Reality TV Bites (aka: Stick to the Script)

Facing reality just isn’t my thing.

I have no clue who the Kardashians are, or why I would want to keep up with them. I don’t know what The Voice sounds like. And no, I have never watched a single episode of The Bachelor.

It’s one of those sad realities that makes it challenging to jump into conversations with other women. At my work, many of the men seem to stand around the water cooler, discussing basketball or guns. Many of the women seem to either gossip about real-life people, or real-life reality shows.

Me? I stay in my cubicle, doing work.

When people find out what a reality-show virgin I am, the shocked reactions are always the same. “What? You’ve never seen [fill-in-the-blank cooking show battle]? You didn’t watch that amazing stunt on America’s Most Talented Circus Performers? You didn’t see the train wrecked lives of those poor kids on Teen Mom, Season 3? You really missed out.”

To be fair, I have seen some reality shows. Back when they were a newfangled concept, I checked out MTV’s The Real World. I caught the early seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race. I even watched Kelly beat Justin after Simon Cowell dashed the hopes of hundreds of recording artist wannabes. I have also seen The Truman Show a half dozen times. So I know what reality shows are all about. But I also know that many of these shows are staged, with produced events to spice up the shows, and turn them into a larger-than-life version of reality. So really, it would be accurate to call them unreality shows.

Although they can be somewhat entertaining, I reject reality TV shows for one sole reason: lack of writers. Call it nuts, but I happen to value good writing. You take some interesting characters, weave them into a fascinating plot, toss in some witty humor and carefully-crafted drama, then tie it all together with a satisfying ending. Voila! You have just created a story. And story is what it’s all about. A romance story. A suspenseful story. A horror story. Something to keep me on my toes, intrigued, involved in the lives of the characters. But not just an slapped-together slice of life from some ordinary wealthy person and their first-world problems. Reality shows are like the IKEA of TV programs. A true story is a work of art, taking the realities of life, then reproducing them in an extraordinary way.

Who needs reality when you can put on Olivia Pope’s white hat for an hour, or leap from an airplane into an enemy state with Sidney Bristow, or save countless lives with Meredith Gray? Why watch real-life people battle over who can build a fancier cupcake, when you can watch imaginary characters transform into superheroes, evil dictators, spaceship captains, or time-travelers? Stick to the script!

Don’t we already get enough reality in our everyday lives? We survive. We do our jobs and try not to get fired. We are dance moms and soccer dads. We try to contribute the winningest dish to the potluck. We have people following us around with cameras (Oh wait…is that just me?). Reality is enough of a reality. You can keep those other so-called realities on some other channel. I’d rather watch a story.

Waiting for My Hogwarts Letter (aka: Still a Harry Potter Nerd)

Happy dance! I am such a proud mother right now. No, not because my kids had great report cards or other outstanding  achievements. I am feeling super-proud of my 9-yo son, who is more than halfway finished reading the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. Not only is he enjoying the books, but he has been happily exploring the Pottermore website and talking with his friends about the books. He and his buddies have even created their own game of wizards, complete with magic wands and spell books full of magical spells to memorize and perform on each other. Hooray!


Harry Potter Book Collection

To understand why that makes me so happy, you must know that I am a hard-core Harry Potter nerd. Or, as we like to put it, a Potterhead. Ever since I first opened the pages of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone years ago, I became rather smitten – no, obsessed by the mysterious and magical world of Harry Potter. It is an understatement to say that I have merely read all seven books. I have read them each at least three times, and once in Spanish. I have listened to both the Jim Dale and Stephen Fry audiobook versions at least twice, and geeked out by comparing and contrasting the narrator’s styles. (Okay, I said I was obsessed, right?). I have watched each film several (dozen) times, collected the Lego figurines, and even have a beautiful book of postage stamps, which will never, ever be pasted onto a piece of mail. HP postage stamps

And every summer, I stare out of my window, anxiously hoping that this will be the year in which an owl will arrive with my acceptance letter into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Or some adult-school version of it).

Creds to http://sammy4586.deviantart.com/

What’s that? Still not convinced that I am a true Potterhead? Okay, well, I was also a member of the Mugglenet community for years, tried my hand at fanfic (not successfully), and yes, I sewed my own Gryffindor quidditch robes and wore them to the July 2007 midnight release party of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Even cooler, I once had the privilege of having my quidditch robes autographed by Arthur A. Levine, the American editor for the Harry Potter books.

My homemade Gryffindor quidditch robes. (I know, I weighed a lot more back then. Shh…no teasing).

Okay, okay, enough of making you jealous. 😉 I’m sure that you’re convinced now that I am a genuine Harry Potter nut. I had such high aspirations for my three kids, too. I was sure that I could pass on to each of them my love of literature, and especially for J.K. Rowling’s amazing world of fantasy. Sadly, my two oldest children are rather indifferent to Harry Potter. Sigh. Muggles. But thank goodness, at least my youngest son has discovered the joy of magic. Smart kid. No wonder the Pottermore sorting hat placed him in the house of Ravenclaw.

I Am Walter Mitty (aka: Life is But a Dream)

I am Walter Mitty. Okay, obviously not really. I mean for starters, I’m a woman, and I don’t work at Life Magazine. But that’s not the point. I just went to see the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I’d been looking forward to seeing it since I first saw the movie trailer a few weeks ago. It did not disappoint. 
Walter Mitty running

In the film, Ben Stiller plays a middle-aged man named Walter Mitty, who lives a small and not very interesting life. He is a daydreamer who often escapes into a world of fantasy and adventure in his own mind, though in real life, he is quiet and somewhat invisible, living an ordinary life void of adventure or romance.

The very first thing that struck me as the movie began was the symbolism, as Walter is so busy daydreaming that he does not see his train rushing by until it is too late, and he has missed it. This is a pattern for Walter, who often lets the real life and love slip away, because he is lost in his fantasies instead of being in the moment. 

Walter Mitty lost in a daydream

Walter Mitty lost in a daydream

But luckily for him, an opportunity comes his way to have a real adventure. All he has to do is get on train (or the plane, or the helicopter, or the ship, etc.).Naturally, I saw myself in Walter Mitty. I am an invisible person, living a quiet and dull life, just raising my children and trying to keep my head above water. I am too timid to make friends, and as for real romantic relationships – well, those are totally out of the question. But I, like Walter Mitty, live through a very rich imagination. When I lie in bed, wrapped in blankets and reading a good book, my imaginary partner is by my side, reading his own book and occasionally sharing the good parts, as our feet rub together. And when I out am shopping for clothes, my imaginary best friend is with me, telling me not to buy that sweater, because the color is awful on me. And when I took myself to the movies today, I was sitting with my group of imaginary friends, who were cracking jokes and laughing until the lights dimmed, and we all shared popcorn and diet Cokes as we rooted for Walter Mitty through his real and imagined adventures. 

Walter Mitty jumps on the helicopter

Walter Mitty jumps on the helicopter.

So yes, I am Walter Mitty. But he had more courage than I can even imagine. When he was presented with the opportunity to convert his dreams into reality, he faced his fears. He got on the plane. He jumped on the helicopter. He went to places he had only ever dreamed of. He learned to live in the moment, and to make his reality even better than the fantasy. And I wondered, is this only the illusion of fiction, or could someone like me do something like that? Will life always be just like this, with me hiding from the real world like a timid little mouse in her burrow? Or, should the opportunity arise, will I be able to find the inner strength and courage to jump on the helicopter?