Quarantine Consumption: Reality TV

So, this year has been weird. In the last seven months, many of us have spent more time alone than ever before, and as much as arts and entertainment can be a great way to bond in person, they are just as important when we’re stuck in our rooms. This term, I’m going to be asking Lawrentians what piece of art or media has gotten them through quarantine, what captured their imagination or made them feel less alone during these hard times. From the silly reasons to the serious ones, what is it and why is it important to them?

Reality TV really took over the early months of quarantine. Who amongst us didn’t watch the first season of “Love is Blind” or struggle to understand the accents on “Love Island?” There were certain reality TV standouts over the past seven months we have been cooped up in our houses and dorm rooms. Over a bonfire down by Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG) last Friday night, senior Audrey Dalum described her love for a lesser known reality program called “100 Humans,” which released its first season on Netflix very early on in the pandemic.

“It’s like a giant social experiment where they got 100 humans together and, like, would divide the group by generations, male versus female and a couple of other things too, and from there, they tested things like [which] sex is better at memorization and which generation is better at problem-solving.” Netflix played Dalum a trailer, and as someone who is interested in psychology and human interaction, she was quickly drawn in. “I think it’s cool because it’s a really fun way of getting life’s questions answered,” she says. And it’s not just the big questions. Dalum elaborated, “There’s this one where they ask people which way they wipe, like, do you go back to front? Forward to back? Do you stand? Do you sit? And it’s, like, I’ve always wanted to know these answers, but I’ve never wanted to ask.” 

In a time of such uncertainty, getting answers to the littlest mysteries in life was a great comfort to Dalum. “Everything was changing so fast every day, and then all of a sudden here were [answers] — not concrete answers, but they were like, here’s the data that we observed after asking these interesting questions, and that was cool to see. They ask questions about what the best time to be alive is and, in a time where there is so much talk of death, that was really interesting. Like, apparently you’re happiest in your 20s and at retirement age, and then in the middle it just kind of sucks.” She also mentions how it was weird to witness 100 people in the same enclosed area. “I look at that now and I’m like, ‘that’s crazy!’” exclaims Dalum.

While it dabbles in experiments, the show is not a peer-reviewed psychology paper, so Dalum makes it clear that the tests are all for entertainment. “It’s not scientific at all, and to watch it, you’ve got to realize that and take it all in good fun and with a grain of salt.” The show is hosted by three comedians, and the spirit of it is very much, “We have 100 humans, and we can mess with them however we want to.” Dalum explains that the hosts act very much as a conduit for the viewer, observing the “humans” as they are referred to, joking about the questions and experiments and even placing bets on the results.

Dalum’s best pitch for the show, however, was in a brief description of one of the challenges, wherein women and men were challenged to explain the rules of tic-tac-toe to someone in an effort to see which sex uses more words to explain the same concept. “There was this one man who totally out performed everyone else and started to sing a song to this guy about how to play tic-tac-toe. I just need you to go look up ‘100 Humans tic-tac-toe song.’” She laughed just thinking about the whole thing. What seems to be Dalum’s favorite aspect about the show is its inherent humanity and the unique personalities that get to shine through.

It’s a quick watch — only eight episodes, and from what Audrey Dalum says, it’s a genuine comfort. Seeing a bunch of different people doing weird things, finding weird answers and enjoying each other’s company on a quirky reality show is worth a little subpar science.