My name is Susannah Keogh, and until recently, I was a hater of reality TV stars. I thought they embodied everything wrong about society, the reason for girls' low aspirations and poor body image... the list went on.
Even if you don't watch a reality show, you'll probably know at least one of the stars -- the Kardashians, Abby Lee Miller the cast of Jersey Shore. Let's be honest here, I bet you watch them secretly, or read all the articles listing their every move -- am I right?
I know I do. Reality TV is the fallback agent for everything; the guilty pleasure we love to hate. But look closer, behind the sensational headlines and it's easy to wonder... why? Why are these shows and people so hated?
Honestly, there's no real reason for it that I can make out, anyway. The main gripe society has is that they encourage low aspirations; teach teenagers not to work hard, everything will be handed to them on a plate. Well, newsflash: Teenagers aren't that stupid. We're not naive enough to imagine we can fail high school, make a sex tape that goes viral and then BAM a TV crew swoops in and all of a sudden we're the stars of a hugely successful TV show. And we're certainly not dumb enough to accept what we see on screen as the gospel truth.
Besides, are reality TV stars really the worst role models young people can find? Really? Ok, let's compare. Someone like Kourtney Kardashian, who in addition to having a degree from a top college, juggles media shoots with raising a young family and running her own business... or the famous politicians who lie their way through crisis after crisis, not caring about the destruction they leave in their wake?
I know who I look up to.
And ask yourself this: Would most people be brave enough to air their personal problems -- drug addiction, body issues, fertility problems -- on national television for the whole world to see? To subject your body to relentless criticism from the press and readers worldwide, being described as an "ugly whale" (as one reader so eloquently comments on an article of a pregnant Kim Kardashian on the Daily Mail website.) I doubt it's easy. Sure, the million dollar paychecks might soothe the pain but they won't erase it completely.
Now, I'm not saying reality TV stars are perfect -- far from it. Some, like the "stars" of 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom might take drugs, go to jail, physically attack co-stars -- and that kind of behavior shouldn't be rewarded. What should be, though, is the ability, so often displayed, to rise above it and turn a negative into a positive.
They might not be in the league of Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa... who is? We should stop subjecting people who really, are just like us, to impossibly high standards, and instead recognize all the good they do.
So now, I'm not a diehard fan; just someone who thinks maybe, we should cut reality TV stars a bit of slack.
Follow Susannah Keogh on Twitter: www.twitter.com/susannahkeogh