Shame and Reality TV: Why are we watching this stuff?

I’m embarrassed to admit to having watched The Bachelor. I have never been a dedicated fan, but I have always been intrigued and enticed by the show.

What I find particularly interesting is the wave of guilt that comes after watching, sometimes while watching, an episode.

Today, I’m writing about shame and thinking about The Bachelor and wondering what I find so appealing about watching other people expose themselves—not physically—emotionally. Why do I enjoy watching people say too much, share too much, and love too freely?

I think this is the biggest problem with reality TV. It’s built upon the shame of others. It couldn’t exist if men and women weren’t willing to bear themselves unnaturally. I think of Adam and Eve in the garden after the fall searching for something to cover their shame, and I wonder how it’s possible that we’ve come so far as to seek out opportunities to take the covering off.

I think it grows out of a desire to be seen and known. A desire which, rarely fulfilled, finds a substitute in attention and popularity. The women who appear on The Bachelor want to be loved. But they also want to watched.

And I feel terribly guilty watching them—even as another part of me eats it up. I can’t handle their sadness, their vulnerability, their obvious embarrassment. I always feel weird  when those girls pull away in the limo and the camera lingers on their tear-drenched faces. I shouldn’t be seeing this, right? It’s too much.

Anyway, I posted about it today because I’m interested in your thoughts. Do you feel uncomfortable when you’re watching reality TV? Does the shameful behavior of others somehow make you feel better about yourself?  Why do we want to see this? And what motivates someone to bare so much of him or herself to millions of strangers?