Tuesday, May 12, 2009

For The Love Of… Why My Affair With Reality Dating Shows Is Coming To An End

R &B Singer Ray J, contemplating whether his show will finally get him off the B-list. (It won't).

It hit me the morning after the finale of the VH1 show, “For The Love of Ray J.” I had fallen asleep just shy of seeing the B-list R&B singer choose “Cocktail” over “Unique”, and did not know who won the “prize” of being Ray J’s girlfriend (I found out when K, who also nodded off, checked online). But what hit me was the fact that I no longer cared. Not just about Ray’s quest to find love- and I suppose his subsequent discovery of it with the former “Bad Girls” castmate- but about the reality dating genre as a whole.

You must understand, it’s taken me quite a while to get this point. Like most affairs, mine began quite harmlessly. Back in 2004 after finishing college, I found myself with extra time on my hands and began casually watching “The Surreal Life”, a show that borrowed from “The Real Word” in dumping a group of strangers in a house full of cameras and watching them hook up and/or try to destroy each other. Unlike “The Real World”, these housemates were washed-up former celebreties, or other reality show winners (like Adrienne Curry, who won the first cycle of “America’s Next Top Model). On that particular season, former Public Enemy member Flavor Flav fell for Brigitte Nielson, a former model and actress who was once married to Sylvester Stallone. They were the odd couple personified, and quickly outshone the rest of the C-listers who were on the show that year. But then again, I guess it’s probably not too hard to outshine (a very grumpy) NKOTB’s Jordan Knight or nice guy Dave Coulier, of “Full House” fame. VH1, realizing they had reality show gold on their hands, greenlit a follow up series, “Strange Love” the following year, which focused on Flav’s global pursuit of Brigitte. At this point, I still wasn’t totally into the affair. It was more like flirting. While Flav could be entertaining at times, with only Brigitte starring, he got way too much screen time and I found myself bored at times. I’d watch it if it were on and nothing else was.

And then came the now infamous “Flavor of Love” in 2006- I was hooked. Really not much more than a “Bachellor” ripoff, it featured a bevy of ghetto and trashy beauties vying to heal Flav’s heart, which was broken when Brigitte opted to stay with her twenty something boy toy instead of him. I sat glued to the tv every week, watching as Flav gave out clocks, girls attacked each other by pulling out tracks and spitting, and everyone drank way too much alcohol. I knew my burgeoning relationship with “Flavor of Love” was just plain wrong. Too much bleeped out cursing and flagrant disrespect- for women, from the women, and sadly of how love was viewed. I got the feeling after watching the show that I needed to go take a mental shower. But I was hooked. So it became my dirty little secret.

I continued the affair, as it led to my viewing a bad sequel in “Flavor of Love 2”, and then to “I Love New York”, it’s even uglier illegitamate baby, starring Flav reject (2x over) Tiffany Pollard, aka, New York. VH1, showing they were an equal opportunity exploiter, began airing the trailer park trashy “Rock of Love” with former Poison frontman Brett Michaels. It was another mansion (actually, I think it’s the same mansion- at best, there are probably two, just constantly being redecorated) full of unbe-weavable girls who party too hard and fight too much. Oh, and “love” their washed up man- which means they really like having sloppy drunken three ways with their competition. These women seemed to up the ante- they were proud to have posed for men’s magazines or to be exotic dancers. Brett would go on to have two more seasons, the last forcing me to take my reality show affair on the road in a tour bus. Meanwhile, New York got another season, and wound up with Tailor Made… until they split and she stopped fake dating and started having a fake acting career. Flav did a third season, but on it’s reunion show, admitted he never found love amongst any of the featured women. By then though, the illusion had long sense died for me. I knew the truth- no one would be finding anything close to a lasting relationship on any of these shows. They would get instant fame- although far shorter than 15 minutes for the contestants. It really didn’t matter anyway. They wanted quick, cheap celebrity. And so did the lovelorn series stars. Hasbeens or neverbeens looking for the spotlight. And of course, money. At least the “Survivior” ripoff “I Love Money”, which just aired it’s second season gets right to the punch.

And slowly, I began to get sick of the affair and myself. The thrill was gone. I stopped feeling like I needed a mental shower- no, I knew I needed some thought penicillin, because after cohorting with the likes of Real, Chance, and yes, sadly even Tequilia, I had caught something nasty and it burned. You see, these shows happily distort love. Real love. Pure, self-sacrificing love. They’re actually about lust- for winning challenges, fame, power and money. And I agree wholeheartedly with I Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have …caused themselves a lot of pain.” It’s of note that this book of the Bible was written to Timothy, a young man. It appears that throughout time, it’s young people who seem to be the easiest caught in such snares. If we go back a few verses in that chapter, it says “Nothing to this world we bring; from it take we nothing. With food to eat and clothes to wear; content we are in everything. But people who want to get rich keep toppling into temptation and are trapped by many stupid and harmful desires that plunge them into destruction and ruin.” Money in and of itself is not bad. Making it a god in your life is. But it’s the next set of verses that make me see why my affair was so foolish: “But you… must flee from all these things. Instead, you must pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.” If I’m constantly filling my head with garbage by watching these pitiful shows, it’ll be very hard to stay focused on the pursuit of “godliness” and “love”.

And just a little reminder of what real love is, here’s a passage from I Corinthians 13:

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.

That’s a far cry from any of those VH1 shows which feature love in their titles. And real love is what I’m striving for in my marriage, in my friendships and as my major character trait. After all, God is love, and it’s only what I do for Him that will last. So, as I was saying at the beginning of this piece, I don’t care who Ray J and now Daisy will choose to love for this season. My affair is over. Good riddance.


Anonymous said...

Funny, but so true!

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