February 21, 2014

Unlocking the Secrets of the Universe with Reality TV


We all have our guilty pleasures. When I'm in the process of hitting a writing deadline, I clean the slate with some really questionable choices. I don't want to watch anything that engages my brain, because that poor slop has been spent. I need my heart engaged. I need to feel again in order to come back to the world.
Once, I spent three hours following the trail of YouTube videos that had me jerk-crying to elephants being reunited with friends in an animal sanctuary. I was a slobbering snotty mess.

My latest binge-style melodrama obsession is The Voice. Yes, the singing competition with Adam Levine. I devoured all of the American seasons, then switched over to the UK and even dabbled in Australia. (Side note: I'm amazed that Aussies can get four vowel sounds in the word 'no'). 

I love The Voice. I feel like I should be embarrassed by this. I feel like I should hesitate about being so vocal about this love, because some asshole out there is now feeling superior and smug about my street cred dissipating. Fuck it. I'm totally bent over the sink by NBC. Big deal. 

Now - there's something really important I'm trying to get at here. The show plays an important part of my burnout prevention, as the highly manipulative and repetitive structure separates things into manageable categories. People are turned into archetypes. The show becomes a larger metaphor for your big chance, the moment when your dream could shift the Teutonic plates under your feet... It also presses all of my buttons to make sure they still work: can she cry, laugh, cringe, feel anger... check, check, check.

But I've been pondering my fascination lately. I'm trying to pinpoint it. I think I have it. Here it is. I am absolutely driven to surround myself with images of people unveiling their true selves and stepping into the light. I'm watching a spiritual evolution in perfect strangers and this is the crux of the show: do these humans believe in themselves or not?

The plethora of talent that goes through the show is a testament that we are all spectacular beings that can achieve incredible things. Not all of us can sing - I do a killer karaoke Beastie Boys, but won't be releasing an album anytime soon - but all of us, ALL OF US, have something we do that only we can do. What sets the contestants apart - what defines whether they can achieve that moment of greatness and get people to turn around - is whether they understand how powerful they are. Whether they are 100% themselves, doing what only they do. 

Throughout the show, you see people struggle with their confidence. You see they are the only things holding them back. And you learn that this moment of recognition of their own greatness is so much more important than winning. That's not the best part of the show. It's the audition. That moment. That spark, where the willing person steps on to the stage and says, "here I am." Who cares what happens after that.

I challenge everyone - particularly those struggling with their work, their art, their passion - to watch that show and look for the deeper meanings. Ask yourself, what are you really watching unfold? If it touches your heart, you're going to be OK kid. And if it doesn't, keep watching.
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