President Obama tells kids: “chances are, you’re not going to be” a reality star

All of the entirely insane, batshit crazy response to Barack Obama’s speech to kids about the importance of education has ignored the single most offensive part of his speech, the text of which was released yesterday. In it, President Obama tells school-age kids that they will probably not become successful by being reality TV stars. What an outrageous lie!

From the text of Obama’s speech:

“I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard.”

While Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama enjoy at least one reality show, clearly, someone hasn’t been watching television while he’s been, you know, governing or running for office or serving in the Senate, because reality television is the new American dream. Never mind the fact that, by the time kids are of the age when they can apply for reality shows, producers will be so desperate for cast members that criminal records, severe mental illnesses, personality disorders, and other things that might disqualify someone now will totally all be ignored, and everyone will have an instant path to fame and fortune.

I am being facetious, of course, and actually, it’s really fascinating that the speech equates a career in sports and music with one as a reality star, and not just because the former two generally require some kind of talent, while many reality shows don’t (for every one Top Chef, there are maybe 10 VH1 dating shows).

But it speaks to reality TV’s place in our culture that reality star deserved a mention, and especially to the way its proliferation does convince us that anyone can go on TV and become instantly famous and successful. Anyone can go from being an anonymous idiot to a semi-famous one for a brief moment in time, but that fame is almost always short-lived, and more often than not, so is any kind of success. Those who find success as a result of reality TV are those who worked hard before and after the show, whether they’re on American Idol or The Real World.


Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School Event
[White House]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.