Perhaps it is because I've been a train wreck, too, that I can't peel my eyes away from this show. And when the dramatic soundtracks and replays are stripped away, they are just regular people caught up in the web of addiction. The cast members (just the fact that they are considered a cast should be a tip off that there is something askew here) are at various stages with their ability to look objectively at their addictive behavior - some are firmly in Denial, while others are praying they are at Rock Bottom.
My own brief experience on camera was enough to convince me that it is very, very difficult to be yourself with cameramen and producers hovering about. Five complete strangers came to my house, the week before we taped the Oprah show, to interview me in my 'natural' environment. A sound guy, three camera men and one producer followed me around for hours, asking me question after question about some of the most painful moments of my life. "Act natural," the producer kept suggesting. "Pretend we aren't here," she says, while there is a camera lens eight inches from my face and a large microphone dangling in front of my nose. It was terrifying and alluring at the same time. I didn't feel anything like myself, not even close. The urge to edit my life, to project the right image (am I interesting enough? entertaining enough?) was nearly overwhelming. I told my truth, as best I could, and if I hadn't been talking about things that already happened to me, I don't know that I could have done it. If they were asking me about how I feel right now, in this moment, I wouldn't have known how to be truthful. My mind would have been casting about for the most interesting thing to say.
Celebrity Rehab is damaging, I think, to the public's perception of recovery, because it isn't really real. Heidi Fleiss asks a nurse, on the first show, whether or not this is "pretend rehab". The fact that the question has to be asked provides the answer. We, the public, may have become somewhat anesthetized to Reality TV, to watching people play out their lives on camera, thinking the subjects of our voyeurism are barely aware that we're there. But I know the subjects we're watching aren't anesthetized to it - quite the contrary, in fact. I know from my own experience it is impossible to ride out in front on a white horse and think objectively about yourself.
I'm reminded of how my 4 year old seems to view the world: any attention is good attention. It doesn't matter to him that he's behaving badly; he just wants me to Look. At. Him. Better that people are watching, than that nobody seems to care. And, just like with my 4 year old, it works.