Now that we’ve been watching reality TV for what feels like forever, what have we really learned? Not everything has to be educational, but there are some important life lessons buried in the folds of the screaming matches, breakdowns, and island getaways.
We know that no one is there to make friends, and that the very concept of friendship feels like an allergic reaction. Everyone shows up with a dream and walks away with hatred deep in their soul. You have a better chance of making a mortal enemy and living the rest of your life in a well-equipped island cave than you do making a friend on a reality show.
Unless you’re horny! If you make a friend you’re probably going to end up mashing privates, and we all know that hot tubs and bathrooms are your best option for having sex off camera. I mean, everyone is still going to hear it, but you’ll salvage a little dignity by not having your O-face splashed all over TVs across America.
Sex won’t necessarily save your relationship hooking up beyond your contractual duties to be on a show, and we’ve all learned that most showmances are short-lived. Only a few couples who met on reality TV have survived, but sometimes it’s just easier to see how little you have in common with someone when you leave the confines of the house you’ve been sharing for two months.
Reunion shows are basically boxing matches. The gloves might be off occasionally during the season, but all bets are off when you reunite with your enemies for the first time in ages. The Real Housewives reunions are the most brutal; Andy Cohen has aged like a two-term president after playing referee for 10 years.
It’s possible that you weren’t always such a pain in the ass, and reality TV just turned you into a villain. What do you expect when you spend half of your life defending yourself against critics? Just like in good comic books, some villains are born and some are made, but you can’t edit someone into a monster if there isn’t a little bundle of terrible cells there to begin with.
Fights give us some of the best and most iconic phrases, though, so it’s not all bad. Now we can bloop a b-i-c-t-h, talk to your meatball while you GTL, and tell someone not to come for you unless you send for them while they have several seats. If none of this makes sense, you should be watching more TV.
Some of the best shows usually have a good formula. Like a new wave Breakfast Club, you have to have an instigator, the villain, the pushover, the person not willing to make friends, the wild card, the one who cries at the drop of a hat, and the one who rolls their eyes. It’s like a Care Bears Stare lineup of random personalities all thrown in a box and set loose in the same town.
We know that raising a family on TV is hell, and that if you want your fam to stay intact you should stay the hell away from TLC. Jon and Kate Plus 8, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and 19 Kids and Counting have all suffered massive rifts while filming shows for the network. It’s like the graveyard in Poltergeist—they keep building family reality shows on top of the bones of broken ones.
More than anything, we know that if you’re going to be voted off, you’d better go big or go home. This is not a time for subtlety; stomp, scream, shout until you pass out, tip over furniture—this is your moment! If you’re on America’s Next Top Model try to yell at the judges; if you’re on Survivor or The Amazing Race drag a few people under the bus with you.
There are some life lessons you can only learn by doing or, in this case, by watching. The next time someone tries to make you feel bad for watching so much TV, flip a table, tell them you’re not here to make friends, and prove them wrong.
Check out more from VH1’s month-long Keepin’ It Real reality TV package.