Lesson Two: How to Lose Friends and Alienate Everybody
(You might think that reality television is one of the signs of the impending end of Western Civilization, BUT if you look closely enough, you can find some important life lessons. So, kids, here’s another One to Grow On…)
One thing we don’t really know about reality television as a whole is: exactly how real is it? Writers are credited, ridiculous and implausible situations occur, the “stars” ham it up for the camera and more air-time, and editing shapes stories and creates characters.
Even so, people’s personalities inevitably still make themselves known. I suppose it’s possible that most of that is written or acted as well, but I’m not convinced. The perfect inarticulateness, questionable and frequently-circular logic, and delusional self-justification of reality show stars are so spot-on, I have to think that much of this comes straight from the source. I know writers: few are smart enough to write that dumb that well. And if the reality TV stars could act that well…it begs the question: why are they on a reality show?
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So even with the level of unreality that goes into reality, there are still some universal truths we can see about human interaction, and there’s no better to see them than with everyone’s favorites: the Reality Villain.
The Reality Villain is any person who quickly becomes the most hated and ostracized person within the show, and the primary focus of the audience’s love-to-hate-them energy. Think Jonny Fairplay from Survivor or Marcel Vigneron from Top Chef. By observing their behavior in their unnatural habitat, we can make a quick list of tips to ensure that you don’t become the Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth of your office:
1. Be in it to win it
. Nothing seems to tick off fellow participants more than someone who doesn’t have precisely their same level of clawing hysteria to win, whatever the prize might be: the Bachelor, the modeling contract or the million dollars. If all around you are desperate, your Zen-like blitheness or ambivalence is sure to create resentment. To wit: inevitably, nearly every single season of America’s Next Top Model, there comes a moment where the majority of the girls sneer over their shoulders at some outcast, saying, “We’re just not sure she really
wants this.” As though desire alone can make the model as opposed to, say, genes and an ability to photosynthesize instead of eat food for energy.
2. But don’t be TOO in it to win it
. Note I said “precisely
the same level.” If there is one thing that ticks off fellow contestants more than a lack of clawing hysteria to win, it someone with slightly MORE clawing hysteria and/or determination. That is to say, someone who is willing to cross some societal boundary that the majority is not. For examples of this, see every single final tribal council of Survivor ever. There is usually a moment where someone has to stand up and petulantly confront the final two about breaking some pact or telling some lie. This, despite the fact that nearly everyone in the game has done some variation of the same thing. But to get caught playing the game too hard is a fast track to Villain-ville.
3. Don’t keep it real
. No one actually wants to know what you REALLY think. You might not want to front, you might call ‘em like you see ‘em. But a civil society is built on all of us white-lying through our teeth on a regular basis. If, like Tiffany Pollard, New York from Flavor of Love, you want to tell your fellow contestants that they look like a transvestite or trailer trash, that is of course your prerogative. In reality world, you might even get your own show out of it. You will, however, also get spit on, have shoes thrown at you and cause near-orgies of hate when you show up in a room, so one might want to opt out of this behavior in the real world.
Of course, if you don’t mind being hated and shunned, then don’t worry about this list. Sometimes you have to be hated or shunned to get things done, pay the cost to be the boss, etc. But for smoother sailing under the radar in life, you can look to the Villains and just do the opposite.