High School Reunion

I have a few bad habits, and one of my worst habits is that I don’t watch nearly enough reality TV, mostly because I don’t have the opportunity to become invested in the shows’ larger narratives, especially on the competitive reality shows. But for some reason, I particulalry enjoy (not sure that’s the right word) the WB’s High School Reunion, which just started its third season tonight. Part of my fascination is the role of these shows in the democratizing of celebrity, with “average” people becoming celebrities for fifteen minutes. In fact, I’ve been thinking about my “documentary” theme tonight, and Reunion might be a good show for looking at the reality TV phenomenon, rather than the more popular and competition-driven shows such as Survivor or The Apprentice (not that Reunion isn’t competitive in less explicit ways).

With High School Reunion, especially, I can indulge my trainwreck fascination with other peoples’ lives. I’m consistently amazed that people work out their emotional hang-ups on national television, their willingness to play out these ostensibly private conflicts in such a public format. I’m also fascinated by the way in which these shows construct narratives that seem to suggest that nothing (or very little) has happened for these people in the ten years since they graduated, that they are in some sense defined by their roles ten years earlier. I don’t really identify with the charatcres on the show or their wish/desire/need to revisit that part of their past. In fact, I didn’t even consider attending my tenth high school reunion and would be even less likely to return to my college’s reunions.

I’m going to try to be more attentive to reality TV this semester, to see what allure these shows actually have for me (maybe there’s a paper in it?). It’s an ambitious goal, but I’m willing to try.

5 Comments »

  1. Scrivener Said,

    December 8, 2004 @ 12:34 am

    If one of your worst habits is not watching reality tv, then you are indeed a saint, my friend. And I suppose you’re going to tell me that your very worst habit is that you help little old ladies across the street and volunteer at soup kitchens three days a week too.

  2. chuck Said,

    December 8, 2004 @ 12:47 am

    Hey, I’m a popular culture scholar. Wacthing reality TV is research. Escorting little old ladies across the street and working in soup kitchens requires a sainthood I simply don’t have.

  3. Krista Said,

    December 8, 2004 @ 8:15 am

    It didn’t occur to me to go to my ten-year reunion either. A few visits home ago, I ran into two of the people I was closest to in high school and they were exactly the same. Not much had changed in the intervening years. They still had mostly the same priorities and interests, and were convinced that high school was the pivotal time in their lives. One even said she kept our yearbooks out on her coffee table and flipped through them every few days.

    I just can’t imagine. I am so glad that my life has taken twists and turns since then. Foucault has that line about how the whole point to living is to become someone you weren’t in the first place, and I totally agree with that.

  4. chuck Said,

    December 8, 2004 @ 9:23 am

    Interesting. I’m not even sure I know where my high school yearbooks are, although I’ll usually look at them every few years (maybe). There are 1-2 characters whose lives (or appearances) changed drastically, with one woman losing over 100 pounds, but many of the people in this group almost voluntarily assumed the roles they had in their high school.

  5. chuck Said,

    December 8, 2004 @ 9:24 am

    Oh, by the way, I like the Foucault line quite a bit. You don’t happen to remember *where* he said/wrote it?

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