Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The television shows we watch (or at least wish we could watch if we had the time) can say a lot about us Swatties. Everyone has judged a friend for obsessing over The Bachelor or being intimidated by that roommate who cannot miss an episode of CNN’s AC360.
According to a study conducted by Mindset Media, the TV shows people watch can tell us a lot about who they are. If you watch Jersey Shore does it mean that you like to party? Or if you are a diehard fan of Fox and Friends, does that mean you are a staunch conservative? When people get to know me and realize I am into politics, they often correctly assume that I’m addicted to House of Cards and Scandal, but they are always surprised that I am a devout fan of Dance Moms and Breaking Amish.
It is out of this theory that PersonaliTV was born. Hearing about others’ television interests brings about endless conversation and gives you a window into their lives that is otherwise hidden from view. Which is why I want to find out if Swatties are really as nonconformist as we think, or if our viewing habits are as boring as a typical Haverford student’s. Each week, I will profile different students to see whether their guilty pleasures have anything to do with who they are.
Noelle Arroyo ’17 escapes reality with vampires, redheaded secret agents, and crazy brides — not what one would expect from the typical pre-med hopeful. Arroyo’s television habits, like her complex personality, cannot be summed up in one word. A self-described perfectionist, Arroyo admits that others likely wouldn’t guess she loves Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries or that she guiltily indulges in Untold Stories of the ER, Dark Matter: Twisted but True, Storage Wars, That’s So Raven, Kim Possible, and Hannah Montana. This unique spectrum of television interests reveals a lot about Arroyo.
While her hallmates describe her as kind, studious, and serene, Arroyo’s TV habits are anything but that. “I don’t have a lot of the lustful, gossipy drama in my life that’s always present in Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries, so it definitely fills a void,” she said.
These shows do more than just fill a void in Arroyo’s life; they also provide moments of special bonding with her friends. During orientation, Arroyo and her roommate, Lily Tyson ’17, discovered a shared love of Pretty Little Liars and snuggled together on a sofa in their lounge to watch the season finale.
In addition to helping strengthen friendships, Arroyo’s favorite shows have even shaped her moral compass.
“I remember watching That’s So Raven as a preteen and seeing Raven make a dress that she was going to wear in a fashion show. She was a little bit on the plus size, but she had the confidence to wear the dress anyway and I loved that positive message,” she said.
Even though some of her favorite programs, like Pretty Little Liars, are quite mainstream, she admits to enjoying many offbeat shows like Untold Stories of the ER and Dark Matters: Twisted But True, which depict medical and scientific oddities and explain them to viewers.
“I want to go into the medical field so both of these shows really captivated my attention,” Arroyo said. “It’s cool to learn about science through TV.”
While some may say TV shows are intended simply for pleasure, she feels that these two shows heighten her perception of reality.
“In my Intro to Psychology course the other day, the professor mentioned H.M., a man who lost the ability to form new memories after a part of his brain was surgically removed. As soon as he said that, I knew I already heard about the story on Dark Matters” she said. “It was definitely one of those oh-my-god moments.”
But perhaps the most surprising shows that Arroyo watches are classic Disney Channel series like Lizzie McGuire and Kim Possible. Upon learning that Arroyo loves these Disney Channel shows, hall mate Elena Solano ’17 said, “I definitely wasn’t expecting that because I thought Noelle would normally like things that are a lot calmer.” Arroyo agrees that nowadays, one would not necessarily expect her Disney Channel favorites, but the nostalgia is what brings her back to watch repeat after repeat.
Arroyo’s passion for her favorite series stems from what she perceives as a duality regarding the purposes of television.
“I like how TV can either be informational, as opposed to learning through reading all the time, or completely fictional and absurd in order to escape reality,” she said.
More recently, Arroyo began watching Breaking Bad, partly because many of her new friends are obsessed with the series. When choosing new shows to watch, she considers storyline to be extremely important.
“I love anything where the plot gets interesting and complicated. It’s great when stories start simple then get more complicated because that’s what draws you into the show,” Arroyo said.
Despite loving some unexpected shows, Arroyo embraces this diversity, no matter how off-the-wall it may seem.
“I’m never afraid to say that I like a certain show, except maybe Hannah Montana, mainly because of Miley’s twerking incident recently,” she said. Like Miley, Arroyo is not ashamed to show who she is — in this case, not with a foam finger but through her love of so many quirky TV shows.
If you or someone you know loves watching unexpected or quirky TV shows, send us an email and you might be featured in the next installment of PersonaliTV.