Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Great Parents, Boring Television

I normally enjoy reading Lisa Belkin's blog at the NYTimes, but this post is weird. She asks, why are there no good parents on television these days? Then she compares the fictionalized families of the past portrayed on The Cosby Show, The Brady Bunch, the Partridge Family -- I'm surprised she didn't throw in Leave It to Beaver -- with today's reality TV shows like The Real Housewives of Orange County, Supernanny, and The World's Strictest Parents.

The first and most obvious answer is that bad parents just make better television. Rather than looking at television as a cultural teacher, we now look at it as a modern-day freakshow of the weirdest people out there where we can exercise our judgments on them in the comfort of our own homes. Good parents are boring. They resolve conflicts, set boundaries, and reward their children for good behavior. It all makes for pretty vanilla television.

But that leads to the second answer to why modern reality television doesn't depict perfect parents: it's because they don't exist. No matter how awesome your family is, no one has it perfect. Parents yell when they shouldn't. They have bad days. They forget about their kids' soccer matches. Life isn't perfect. We shouldn't depict it on television that way.

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