Why does reality TV work so well? According to some TV producers, it’s because people don’t want to think, they want to turn off their minds and feel superior to people, and because artificially heightened emotion is a potent drug. To investigate this enduring genre, and examine his own role in the so-called train wreck of stars’ lives, Lucas Mann wrote a whole book about he and his wife’s shared love of reality TV, called Captive Audience. The Paris Review ran a portion of it. Just try to take your eyes off the screen.

The way these producers framed it, intellect and emotion were rendered entirely divergent—intellect was what a person should aspire to; emotion was the thing that the lazy settle for to avoid thinking. Every one of these emotion purveyors said they wished for a world that was better than the shit they professionally put into…

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