Documentaries: You Can Handle the Truth


Girl Model (2011) by David Redmon, available on Netflix.

I hate reality TV.

What’s more, I hate myself when I watch reality TV. But I can’t say that I blame myself or anyone else who watches it. The voyeuristic concept of watching people in specific (even if orchestrated) situations and (un)naturally responding is incredibly seductive. But it’s become less about a social experiment and more about scripted debauchery. So to fill the void that these outlandish reality-TV shows are leaving in my mind and soul, I’ve turned to documentaries- and I’ve found something a million times better to be obsessed about. And you will too.

80% of what I watch now is documentaries and I don’t miss scripted films at all. The best part about documentaries is that there’s a documentary on just about anything. If it’s a topic you’re already interested in there’s bound to be one, if not more, out there that explains and captures and presents it to your heart’s content. And the best thing about them? They allow you to dip your toes into subjects that you might not think you’d ever be interested in a visually-stimulating way. It’s not tough to commit 90-120 minutes to learning about a person or topic. I mean, that’s basically two Real Housewives of Wherever episodes and even if you hate it, you’ll come away with knowledge about a new topic and you won’t have lost much in the process. At the very least, you’ll know something more substantial than who stabbed whom’s back at last week’s dinner party.

And, if you give docs a chance, you might discover that you actually like them. What have you got to lose?

Aside from being silly, informative, entertaining and almost always interesting, documentaries are inspirational. Have you ever heard of a documentary about someone that was mediocre and was fine just getting by? This art form is reserved for people who take stands and make waves and demand change of one kind or the other. While not everyone can take on congress or Sea World, documentaries remind us that we have voices, that they count, and that we need to make them heard. And if they don’t inspire you to be great yourself, they might inspire you to lend yourself to a great cause. After all, small change is just as important as large change.

So the next time you have the urge to watch reruns on BRAVO, load up that Netflix queue instead and peruse their vast selection of docs. Forget make-believe; the reality going on around us is much more interesting, and truth is always stranger than fiction.

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