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Why Do People Go on Reality Shows?

Why do people go on reality shows? Sure, there’s a slight chance of fame and fortune, but the fame generally boils down to, "Hey, it's that guy from TV who cried when Simon Cowell yelled at him," and the fortune is generally less than, say, a dentist makes. Plus you'll probably have to do something unspeakably gross, like eat live bugs or hang out with The Situation.

So, again, why do people do it? At Wetpaint Entertainment, we’ve made an exhaustive study of the reasons reality contestants embark on a reality career. (Actually, we make an exhaustive study of everything about reality shows. It's kind of our deal.) Here are a few of our faves.

To make friends. This is the least popular reason. No one goes on a reality show to make friends. Just ask them. They'll tell you.

To earn money for their families. Every reality competition seems to have one of these: A contestant with a passel of adorable babies, nobly trying to earn money for their future. Which, oh, honey. No. Even if you do win (which you won't), your kids' classmates at their fancy new private school will never accept them once they realize that their mom earned their tuition by losing 200 pounds on live TV. Just go back to school and get that dental degree.

To find love. Say you've been hurt in the past and you're dying to find The One. Where do you and your bruised, delicate heart turn? How about a national television show that will pit you against two dozen other wenches for the heart of some knucklehead who will inevitably pick the skinniest, blondest one? This kind of decision-making might have something to do with why you’re still single.


To advance their (other) career. We don't know if we respect these folks more or less. Whether they admit it or not, lots of reality contestants on shows like The Bachelor aren't really in it to find “twoo wuv” – they think it's going to launch their acting or singing or whatever career. On the one hand, it’s smart to look beyond a reality show career. On the other hand, this makes contestants come off as the biggest jerks of all – remember Justin “Rated-R” Rego from The Bachelorette? He was allegedly promoting his wrestling career, and what happened? People hate him more than Hitler. Okay, that’s a stretch. But still, they DO NOT LIKE HIM. Also, this “My stint on reality TV will help my acting career” thing never works. When was the last time you saw Brad Pitt co-starring with Vinny Guadagnino?

Delusional thinking. Yes, the American Idol auditions always produce some hilarious weirdos. But our enjoyment of the William Hungs of the world is tempered by the suspicion that many of them are actually delusional. We prefer laughing at weirdos who know they are weirdos — and don’t give a damn!

To set the record straight. Why do already-famous people (though most are only semi-famous, or formerly famous) go on reality shows? Because the world is so unfair! They've been unfairly painted as shallow jerks by the press, or their famous frenemies, or other reality shows. What's the best way to educate the world about what sensitive, intelligent souls they really are? Another reality show!

Because they were born to do it. Sure, there are plenty of bad reasons to go on reality shows, but we can't deny that there are plenty of reality stars who are right where they ought to be. Can you imagine what might have become of Snooki in a world without reality shows? Wandering a cold, uncaring Jersey Shore, doing backflips in exchange for spray tans and crotch-skimming lycra dresses? Thank God, Snooks will never face such a fate.

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