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Bad Reality TV Is Actually Really Good For You

Hear me out.

12/07/2017 11:27 AM AEST | Updated 12/07/2017 12:14 PM AEST
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"I’m rife with anticipation waiting for Sophie Monk’s debut in the new season of ‘The Bachelorette’."

My name is Rachel and I'm a dating show addict.

I know, cue the North West eye roll. I really didn't want to be one of those people. You know the kind who spend their lunch break talking about the contestants on 'Married at First Sight' like they actually know them; with a frightening level of care and familiarity.

But right now, along with a large portion of the population, I'm rife with anticipation waiting for Sophie Monk's debut in the new season of 'The Bachelorette'.

I've been terrified to come clean, to admit my proclivity for trash-tastic TV. I can already feel the highbrow crowd collectively raising their eyebrows, wildly unimpressed.

Let's be honest, reality is a dirty word, especially when coupled with television.

It's easy to dismiss dating shows as all fluff and no substance, but we can't ignore their power to provoke -- to draw us in and connect with those deeper parts of our psyche.

Having worked in the film industry most of my adult life, I understand the importance of screen stories. I get it, reality TV is an affront to the creative process; it's the McDonald's of television, a cheap and nasty way to please the masses. To get the ratings, stir up controversy and generate publicity.

I know this, but I can't stop. Whether I'm watching the corny, rose-centric antics on 'The Bachelor' or the awkward lark that is 'Dating in the Dark', I'm hooked, it's got me. I'm 100 percent invested.

I'm not alone. These dating shows consistently pull a grandiose audience. We're enamoured with other humans, transfixed by their tribulations; an army of voyeurs in armchairs.

And while I'm drawn by the drama, the cat fights, quarrels and chance to see some wobbly bits, I can't help but feel there is something deeper there; greater reasons why these shows innately pull us in.

Hear me out.

When you're in love you want everyone to feel what you feel, to have what you have. Watching 'First Dates' in my flannelette pyjamas, I transform into a clichéd bleeding heart; I want them all to find their soul mate. I know, it's nauseating. I scream at the TV, "Go for her, what's wrong with her?!" usually with such vigour my voice turns hoarse mid-episode.

Hey, love is a great thing to be passionate about.

Moreover, when they finally get together, and on commercial television they almost always do, it's so deeply satisfying. It fulfils our inherent happily ever after sentiment; we can't help but feel good, like everything's in its right place.

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These shows also resonate because they remind us of the fun you have when first dating. They make us nostalgic for the romantic moments past; that preening, gleaming, peacocking scene. You witness the contestants on their best behaviour, charming and wooing their prospective mate. Oh cute, I remember when I wore heels on dates.

When you're in a long-term relationship the romance can kind of wane. It's not a bad thing, it's a natural progression. Lavish lovey-dovey amorous acts are replaced with real, visceral and raw human connection. Still, seeing these overtly optimistic love-fools stirs up those old feelings; the nerves and excitement -- those damn butterflies.

As you sit, inevitably passing judgement on the participants; their looks, wardrobe, demeanour -- it can clarify what you want in a future flame or make you grateful for what you have. And, there's a level of introspection that occurs as you consider your own character traits and flaws; am I as obnoxious or daft as that girl?

When watching these shows, my right-brain knows I'm not always seeing truthful representations; the producers manipulate situations, construct storylines and may use actors instead of legitimate contestants. But for some reason, I'm able to suspend my cynicism and free-fall into la-la-land.

It's easy to dismiss dating shows as all fluff and no substance, but we can't ignore their power to provoke -- to draw us in and connect with those deeper parts of our psyche.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it. Now I'm off to binge-watch 'Millionaire Matchmaker'.

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