I don't know why this is, but I've always been attracted to extremes.
Hamsters are called hoarders, because they like to shove copious quantities of sunflower seeds in their cheeks. Sunflower seeds seem harmless to me.
Little did I know that the hoarding of reality TV means living in what amounts to a waist-deep landfill. Pizza boxes, food wrappers, empty jars and beer cans and anything else no longer wanted is just tossed on the floor. The smell is appalling, and mice and bugs abound. It is as if these people have just given up on themselves, and on life.
As I become steadily more addicted to this awful stuff, I am beginning to notice certain themes cropping up again and again:The family telling the psychologist/organizer that their "collecting" (not hoarding) is their own business, and not hurting them or anyone else.
Inappropriate affect: constantly smirking, chuckling or joking about the disaster while the rest of the family quietly weeps; lashing out in astonishing, malignant hate and rage at the most well-meaning attempts to help.
No functioning kitchen.
A dead refrigerator full of rotting food.
Almost no place to sit down, and certainly no place to sit together. One partner sits on a box to eat dinner, while the other sits on the only exposed portion of the bed.
"Meals" defrosted in the microwave. Many of these people are very obese, so a lot of furtive overeating must go on behind the scenes.
Okay, so among the problems these families insist they don't have are: disturbed family relations; alienation; a seemingly deliberate, literal pushing apart of loved ones by the sheer bulk of all the crap. Normal bathroom functions, normal hygiene, normal eating and sleeping, all are eroded away to nothing. The outside world is effectively shut out, and the inhabitants are shut in. They have deliberately sealed themselves inside a stinking tomb, and when approached to tidy it up a little, they say they are too overwhelmed to do it and begin to sob about their disturbed childhood.
Yes, I have no doubt that these people had enormously disturbed childhoods, but what about their disturbed adulthoods? Isn't there something they can do about this? For (as they say in recovery circles), if nothing changes, nothing changes.
A few of these profoundly disabled souls seem to have a limited life on the outside. One woman spent three hours doing her hair every morning. (It looked like one of Lady Bird Johnson's more alarming wigs.) The surface of normalcy is eggshell. Once cracked by the intrusion of "help", all sorts of twisted dysfunction bursts through.
Strange people like this used to be institutionalized, or at least hidden upstairs and forgotten. Now they are being flushed out (pardon the expression), and, to some extent, used for sensationalist entertainment. In some cases, they do seem to want help, but it seems to me they are usually being coerced, either by the family or the law. All of these places are extreme fire hazards, and many aren't even intact. If you only have half a roof on your house, sooner or later the whole place is going to cave in.
But it's not enough to need help: you have to want it, and that pathetically backward family ended up being forcibly evicted when their falling-down house was finally condemned. The last shot showed them sitting in a row staring into the camera like something out of Deliverance, with the final caption telling us they were living in an apartment with four of their seven cats and planning on repairing the house and moving back in.