Lockdowns may have robbed us of many things over the past two years, but if there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic has delivered, it’s been the time and freedom to watch more reality television than ever before from the comfort of our own couches.
But despite the vast amount of time we’ve spent inside our houses while COVID-19 raged, the great Aussie dream of homeownership has never been more out of reach than it is right now.
In fact, according to CoreLogic data released earlier this month, average house prices across the country have jumped by an astronomical average of 20.3 per cent in just one year.
So why, when homeownership slips further out of reach than ever before, do we continue to tune into and binge television that centres around home renovation and the property market at an all-time high?
According to pop culture expert, Associate Professor Lauren Rosewarne, our long love of the genre comes down to a number of factors.
“Partly, there is the ‘stickybeak’ aspect — much like visiting open-for-inspections simply to have a look around; partly there is the insight provided into the art and design work of renovation,” Rosewarne tells The Latch.
Additionally, she adds, there are also “the appeal of the drama and competition” and “the aspiration offered by homes that often look more flash than the ones we live in.”
The reality is that tens of thousands of Australians may never have the luxury of altering floor plans and removing non-load-bearing walls to free up a living space; of turning dead hallway space into a study nook; of selecting a tile palette for a bathroom renovation. And yet, so many of us choose to tune in to see others do just that on shows like The Block.
Will we ever be likely to drop a cool $5 million on a mansion within the best Sydney school districts or spend tens of thousands of dollars stocking a basement wine cellar to show off to friends who stop by to enjoy the harbour views and infinity pool? Without a winning lotto ticket in hand, it’s hard to imagine. And yet, Amazon’s Luxe Listings has been at the top of Australian viewing lists for months.
So what’s behind this choose-your-own property adventure style of torture? Is it really to live vicariously or hold onto the pipe dream just that little bit longer? Or is it simply because we like to judge other people and have been locked inside with so little else to do?
While ratings for The Block are down compared to previous seasons, the show, which is currently in its 17th season, is still pulling well over 800,000 viewers per episode. When compared to this season of The Bachelor, which struggled to get above 450,000 viewers per episode and landed just over 600,000 viewers for its finale, The Block is still flying high.
And as per previous seasons before it, Channel Nine is expecting to hit well over a million Australian viewers to tune in to see buyers lay down eye-watering amounts of money to secure one of the five properties being offered up this season in the weeks to come.
With home ownership no longer a viable pan in so many people’s future, the reality of these reality shows is long gone. But will we ever tune out and turn off?
“For lots of people, our television consumption patterns are about vicarious participation in something that’s inaccessible: be that owning our own home or renovating. For others, watching is aspirational: it’s about what we’d like to do if we could,” Rosewarne says.
“It’s important to note though, lots of people just find this stuff entertaining and therefore we shouldn’t necessarily draw too many conclusions as to why people enjoy what they enjoy: a lot of us are locked in our homes and we’ll watch whatever is on.”