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Are shows like “Made in Chelsea” and “The Only Way is Essex” the modern versions of Anthony Trolllope’s works?

Book cover of The Way We Live Now.

Reality T.V. seems to be a love/hate genre. There are those who think that it is completely beneath them and, then the idea of watching rich people fight and argue with each other on Semi-scripted sets ignites peoples passions. The general consensus about reality T.V. though, seems to be that it is vapid, soul-crushing, and completely pointless. I don’t watch a lot of reality T.V. to be honest, but I have seen episodes here and there of shows like “Made in Chelsea”, or “Real Housewives of *Insert large U.S. city here*”. On the occasions that I have watch these shows, I find myself learning about popular culture, social norms that are perpetuated through media and/or ridiculous double-standards, and the simple act of creating drama.

Without stating the obvious, I read a lot of varied literature. At the moment I am making my way through Anthony Trollope’s epic novel (almost 900 pages!) “The Way We Live Now”. The novel was written in 1875 and is one out of forty-seven novels written by Trollope (not to mention his short fiction and nonfiction works). To many people I know, tackling a 900 page book from the 1800s gives me some sort of intellectual street cred. Yet I can’t help, but wonder why “They Way We Live Now” and the likes of “The Only Way is Essex” could be seen as opposites?

“The Way We Live Now” is centred on rich people, predominately lords and ladies from England (but also North America and Europe), fighting about money, love, love and money, who should inherit what, who should be seen with whom, and who is more popular at any one given time. Many of these reality T.V. shows are semi-scripted or manipulated to present a fictional version of ‘reality’. If you can even call it reality at all? They are centred on rich people, fighting about, love, money, love and money, who should be seen with whom, who is more popular, and who is attending the right events. While these shows are a little be raunchy compared to Trollope’s novel, there are so many similarities between these T.V. series and literature like Trollope’s that entice us with a glimpse of how the other half live. Why is one deemed high brow, and the other low? Why do we consume one and feel ashamed of consuming the other? And most importantly, why are we so fascinated with watching and reading about the quarrels of rich people?

So my question to you is the title of this article: Are these reality T.V. series the Trollope’s of the 21st century? As always, share the reading love.

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