Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Unstaged Reality

I don’t much care for reality shows.  As a whole, I think so many started out as bogus – though there are some really good ones now.  I don’t watch the Biggest Loser, but that is at least believable as being real. So many of the first reality shows introduced were “staged”.

          Over five years ago TBS advertised one called “He’s a Lady”.  I would roll my eyes every time I saw the commercial.  And yet, I must have been intrigued.  Must have had some sense of morbid curiosity.  Why would a guy subject himself to follow in a woman’s footsteps for 6 weeks or two months or whatever it was.  How about a quarter of a million prize money?  Or the “false” advertisement which drew them to enter in the first place?

          There were at least eleven candidates who had applied for “The All American Man” contest – prove to the nation just who was the most macho.  Some had envisioned physical competition.  Some thought their knowledge of “man power” would win them over. Others may have had something else in mind.  No one expected the rules would have them dressing up, making themselves over, and doing their best to imitate woman such as their wives and girlfriends.

          Some might have bailed upon hearing the truth of what the contest entailed.  But there were eleven men picked to start off this new reality series.

          I was rooting for Rick.  I didn’t know him.  Perhaps it was his charisma or that he was a dad of five children or because he was the oldest of all the contestants.  I don’t know.  Something.
  But Rick was let go after the first round -  along with three others.  Some disappointed that they had been dismissed so soon but at the same time relieved not to have to endure more humiliation. 

          Mike and Albert (or Scarlet and Alberta) definitely made the prettiest females.  In fact Albert actually made for a more attractive woman than he did as a guy.  David (Wynona) was definitely NOT attractive – and actually quite awkward about trying to pass himself off as a woman.  

          At the end of each episode, the guys got to select one among them that might be voted off the show and the final decision was given to the judges.  Mike had been selected at least three times.  Mike (Scarlet) was beautiful.  He also had attitude.  If the show had been solely about beauty he might have won.  But there was a lot more to it – though I don’t know that the contestants really got it at first (if at all).

          David was never selected to leave the show.  He was gawky.  Not a potential threat to any of the other contestants.  Surely having David in the group would just increase the chances of any other to win the quarter of a million dollars. 

          It wasn’t just the contestants who found David’s behavior as a woman non-realistic.  He’d get stares from men and woman alike shaming him because he was homely, or clumsy, or obviously not a women or whatever.  David sensed it and it was uncomfortable just to have to present himself as a woman – but to have others treat him as though he didn’t matter made it even more difficult.

          I rooted for David.  I didn’t want to because I can never pick a winner.  Whether it’s a painting or photography or food selection or a person – whenever I show an interest, it (or he) is always eliminated. The judges never like what I like.  They often vote for what (or whom) I don’t.

          David showed great compassion and felt emotion both as David and as Wynonna.  He was getting it.  And each day he understood it more.  Women DON’T have it easy.  Sometimes men are pigs.

          David went on to be one of the three finalists.  He had a shot at the quarter of a million prize – and for the first time he realized he could actually win.  Before the final judgment, each of the contestants answered the question, “How has being a woman helped you become better at being a man?”  David gave the most awesome answer ever.

          “. . . men’s obsession with external beauty can be hurtful when the greater beauty inside is ignored . . .” he had learned greater respect.  He had established friendships and had learned lessons that were far greater than the prize money.

         I was crying.  David was crying.  His wife was crying. The audience was crying.  The former contestants who had returned for the finale were crying.  The judges were crying.  Even John Salley who seemed too macho to even want any kind of involvement in the silly exploitation was crying.  I still cry whenever I listen to it.

It was David’s speech that won him first prize.  And there were cheers and tears.  It was so awesome.  The judges had actually picked the same person that I had.  That has NEVER happened before.

          I have watched other reality shows since.  But the only ones I think are worth watching are the ones that make me cry.  Undercover Boss, the Locater and Secret Millionaire come to mind.  All great at building up and fulfillment.  I’m grateful to these positive reality shows.

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