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Why we love reality TV

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If you’ve watched “Real Housewives,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “The Bachelor,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Survivor,” “90 Day Fiancé” or “Catfish,” then you’ve likely witnessed a scene that will make you question the course of civilization.

There are shouting matches, drinks tossed in the face, insults and other displays of raw emotional fireworks.

Reality TV is frequently looked down on and called “trash TV” but the viewers keep coming back for more.

But what are they looking for? What are their expectations when they set aside hours of prime time for getting the latest update on the personalities they have been following for years?

The viewer is likely studying the players and testing ideas about human nature, loyalty, love, fundamental fairness and karma. The ultimate satisfactory payoff for a season is the ne’er-do-well backstabber finally gets their comeuppance.

But is that why we watch and love reality TV?


Danielle J. Lindemann, an associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University. She is the author of True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255 or email thesource@tpr.org.

*This interview will be recorded on Thursday, May 25.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi