept and have enough room for visitors to gather. If you haven’t watched Hoarders, it’s a show that follows hoarders—another recognized disorders—who buy and buy and buy and overwhelm their houses with crap. As frustrating as it is to watch, these people have difficulties sorting through their crap, even if it means the dissolution of their relationships with friends and families.
Toddlers & Tiaras gives people a platform on which they can both prove their better parenting skills, as well as, sadly, the cuteness of their children and their own attractiveness. While these parents probably deserve the greatest amount of ridicule because of the horror show into which they put their daughters, the children don’t deserve it.
Do you watch any of these shows? What part of yourself do you think is satisfied with this kind of entertainment?