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Published August 19 2011

Morast: Don’t overreact: Reality TV is not killing people

More and more, it seems America’s best talent is its ability to overreact about anything.

The stock market falls into a hole, and we’re certain we’ll be living in caves by 2017.

One example of non-Christian zest goes viral, and we’re screaming about the lack of religion in today’s world – despite the fact that there are more churches than bars.

Warren Buffett wants rich people to pay higher taxes, and we act like no one has ever been more generous or altruistic in the history of the USA.

And, sadly, Russell Armstrong commits suicide, and we rush to our Facebook profiles to type in all caps “REALITY TV IS KILLING PEOPLE!!!”

Yes, it’s a tragedy that Armstrong, who was part of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” reality show cast, decided to end his life. But I don’t think we can cast the reality TV genre as his executioner; it sounds like the husband of “Housewives” star Taylor Armstrong had his own demons and dilemmas that were much more influential than reality TV.

Nevertheless, people preached to me Tuesday night after the news broke that “Armstrong was probably terrified by the fact his problems would be exposed on ‘Housewives’ and that fear drove him toward death.”

Perhaps. But that sounds more like people overreacting or reality TV haters exploiting a timely reason to condemn something they don’t like.

Still, I don’t know what it’s like to feel the pressures of reality TV. But there are people who do, like Detroit Lakes’ Abbi Noah, who was known as “Cornfed” on two VH1 reality shows.

So does Noah blame the medium for Armstrong’s suicide?


“I don’t think it’s reality TV’s fault, because you signed up for it,” Noah says. “You can get out of it if you want to. You can leave at any time.”

OK, I have to point out that Noah was clear to say she doesn’t want to sound like a heartless person and that she’s been praying for the Armstrong family. But she was persistent in her belief that more blame should be put on what the Armstrongs did while in front of the cameras than blaming the cameras. Like how they, and the rest of the “Housewives” cast, appeared so eager to show the world they were living a glamorous life, such as throwing their daughter a $50,000 birthday party despite being broke.

“It seems like most of them are in debt, going bankrupt, in foreclosure,” Noah says.

Basically, they’re trying to be something they’re not, and the pressure of keeping up appearances can be tough, maybe deadly.

Add the microscope of sudden fame and incessant Internet criticism to the equation, and it’s a type of pressure most of us can’t comprehend.

“You never know, going into it, how big you can get or how popular the show will be,” Noah says, adding that the “Housewives” have a level of fame she never achieved.

Yes, reality TV lifestyles can be harsh. But, like Noah says, Armstrong wasn’t forced to be on TV. He signed up for it. That isn’t reality TV’s fault.

Armstrong’s death is sad. And in a culture that overreacts at everything, that’s the one thing about this tragedy that can’t be overstated.