The Hurtful Unreality of Gay Reality Shows
Having to admit that I am somewhat entertained by the fodder of reality shows including the "Housewives" series. I am more than a little concerned with the gay "housewives" look-a-like spate of shows including the "A-List New York" and its more recent sister program, "A-List Dallas."
While I do enjoy an occasional catfight, especially with the gay male version of the catfight first seen with Austin smacking Rodiney around with Reichen in the middle on the "A-List New York," I am getting more than a little tired of the more vicious fisticuffs seen weekly on "A-List Dallas."
Now in addition to the boys going at it, we have on both shows a young woman of minimal talent and a big mouth who loves to get in the middle of all the more recent fights. Are these women at all necessary in the first place especially when all they seem to do is add more proverbial "fuel to the fire?"
As a professor of oral communication and conflict resolution strategies in high schools, I want to know just what type of message these shows are attempting to send to their easily influenced young, gay male viewers; that it is okay to beat someone up in order to win an argument?
Are we attempting to breed a new mindset similar to the bullies who clearly enjoy attacking gays in schools, which is that the fist is more effective than using one’s brain? In addition to the violence being perpetrated in all these shows on Logo -- almost all carbon copies of their heterosexual counterparts on Bravo -- we continue to see self-motivated and inconsiderate behavior being promoted by the actions of several of these characters who clearly want to hurt others not only physically but of equal concern, emotionally and mentally.
Although I appreciated Wendy Williams playing moderator-therapist on the "Reunion A-List" show resulting in hugs and kisses all around, I do not feel it excuses the excesses which all these shows promote. For example, how can Ryan on "A-List New York" really excuse himself for being so "two-faced"in his behavior playing best friend at one moment then a bitchy queen the next? He should really be ashamed of his duplicity.
In a recent ATL blog, "New Reality Show ’The Life’ Paints Atlanta Gays as Fame Hungry Losers," the reviewer summarized that specific reality show focused on the lives of a group of sexy, gay African-American men as being: "kept men, bad skin, and skinny jeans to boot, ’The Life’ is nothing more than ’The Fraud’ that needs to be brutally rebuffed in their claims of having any ties to anything outside of their own delusional lifestyles."
This is a similar claim that I would give to both "A-List" shows, but more significantly, with the "A-List Dallas" show where you find the loveable alcoholic cowboy Levi that everyone loves or wants to love, being a clear "player" who frequently lies on camera and gets drinks thrown on his face. What a role model to emulate but then again, what can be said about those who are dating this bad boy?
As a veteran of my own reality show experience on the reality show-documentary "Fire Island" that was aired on Bravo in the late ’90s and early part of this century, I know what it is like to be the focus on negative attention from those who viewed the film production.
The show was focused on my summer house rental in the Pines in 1998 where I was the "house mother" for the A and B week summer residents. Unfortunately, as being the "house mother," I was often viewed as the "bad guy" who set the rules that others clearly didn’t like, and their reactions were quickly aired for their entertainment value but, not for its consequences to my televised image.
Therefore I can be somewhat compassionate to those players in these reality shows for the images being projected of them in these series of shows. Images that may not be completely accurate as they were not on my behalf but, played for impressive television ratings without concern for the often poor image they are portraying of gay men.
Viewers of these "slice of life" depictions of gay life would be well advised to be somewhat skeptical of the behaviors and images being portrayed in these shows in order to promote the voyeuristic compulsion of some of us. This voyeuristic compulsion is very similar to being unable to turn away from a car wreck on the highway -- a compulsion that is often the reason why we watch these shows and what has attributed to these types of productions continuing to be produced and aired.
Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.