C=T contributor Sam Jay has struck raunch television gold! C=T contributor, Sam Jay, has a hankerin’ for watching the kind of TV that insights eye rolls that involves reality television that can only be indulged by watching it with his better half.
I admit to watching all of the Real Housewives series. These viewings began as something I did to appease my fiancée, but quickly became voluntary viewing. My love affair began with the aristocratic women of New York because watching women who refer to themselves as royalty (LuAnn the “Countess”), who remain ignorant of their own bat-shit craziness (Kelly), or who promote their own liquor while pregnant (Bethany) is like watching that woman from Flint, Michigan cut open her pet rabbit for food in Michael Moore’s Roger and Me -it makes me want to throw up, but yet I am so amazed that people like this really exist that I suppress the gagging and watch.
The Infamous Flint Rabbit
My attention then turned to Orange County -the first location of The Real Housewives franchise- as the second season from this locale was beginning and since then I have remained rapt in the storylines of an interchangeable set of with fake everything and an ominous diagnosis of malignant melanoma. Atlanta came next showcasing a group of African-American women (and Kim, the self-titled white Whitney Houston now famous for her single “Tardy for the Party”) entrenched in the aristocratic neighborhoods of “Hotlanta.” Bravo traveled back up the east coast -and I followed- landing in New Jersey next and providing viewers with more hair extensions, “prostitution whores,” and husbands of ambiguous employment in what can be summarized as Jersey Shore for adults.
Real Housewives of Atlanta Kim Zolciak performing “Dont be Tardy for the Party”
The latest installments of Housewives have pulled their subjects from the most aloof of American locales: Washington, D.C. and Beverly Hills. Before even tuning in to watch the D.C. women I assumed their lives would be rather boring. What happens in Washington is rarely glamorous and such tabloid fodder as “tickle fights” and call girls have become so commonplace that their coverage fails to pique my interests anymore. Knowing that the entire season of Housewives of D.C. built up to Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashing the State Dinner at the White House I must admit, I was a little disinterested. The ladies of Beverly Hills are different from D.C. not because they are not aristocratic Barbie dolls, but because what they consider problems are nothing like those faced by any “real world” American. Hell, their problems are not even comparable to the problems of all the other Real Housewives. These women make me want to throw up for reasons that have nothing to do with off-key singing or self-aggrandizement.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 1 Intro
Rich people have real problems and money rarely prevents people from having to pay the consequences for doing bad things. Sure, rich people can afford the best lawyers and have an easier time with the law, but in the eyes of the public everyone has to suffer the consequences when they screw up. Take Tiger Woods for example. Shit hit the fan last Thanksgiving, but by Master’s time in April the golf world wanted him back because the casual golf fan only watches when Tiger is playing. However, for those who only see Tiger as a celebrity (i.e. most of America) the once righteous do-gooder is now on par with Charlie Sheen. For those folks it is no longer about when Tiger will win his next major, it is about who is the next woman to come out and talk about his affinity for “Ambien zombie sex.”
This wish to see famous people fall from grace often considered sadistic, but it is mostly about the “have-nots” seeing that the “haves” are just as messed up as they are. They might kill their ex-wife, be able to afford Johnny Cochrane, and get away with murder, but in society’s eyes that person will always be a pariah -and/or eventually karma catches up in the form of a tape recorder that happens to record you robbing dudes of your own memorabilia. We want to see these people fail because not only does it make us feel a little better about ourselves, it makes the rich and famous look a little more human.
Reality TV has become another outlet for this kind of reckoning especially in non-competitive serial reality television with storylines that progress from episode to episode. The Real Housewives franchise is the epitome of the genre because when one of these wealthy women acts unbecoming, she usually pays for it. For example, New Jersey has Danielle who was made out to be the crazy bitch early in the first season and has sense left the show after a book about her past as a prostitute and a sex tape with a bald guy surfaced. Atlanta has made Kim the glutinous character bedazzled in massive wigs, massive rings, and massive… make up. Punishment for her extravagance comes in the form of Big Papa, a man she loves, but who is married and therefore will never attain. On New York Jill is conniving and pay for it by losing friends. Michaele lies through her teeth on the D.C. spin-off and for her sins gets caught in her contradictions and therefore, despised by fans. Housewives reaffirm the negative connotations of outspoken and gaudy women, but it also feeds our desire to see the wealthy fall to Earth. If they were normal people that would make them like us and our lives are not that interesting. When they are rich and famous the enjoyment comes from having them humbled and brought to our level.
The process of humbling is something The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills lacks because these women “wade in gravy.” They are aloof, having no idea what the real world is like and any problem they have seems tiny compared to the stuff most of us deal with within our first few waking hours. For example, early on in the current season Camille Grammar -now ex-wife of Frasier- was complaining about all the things that needed to be done before taking her kids to Hawaii. Within moments it became clear that the breadth of her “to do list” was making a “to do list” for her house manager. The sad thing is, she was serious! This is the same woman that used a surrogate mother to have her children not because of illness, but because she did not want to ruin her figure. I hate to put the spotlight on Camille -especially when there are two Hilton family members on the show- but she is the poster child for lack of self-awareness. This mixture of ignorance and wealth is rare in society and it is what defines that small pocket of people unaffected by reality. The other Housewives live outside of this pocket and we get to see a little humanity from them. In Beverly Hills there is no candor and the urge to throw up comes not from self-indulgence, but from knowing that these women are going to self-indulge and never pay the piper for it.
There are moments of genuine emotion in Beverly Hills. One of these moments happened during a recent episode in which Taylor was having a fundraiser for women and children who had experienced domestic abuse. In a very candid moment she admitted she witnessed domestic abuse as a child and that her father used to beat up her mother. The scene showed Taylor “crying” on the podium and Adrienne “crying” in the audience. I put crying in quotations because combined these two Housewives have more chemicals in their face than most meth labs and because of it neither could actually produce any tears. There was a lot of cringing and what appeared to be pain, but for sure there were no wrinkles. As a result, I was more saddened by the fact that her lips did not move than by the fact she witnessed domestic violence as a child. Therein lies my beef with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills because for me it is just not as exciting to watch the undoing of wealth and fame when ignorance allows those in decline to have no idea it is going on. Admittedly, editing plays a huge part in how these women are portrayed, but only so much can be blamed on the editors. Even Lindsay Lohan has that sober moment each day when she realizes she has hit rock bottom. The Housewives of Beverly Hills never do.
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