Taking a break from committing suicide with food, Mike Pfeiffer will absolutely answer your questions on anything you put in the digital mailbag of firstname.lastname@example.org. Regardless of whether or not you think Mike is a mature adult, this column is probably best for Mature Adults. As a Mature Adult, you accept responsibility for any actions you take after reading this column. Just Dandy is intended for entertainment purposes only, and we’re sort of required to warn you not to try any of this at home.
I’ve recently become addicted to the show ‘Sister Wives’ on netflix streaming. What should I do? Is there hope for me as a human being? Why are these people such morons, and why can’t I look away?
Normally this is where I’m like “Uh good job handing off a delicate question to a guy who wipes his post-hamburger hands on his pants so often that the thighs of his jeans have a waxy sheen,” but you’re wondering how to handle having guilty pleasures and that is something I’m intimately familiar with.
I’d like to start with a different disclaimer, though – I’m not familiar with Sister Wives, but I don’t personally object to polyamory or any kind of consensual sexual choice. I’m gonna assume that you find these people reprehensible because folks on reality shows tend to be grotesque, selfish narcissists and not because you object to their lifestyle, if that’s okay.
And hooboy these reality shows… I’m beginnin’ to think they ain’t that real, folks!! And this whole twerking thing is getting out of control! And what’s the deal with jokes about airline food because airlines no longer serve food and just have someone kick you in the dick every ten minutes for a nominal fee!? But seriously. Let’s figure out why you like this thing that you clearly feel is not enriching your life in any meaningful way. Mostly it’s because it’s been precision-calculated to hold your rapt attention while costing pennies a minute to produce.
See, your body craves three things that aren’t found that often in nature: Sugar, Salt and Fat. Can’t get enough of ’em. Giant food companies use this epicurean Kryptonite weakness to their advantage and cram as much of all of those as possible in processed snack foods. We’re still more caveman than we like to acknowledge and there’s no way to flick the subconscious switch away from “WHO KNOWS WHEN WE’LL FIND ANOTHER CANDIED BRINE BISON SO OBESE THAT WE COULD HUNT AND EAT IT ON FOOT EAT THE WHOLE FUCKING THING” and before you know it an entire wheelbarrow of deep fried Oreos has disappeared into you. You can’t help it, buddy. It’s just biology. There are actual scientists looking at a printout of a potato chip right now trying to find any extra square inch of surface area that can be covered in rich sodium flavor-dust, intent on frying potato slices and weaponizing them as legal morphine that pokes a paperclip into the primitive recesses of your head and takes away the pain of not getting enough Likes on an Instagram photo. It’s sinister, scientific and delicious and I have a lot of respect for it even as I dig my grave with Gogurt-chaku (two tubes of sugared yogurt chained together that’s more effective in the long term lifestyle problem sense than a pummeling sense). People overcome the urge to eat all of the sugar, salt and fat they can through feats of willpower that I just don’t have when it comes to food, and if I ever develop them I assume that I’ll be given a magic ring by a space police force.
Similarly, your brain loves low-impact high-drama bullshit. If I had to list the things that people want from visual entertainment then I would say that audiovisual sugar, salt, and fat are:
- A competition element that you can take a stake in (like in Major-League sports, but also The Bachelor)
- Decadent lifestyles that you can live vicariously through (like in The Wolf of Wall Street, but also Keeping up with the Kardashians)
- Hateable yet quotable characters so that you can make your love of something look ironic and detached if challenged (like in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but also anybody who says “I’m not here to make friends!”)
And hey, no judgement. As you can see, even stuff generally regarded as Good has some of these guilty pleasure elements. It’s just the stuff your brain is drawn to and Reality shows are the Taco Bell of television, really just five different ingredients recombined in different ways by men in pinstriped suits to keep your eyes on the screen no matter what. Kind of like how there’s sugar in fruit but that’s not the same as drinking orange soda, they take all of these things that should just be enticing spice and ramp it up to the maximum level and cut it together super-fast and slap a “reality” label on it that’s perilously close to an “organic” food label, because if you don’t see the factory then I guess you don’t really know how organic it is. And check out what happens when you mention your guilty pleasure reality show- after the initial “ugh you watch that,” I can guarantee that it won’t take much prodding to find that your snooty companion has a soft spot for American Idol or something, which is like saying “ugh, you eat chalupas? I only eat crunch wraps.” You’re all just animals, baby. We can’t help ourselves.
But enough of that. “Boo hoo I’m at the mercy of these telemongers and their shows I’m calculated to like” is kind of a limp answer to have when somebody storms into your smoky Netflix opium den and pulls the sisterwife pipe from your mouth in a fit of moral outrage. If you want to feel better about your watching habits, apply the Deadshirt motto: Consider Everything.
These television shows, even if they’re widely considered repulsive, still fit in the broad personal definition of art I hold as “anything personal that has been created by a human.” Which is great for you, because it means you can apply critical thought to it and assuage your trash regret. If you decide to never get out your magnifying glass and try and understand something then you’d never learn anything, and it’s such an incalculably huge universe that I have trouble believing that some things are objectively better than others. Blood’s just fucked up skinjuice until you look close, and the people on Sister Wives (even if they are portrayed as repulsive) are real people with all the depth of experience and real emotion that implies.
No matter how many layers of slick production and post-facto edited polyurethane are tastelessly shellac’d over Sister Wives, every choice was made by a human being for some reason, and if you look close then you’ll find their portrayal on the show is probably revelatory about society, the media and the production process on low-budget reality programs. If you think they’re morons, figuring out why is going to be your saving grace. Are you being manipulated by sinister heteronormative forces who want to destroy all the fuckpits at Burning Man by making alternative lifestyle choices look like they’re for cornfed psychopaths and are using the media for this evil end?
Personally, I’m a Rock of Love man. I will watch Bret Michaels arbitrate drunken fights between misogynist caricatures all day. It’s this insane triumph where Bret Michaels, coiner of the nonsense phrase Unskinny Bop is somehow the smartest person in a room, and every episode is a sociology experiment about the way that media portrayals and expectations of women effect their self image and social interaction. In my personal favorite, Season 3 (Rock of Love Bus) begins with the contestants being instructed to just put their shit on one of two buses, one blue and one pink. In the process of self-selecting into mobile lodgings the entire pool of future ex-Mrs. Every Rose Has Its Thornses ended up dividing into a pink bus full of blondes and a blue bus full of brunettes/anyone not white, and started Mean Girls-style burn books without anyone telling them to, over fucking nothing. A war started over what color bus you put your shit on. If you don’t think that figuring out the psychological mechanism that caused that is fascinating then I don’t know what to tell you.
But this comes back to that basic idea that you can like whatever you want and not feel bad as long as you don’t force anybody else to like it. There’s hope for you, friend: TLC’s Long Island Medium season 5 premieres March 9th and I feel like the world’s loudest charlatan will fill the Sister Wife shaped hole in your heart while we await their renewal.
That’s all for Just Dandy this week! Pfeiff will return next Wednesday to answer your questions about sex, pizza and rock n’ roll, or literally any topic you can think of. Shoot him an email at email@example.com or tweet @ModDelusion using the hashtag #JustDandyDS.