The most confusing reality TV moments finally get explained

Reality TV has that special something that makes you hate it, yet you can't look away. Throughout the past decade, reality TV exploded in popularity and now, new shows are being created every single year. There are countless opinions regarding reality TV, some being negative. Many believe the scenes are staged, some think the shows are just stupid, and others feel that reality TV doesn't compare to the high quality productions of premiere networks.

Regardless of the conflicting views on reality TV, both supporters and critics alike often overlook one key point: reality TV shows are reflective of reality (at least for the most part). The characters featured are real people just living their lives, even though it's in the public eye. Therefore, despite reality TV's often superficial plot lines, there are definitely lessons that can be learned from them. In fact, some of the most confusing and craziest scenes of reality TV can actually shed light on the nuances of human nature. So, here's a look into iconic-yet-confusing moments in reality TV history, and the lessons they can teach us about humanity and modern society.

When "The Situation" smashed his head against a wall on Jersey Shore

Who can forget that Jersey Shore moment when Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino head butted a cement wall, passed out, and cried in a neck brace for days... classic. Tension between Sorrentino and Ronnie Ortiz-Magro gradually increased throughout Season 4, resulting in the viral blowout fight. Now, upon re-watching the scene, Mike's irrationality is even more confusing in light of his transformation since recovering from addiction. 

In a 2018 Jersey Shore Family Reunion episode, Sorrentino reflected on moments from his past that he's not proud of. His evolution portrays why the fight matters — it clarifies a common misconception about addiction. "When I was getting into those fights with Ronnie, I was practically withdrawing and I didn't want to admit it at the time. And then I had a really good idea to bang my head against the wall," said Sorrentino. 

His mind was so warped by alcohol and drugs that his perception of reality was distorted, which intensified with withdrawal's physically debilitating symptoms. Now that we can see the real Mike, the head-butt scene exemplifies the strong hold addiction has over a person, showing us that addiction isn't a choice.

Paris Hilton didn't know what Walmart was on The Simple Life

The Simple Life unfolded through Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's journey to a farm in Arkansas to learn how the "other half" lives. This reality TV show's overarching premise, along with the title describing farming as "simple," highlights what can be learned about modern white privilege. 

Throughout the series, Hilton and Richie struggled with the mundane tasks us common folk do everyday, including cooking, laundry, working a low paying job, etc. These scenes, while certainly comical, are nothing compared to the most confusingly ridiculous moment of the show – when Hilton didn't know what Walmart was. Her exact words were: "What is Walmart? Do they sell like, wall stuff?" Epic... truly epic.

While we may never know for sure, we hope this was scripted... could someone really be that ignorant? Regardless, this iconic moment shed light on how white privilege shelters people from the realities of the world around them. Moreover, privilege creates a tunnel vision-like effect. Since Hilton never needed to go to Walmart, why would she care enough to know what it is? While the scene provides insight into the negative impacts of #WhitePrivilege, it's still totally hilarious.

When James Kennedy called Katie Maloney fat (for the 1000th time) on Vanderpump Rules

James Kennedy... what a handful. At this point, it's hard to be shocked by his behavior — from binge drinking, to cheating scandals, to fighting and more, he's certainly made a name for himself. A lot of Vanderpump Rule's characters have learned to ignore him, but there was a big moment in 2018 where Kennedy crossed the line.

After Katie Maloney confronted Raquel, Kennedy' girlfriend, with claims of his infidelity, he lashed out at everyone nearby, namely Maloney. He's called Maloney fat before, but this time, his words developed to that of verbal abuse. He shouted in the episode, "Don't even get me started on you, darling. ...Those shorts aren't working for you, babe. She shouldn't be wearing those shorts. They're not very flattering. Lose some f***ing weight!"

Afterwards, Maloney gave Lisa Vanderpump an ultimatum: fire Kennedy or I'm quitting. Obviously Kennedy personally hurt Maloney, but this scene sheds light on a much bigger problem – today's harmful body image norms. For one, Maloney is not fat, plain and simple. But that's besides the point. More importantly, Kennedy casually talking about a woman's body like that mirrors flawed modern social conditions.

The Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson incident on Bachelor in Paradise

It's time to talk about that scandal — the Bachelor in Paradise moment we never saw, but all know about. The 2017 Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson incident that suspended production. While the details are unclear, it's confirmed the two had been drinking excessively and their sexual encounter in the pool left witnesses uncomfortable.

Olympios interviewed with Good Morning America to share her side of the story, but her explanation is arguably just as concerning as the alleged incident. She claimed to have zero recollection of what happened after blacking out from alcohol and prescription medication. In regard to the footage, she said, "Obviously I watched the first episode. It's like I'm watching not me. I'm watching someone else. I was, like, in shock."

Binge drinking has become an accepted part of modern partying culture, but when you're that intoxicated, you completely lose control, which Olympios' interview exemplifies. She didn't recognize herself in that state, therefore proving that binge drinking turns you into someone you're not. This incident also brings up the idea of consent, and what that looks like under these circumstances. Today's party culture among young adults normalizes behavior like this, therefore, this confusing TV moment is important for society to consider.

That time Tyra Banks pretended to faint on America's Next Top Model

America's Next Top Model began in 2003 and has kept Tyra Banks relevant in reality TV for a long time now (maybe too long). There are many Tyra moments to remember — the drama queen keeps it interesting — but one specifically stands out: that strange fake fainting scene.

The contestants were beginning an acting challenge, so to "prepare" them, Banks scared them by pretending to faint. On a surface level, this isn't a big deal, however, many avid watchers didn't forget that two seasons prior, a contestant fainted mid-episode and was sent to the hospital. Maybe the producers realized that a modeling competition doesn't always foster the juiciest drama, so it was kept in the episode. Unsurprisingly, it was a popular scene amongst viewers

This is all speculation, but perhaps Banks decided to capitalize upon that scene's TV appeal and recreate a similar moment. In doing so, Banks trivialized the experiences of chronic fainting. And even though the contestant reportedly fainted due to a medical issue she had since childhood, we can't ignore the known connection between modeling and eating disorders, which can cause fainting. Publicity stunts like these are far too common in the entertainment industry, and this confusing reality TV moment reveals just how far some people are willing to go for attention.

When AGT "saint" Michael Ketterer got arrested for domestic violence

On America's Got Talent in 2018, singer Michael Ketterer received Simon Cowell's golden buzzer and ultimately placed 5th in the finals. But his beautiful voice wasn't actually why he earned so much adoration; it was his seemingly saint-like character

Ketterer works as a Pediatric Mental Nurse in California and inspiring clips of his counseling sessions aired on AGT. Emotional stories about his family were also televised, namely about his six adopted children — one being a little boy with a terminal illness. Ketterer even brought Cowell to tears after moving performances. "You really are a special person," said judge Heidi Klum.

However, following his AGT loss, Ketterer was arrested for felony domestic violence. After a volatile fight with his wife brought the police to their hotel room, the cops noticed visible red marks on her body. Ultimately his wife didn't press charges and he was released. Whether or not the situation was a "misunderstanding" like Ketterer claimed to TMZ, this confusing reality TV story reminds us of the age-old lesson "don't judge a book by its cover." And reality TV might not portray the whole story.

The woman with nearly 100 dead cats in her refrigerator on Hoarders

A&E's Hoarders aired in 2009 and has given viewers an inside look at the often painful realities of hoarding ever since. From jars of human excrement to hundreds of sex toys, viewers thought they had seen it all... until they met Terry.

The 2012 Hoarders episode revealed that she kept nearly 100 dead cats in her refrigerator and also had sick cats crawling all over her house. She said, "I really feel like the reason I collect cats is that I have this feeling in me that I'm helping save something." Obviously, this logic was confusing. Terry elaborated that she believes she was helping the sick cats, despite their horrific living conditions, and hoped to cremate the dead ones, but couldn't afford it. So she decided to use the refrigerator as means of preserving the dead bodies.

The episode, though shocking, spreads awareness. The jarring scenes reveal how consuming a compulsive hoarding disorder can be and allow viewers the opportunity to empathize with the subjects of the episodes by getting a glimpse inside their minds. Hoarders don't choose to live their lives that way, and the show reminds viewers not to judge people for things beyond their control.

When Teen Mom 2 star Jenelle Evans gave up custody of her son

Jenelle Evans came to stardom after appearing on 16 and Pregnant in 2010 and on Teen Mom from 2010-2017. Over the years, viewers watched her relationships unhinge, notably that with her mother, Barbara Evans. They were a major source of drama: Jenelle once threatened to punch her mom in the face, Barbara kicked Jenelle out of the house, and they regularly got into volatile fights

Therefore, as Us Weekly reported, fans of the show didn't anticipate that Jenelle would legally grant custody of her son to her mom, Barbara. The decision came after years Jenelle's shocking antics: She abused drugs (including while pregnant), was accused of child abuse, had violent fights with romantic partners, considered going to jail over a Kesha concert, and more. 

"When you kicked me out, I realized I can't take care of Jace on my own yet because I can't even support myself," Jenelle told her mom in the episode (via Us Weekly). Her decision highlights the sacrifices parents must make for the sake of their children; giving up custody of Jace devastated her, but she knew that it was what was best for him. 

Khloe Kardashian's "DUI Arrest" on Keeping Up With the Kardashians

In 2016, renowned investigative journalist Ian Halperin published Kardashian Dynasty, an investigation into the family's controversial rise to fame. One section exposes how heavily staged the show is and references Khloe's "DUI arrest" from 2007, alleging it was faked. Halperin said, "It is entertaining and dramatic TV, except that Khloe was busted for DUI in March," before KUWTK "even got the green light." People may judge the Kardashian's calculated rise to prominence, but this revelation implies a bigger problem. Staging this scene trivializes the seriousness of driving under the influence, which Kim exacerbated by sharing throwback photos in 2016. 

Moreover, Khloe wasn't really punished for her actual DUI. She initially received a slap on the wrist with community service hours and a mandatory alcohol-education class. But then Khloe missed several sessions — guess she had more important celebrity matters to tend to. She then faced up to 30 days in jail, but was released after less than three hours. Halperin's exposé reveals an example of what researchers have shown on a larger scale: the lack of accountability among the privileged — people like the Kardashians are rarely held to the same standards as everyone else.

The controversial "Skinny Mirror" Shark Tank pitch

Up next is a Shark Tank controversial pitch from 2015 — The Skinny Mirror. Belinda Jasmine created a mirror that makes a person look 5-10 pounds slimmer and received conflicting responses. At first, the judges joked around about the mirror, but then Kevin O'Leary spoke up, saying the product promotes deception, resulting in a heated ethics debate. 

The Skinny Mirror exploded in the news, some people claiming it furthers unethical body-shaming agendas. Others compared it to make up; it makes people feel good about themselves. Regardless, the pitch highlights two issues. Jasmine refused to see another perspective while on the show, which reflects societal ignorance — the belief that there is one right answer when it comes to complex matters like ethics is disconnected from reality

According to the company's now-inactive website (via Mental Floss), stores that used the mirror saw an 18.2% increase in sales per customer. Did the stores that bought The Skinny Mirror not consider the ethical implications of using it? It's hard not to wonder what else is going on in retail that consumers aren't aware of. 

When Dorinda and Carole went to London in Real Housewives of New York

In 2015, RHONY's Dorinda Medley and Carole Radziwill went to London to retrieve Radziwill's late husband's ashes. Medley, having endured her own late husband's death in 2011, went as a form of support. Both women had previously kept these experiences private on the show, so their emotional trip to London surprised many viewers.

Radziwill revealed her biggest regret to the chapel priest. "I would say the last few weeks [of his life] I was not able to really support [my husband] in the way that I wanted to because it was just devastating," she said. Upon returning the hotel, she finally cried, opening the doors to a conversation with Medley. They discussed things like the immense toll their husbands' illnesses took on their marriages and on the women themselves. "I, at the end of it, was so physically and emotionally exhausted, and so angry. I almost felt like after he died that I was happy he died," admitted Medley. That sort of honesty was both shocking and refreshing.

The "entirely cathartic experience" allowed both women to obtain sense of closure, powerfully revealing two often undisclosed realities of human nature — the complexities of trauma and loss and the catharsis of shared pain.

When Heidi Montag landed her "dream job" on The Hills

It may have been over a decade since we were introduced to the drama of Laguna Beach, but who can forget the iconic Lauren Conrad and her entourage of drama queens? With the show's profound success, the group's adventures continued in The Hills from 2006 to 2010. From the drama between rich girls to their comically youthful college relationships, a lot of the show proved to be exceedingly trivial, which Heidi Montag reminded viewers in just the second episode of the first season: "A Change of Plans."

After obtaining an event planning assistant job with Bolthouse Productions, Montag bragged to Conrad that she scored her "dream job" at the ripe age of 19 — thinking that the gig would be all about attending glamorous L.A. parties. She even stated in another episode that her ultimate goal was to "be, like, the fun party PR girl in L.A." Poor girl, it seems that a childhood of wealth never taught her about the realities of the world. But in the end, the gals of Laguna Beach and The Hills never failed to make viewers laugh at the superficial "hardships" of white privilege. 

That woman on Naked and Afraid who drank coconut water out of her, um, ya

Next up is arguably the weirdest reality TV show of all time — Discovery Channel's Naked and Afraid. Each episode features two strangers, usually a man and a woman, stranded in a desolate location without food, water, or clothing. The premise of surviving dangerous situations — while naked with a complete stranger — easily allows for crazy and confusing episodes, but one moment definitely stands out. 

In Season 4, Kim Kelly, a banker from Utah, was paired with Gary Underhill, a firearms instructor from Nevada. The two were forced to survive dangerously warm climates in the Panamanian jungle. After expending tons of energy opening rotten coconuts, Kelly finally finds a ripe one, only to accidentally spill its contents on her body. But did that stop her? Of course not! This woman with self-proclaimed "survival grit" decided to drink the coconut water out of her crotch. She exclaimed, "I drank coconut crotch water and I loved it!"

Is there a hugely significant lesson to be learned from this? Maybe not. But it does serve as a good reminder of how strange people can be. After all, intentionally subjecting yourself to an experience called Naked and Afraid is totally wild. But no judgment, and all the power to those who do it.

"She Bangs!" William Hung's legendary American Idol performance

William Hung's 2004 American Idol audition is one of the most iconic moments in reality TV history. The singer's (can we call him that?) unsuccessful performance of Ricky Martin's hit song "She Bangs" is totally unforgettable.

The performance wasn't exactly well-received by the judges; Simon Cowell called it "grotesque" and said: "You can't sing, you can't dance, so what do you want me to say?" However, once the audition aired, it spread through the media like wildfire, hurling William Hung to cultural phenomenon status. Hung even got to relive his time in the limelight in 2015 when Ricky Martin invited him to perform as a surprise guest at a show in Las Vegas.

While this moment has never been thought of as culturally "significant," it's important to not disregard the value of fun. Today, the press is comprised of mostly depressing content and William Hung is the (un)sung hero America needs, now more than ever.