On Reality TV and Being Broke

“If even college grads can’t make it in NYC, what chance do WE have!?”

I don’t make the money I used to. Yea I uh, I’ll just leave it at that. But what it’s meant for my media consumption is more reality TV and less fiction (or more TLC and less AMC). Especially fiction centering on people roughly my “peers”; the 30-something, big city, single-ish. Seeing them at bars, concerts, and dating; it’s kind of unbearable, because I can’t afford to do any of those things anymore. The solution: people-watching that doesn’t trigger any I-miss-my-old-life feelings. This includes the Amish (“Return to Amish“), long-haul shippers (“Shipping Wars“) and the little women of NYC (“Little Women: NY“). Oh and tugboat operators on Lake Michigan (I forgot the name of that one). Fiction that’s distant from my lifeworld – as Habermas might put it – like Downton Abbey still won’t do, because, to be embarrasingly candid, there’s still some measure of dramatic tension relating to sex and flirtation. I don’t need to be reminded of any of that. Right now, anyway. Pathetic? Yea. Sad? Mmhm. In any case reality TV also has the benefit of being a better window into real, actual phenomena, despite its obviously corrupted form.

So that’s what reality TV has to do with being broke. As for being broke and watching TV generally, well that’s becoming Sociology 101. Poor people watch a lot more TV than their richer counterparts. But note the negative correlation between TV viewing and income appears to have more to do with educational background, for which income is increasingly a proxy. Poor educated people – think liberal arts majors who went to a ho-hum state school – are probably substituting the maintenance of a Tumblr page for Netflix more often than their neighbors in some soon-to-be-gentrified corner of America.


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