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Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Why I Watch Reality Television with My Kids



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After “Putting the X in the X Factor,” I got some mail suggesting that I just turn the television off instead of watching these reality-television shows with my kids. But there I sat on Monday night, watching The Sing Off, and we witnessed a touching, redemptive moment.

My oldest two kids — who are all about-Africa ever since we traveled there to adopt a little girl — were excited to see a group of singers called Messiah’s Men from Liberia.  I guess you can tell by their name that they are a gospel group, specifically an “Afro-centric” gospel group.  Following a group that sang Katy Perry’s “Extraterrestrial,” they sang about faith –  a topic they knew a great deal about. These men met in Liberia and left Africa to make a better life for themselves in America. They’ve been together for eight years, made two albums, toured the United States, and received numerous awards in the gospel world.

Of course, they got voted off.

However, this is just one of many great moments on these shows that I’m not ready to give up. They are stories I want my children to see.

We’re moved by their tear-jerking stories and jaw-dropping talent. They are just normal people who are able to touch us with their melodies and inspire us with their stories. As Rebecca Cusey wrote, describing last season’s auditioners on American Idol, these are “people who make us realize that although Hollywood makes great stories, fiction can never match the beauty and heroism of reality.”

For example:

Adrienne Beasley is an African-American child of white parents growing up in Kentucky. It wasn’t easy. But, as her mom says, “I just see Adrienne as Adrienne. She’s just ours.” Dad? Well, he’s “tickled.”

When Paris Tassin got pregnant at 18, her doctor told her the child might not survive and recommended she terminate the pregnancy. She kept forward with the pregnancy. Kiera, her daughter, has some problems with hearing, but is the reason she sings and “is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life.”

James Durbin’s dad was a musician who died of a drug overdose when he was nine. He’s been diagnosed with Tourette’s and Asperger’s, but when he sings “it all just goes away. I don’t have a care in the world.”

Chris Medina promised to marry the love of his life, but she was hurt in an accident. He stays by her side even though her injuries are devastating.

And don’t get even get me started on The Biggest Loser. Sometimes reality television shows us Americans at their best. And as long as I’ve got DVR and the ability to fast forward through most of the filth, we’re going to be right here with a Kleenex box at our side.



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