Why Do We Like To Watch Rich People on TV?

Watching rich people on TV is a bit of a peculiar hobby, but for many of us it is LIFE. Why are people so fascinated by the Kardashians, the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” “the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” (“Gossip Girl”), the characters from “Downton Abbey,” and the trust fund kids who party on the beach every night (“90210”).

It’s something that puzzles the older generations, and for the past couple of decades, countless authors have been asking themselves: how can I make my books as interesting as these darn TV shows. The truth: You can’t.  There is just something fascinating about people crying over losing million dollar diamond earrings, arguing over who has the most Jimmy Choo shoes. These shows are comic relief, a guilty pleasure and an escape from “normal” life. For the 40 minutes that the show is on, we become wrapped up in the over-blown problems of celebrities and socialites.  We get to imagine that the biggest problem in our own lives is not knowing where to go to lunch with our girlfriends.

There are not many Middle Schoolers who have not seen even a little bit of an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” They are still kids who prefer to settle in with a nice cozy non-fiction book instead of watching the drama filled reality show. That being said, these people are not in the majority. For example in a recent season finale of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” 4.8 million people tuned in, while in a recent episode of “Wicked City” (a show about LAPD detectives looking for murderers), only had 2.75 million viewers and was then cancelled.

Why do people enjoy watching people drive around in their Bentleys and attend red carpets?  Are we all crazy or are there other answers to this question?

As a student said, “the reason we watch the Kardashians is because people want their lifestyles.” Living like the Kardashians or the Real Housewives is glamorous—flying around in private jets, walking red carpets in designer clothes, taking vacations whenever you want, and coming home to a stunning mansion. Some are not even aware that this is what they want for themselves, some try to hide it because they are embarrassed, and others are very clear that when they grow up, they would like to be a Kardashian.

Another student stated we watch these rich people “because they are fun; they are spoiled brats. It’s fun knowing that we will never be as crazy as they are.” These shows can also be used as reassurance. “Crazy” is not something which is thought of as a good trait in our society; in fact, it is something which is looked down upon, sometimes even pointing to mental illness. So when we see that other people are broadcasting their crazy problems and actions all over live television, we feel better about ourselves.

As humans we are also curious, and fascinated by the things that are different. Another student said, “because they’re different. The Kardashians, for example, they’re rich. Most people who watch them aren’t rich, so to see the everyday life of a rich person is really interesting.” A sentiment which many have echoed.

For those who do not watch the Kardashians and the Real Housewives because their lives are just too different (as they are 30+ year old women), there are shows like “Gossip Girl.” “Gossip Girl” chronicles the “scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite,” and the first two seasons are set in Constance Billard and St. Jude’s, two high schools which are based off real Upper East Side Schools such as Nightingale Bamford and Collegiate. The majority of the main characters on this show attend these schools, showing up in long black limousines with chauffeurs. With their school uniforms, they wear Chanel flats. On weekends and even on school nights, they go to party at clubs and then return home to their swanky penthouses on Park Avenue. Their mothers are fashion designers or well dressed housewives who attend galas while their fathers are billionaire businessmen on Wall Street or in real estate. These kids have billion dollar trust funds and live and extremely luxurious and extravagant lives.

This obsession is also one which seems to be unique to the United States. Though these sorts of shows and sometimes even these exact shows are watched in countries other than the US, ultimately, the country which produces the most of these shows and has the most viewers for these shows is the US. This is something which many from other countries may not understand. One of the biggest exports of the US is pop culture, and its people seem to have an obsession with the lives of celebrities and material goods.

The world is spinning and our lives are moving so rapidly that sometimes it is quick to catch up. Watching Kim Kardashian cry about her mom not getting her a suite at the nicest hotel in Miami, or laughing as the Housewives have a huge argument over fixing each other’s hair, is something that almost everyone can admit to doing once in awhile. Some of us like them, some of us like laughing at them, and some of us like complaining about how spoiled and awful they are. And personally, I do not think this is the most terrible thing on the planet. Especially considering the fact that a large percentage of us like to watch rich people on TV.


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