On-Camera Confessional

I’ve been watching a lot of reality shows lately; they’re fun and stupid in a way that’s both entertaining and relaxing after a day where my brain’s been going far too much, which is a pretty good definition of… every day for the last few weeks, really. It helps that Chloe is also really into them; it’s something that we do together, at once transfixed, horrified, and amused by whatever horror is unfolding on the screen before us.

Recently, we’ve been mainlining either dating shows like Too Hot to Handle or Love Island, or else catching up on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, and with the best will in the world, the collective effect of all three in such a concentrated period of time has been to make me feel especially old and frustrated.

Too Hot to Handle and Love Island, you see, are populated by young beautiful people continually making very bad decisions and having literally no sense of perspective — the former, especially, has people breaking down in tears because they can’t fuck for a month, which still has me speechless days after watching it. There’s a genuinely impressive lack of perspective on these shows, with the smallest thing treated as if it’s the most cataclysmic trauma imaginable; I know it’s as much the result of smart editing on the producers’ parts, but there really is a lack of perspective in the lives of these glamorous idiots that can only come from having been so lucky as to never having to have faced any real trouble on any appreciable scale.

That’s something that’s just underscored by Drag Race, which asks far more of its contestants — they have to sing, dance, lip sync, act, improvise, and make their outfits — and also has the sense to allow the various queens to comment on each other’s melodrama, reminding them (and the viewers) that some things really aren’t worth that amount of tears and/or anger. Drag Race feels as if it exists in an entirely different world from the other shows we’ve been watching — and, if you think about the lived experiences of each show’s casts, it pretty much does.

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