The United States of America is currently a place which is strewn with realities and elements that should, by all accounts, truly make us ashamed of ourselves. The very state of the country itself, our national debt in particular, is a travesty. We have collectively managed to dig a financial hole so deep that climbing out of it within the next millennium appears all but impossible. And don’t say that “we” doesn’t apply to you and that it is all the government’s fault, because we are complicit in electing these jokers into office. For the sweet love of God, there is a perfectly good chance that Donald Trump will be the next commander-in-chief to be sworn in. Our obsession with guns is pretty embarrassing as well. I think we are the only country in the world that visits other countries and find ourselves pissy because they do not speak our language. Our obesity rate, especially among our youth, is also a rather shameful subject. Our education system finds itself way in back of the pack in terms of effectiveness. We can’t seem to produce cars that anyone cares a whole lot about. The Tea Party movement is monumentally embarrassing, as is Sarah Palin in general. And yet, there is one reality in the United States of America that is so heinous, so diabolically shameful, that it should have every American writing apology notes to every citizen of every country that has had the sad displeasure of having to view it for even a single second. That reality my friends is the series of (and you can barely call them) television shows entitled “The Real Housewives.”
These shows are more than nightmarishly offensive, they are pervasive. I find it nearly impossible to flip through the various station on the tube without managing to run across these gut-wrenchingly empty-headed mean-spirited women in one form or another. In reality, I think they are all limited to Bravo (although I’m not sure), so I guess this just means I run past Bravo quite a bit when I am flipping. But, in general, I like Bravo. There is original programming as well as reruns of shows that I am quite fond of on Bravo and I resent having to avoid the channel completely for fear that I will run across a cadre of surgically enhanced, back-stabbing, stupid as a bag of rocks harlots screaming at each other because one of their designer cross-bred rat dogs took a crap in the flower bed. And yet, no matter what time of day you go scrolling through the stations, there they are. There are just so many friggin’ housewives. Endless housewives. To my knowledge there are housewives in Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Beverley Hills, Miami with Potomac and Dallas on board for next year. You’d think they could at least combine the silicone sycophants in Orange County and Beverley Hills to relieve us of just one of these abominations. I’m not saying that I want to watch The Real Housewives of California, but at least it would offer an iota of consolidation.
Now, I grant you that The Real Housewives fall under the equally repulsive umbrella of “Reality Television,” and certainly should not receive all the blame either for creating the problem or for perpetuating it. Reality Television is an embarrassment in and of itself and a screaming indication of what a shallow chattel-like citizenship we have. In truth, it started with The Real World on MTV. And while The Real World was not a good show by any stretch of the imagination, it at least made some semblance of sense. First of all, it was basically a show for teenagers, who are, essentially a bunch of lobotomy victims to begin with (I know this because I was one). Further, there was a level of innovation taking place. The concept of creating a sort of sociological experiment involving taking a group of young people from different ethnicities and religions and backgrounds with a host of different experiences and place them all together in a confined space to observe how they mix and interact had a potentially groundbreaking air to it. Of course, it was clear in short order that no person was going to be anything in the realm of genuine with the knowledge that they were being filmed every single solitary moment. It was equally clear, after a while, that the producers of the show were prompting and cajoling the participants to act in certain ways, take on certain personas, induce conflict and generally be as “unreal” as possible. So basically, the entire sociological experiment was bullshit. What’s worse, it wasn’t even interesting bullshit. The group they chose were a bunch of mouth-breathing morons without a single captivating thing to offer beyond trying to hook up with each other, drinking and partying excessively and fighting over who stole the peanut butter. It was insipid. And it is this particular vapid brand of reality programming that our vomitous housewives are created in the image of. Except, in this case, they are full-grown adults; full-grown adults doing the exact same stupid shit and arguing about the same crap that the young people were doing and arguing about on The Real World. Further, it is no longer teens that this drivel is being marketed to. It is full-grown adults being asked to tune in to this garbage and they do just that. Adults. Adults with full lives and careers and kids and mortgages and car payments are being asked to donate the little fragments of free time available to them to the viewing of genuinely awful people acting awfully toward each other as they fight with their awful spouses and ignore their spoiled kids.
I should mention that when I say that The Real Housewives are built on The Real World model of reality programming, I am assuming that you are aware that there is another model. That would be what I would term the Survivor model of reality programming. This is the model that rather than asking you to just watch a bunch of people being people for no particular reason, asks you to watch a bunch of people engaged in some sort of contest or competition. Falling into this category would be shows like American Idol, The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, Top Chef, The Bachelor and, well, you get the idea. This brand of reality programming is a degree less loathsome than its counterpart and is, sometimes, although rarely, entertaining. I will admit to having spent a few seasons tuning into American Idol, although mainly for the terrible auditions and to watch Simon Cowell rag on people. And Master Chef is quite a bit of fun. But, in a general way, these shows are just as complicit in advertising the stupidity of the average American. I think, overall, the message we send to the production companies is, “If you can show us people embarrassing themselves or each other or unscrupulously competing for a prize or just acting like complete assholes for an hour at a time, we’ll tune in.” So that’s what they do. We’ve given the major television networks the greatest gift they’ve ever received. We’ve signed on to let them make scads of reality shows rather than scads of sit-coms and dramas. The average reality show costs between $100,000 and $200,000. The average scripted show runs between 1 and 2 million. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and Bravo love what idiots we are.
Anyway, back to the housewives. First of all, it is monumentally offensive to every genuine housewife in the known universe to call these wenches housewives. Look the word up in the dictionary. Here’s what you’ll find:
“A married woman who manages her own household, especially as her principled occupation.”
The women on these shows are all millionaires (or their husbands are) with access to nannies and servants to “manage” their households. There are millions of women in this country who spend all day every day trying to balancing a budget while vacuuming, doing laundry, washing dishes, scrubbing floors, making beds, and shepherding their kids back and forth to school and extracurricular activities and helping them with their homework who should be ragefully and righteously appalled at the umnitogated gall of these blights on society being referred to as housewives. And yet, it occurs to me that there is a really good chance that many of the housewives I just have described come to the end of their exhausting days, ready to collapse, pour themselves a glass of cheap wine and actually watch an episode of The Real Housewives. And we wonder why The Donald is leading the Republican polls.
You know, there was a time when being famous required that you had some sort of remarkable skill or talent. Frank Sinatra was famous because he could croon a love ballad like no other person in the world. Joe Dimaggio was famous because he could hit a 90 mile an hour fastball four hundred feet. Jackson Pollack was famous because he could create a frenetic tableau of color that was mind-blowing to the eye as well as to the senses. Marlon Brando was famous because he could literally inhabit the being of another person on stage and screen. Famous people were famous for reasons that were clear and obvious to locate. Famous people were famous because they were too remarkable not to be famous. How on earth did we collectively decide as a nation that the new demarcation for being famous was needlessly spending scads of money that you didn’t earn and behaving like an imbecilic, entitled, vicious trollop?
And what I believe is really at the heart of the problem is that these ludicrous women actually understand themselves as famous; as superstars; loved and adored by millions. They have gotten the message that marrying for money, and acting unkind and unforgiving and manipulative and cruel pays off, and pays off big. And as they hold these warped values to be true, so do the millions of people who tune in each week to watch these train wreck women torture each other. Who they are and how they operate and what they represent has genuinely entered the DNA of our nation. We hail their fame and bow at their Jimmy Choo laden feet. There is even a show after the show recounting and processing all the crap that happened on the show. That is the level to which we are obsessed with these creatures. Our fascination demands a show about the show. I don’t know if I find that more comical or terrifying.
Why do people watch this? What do they get out of it? I have nothing against mindless entertainment. There are episodes of Frasier and Seinfeld and The King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond that I have seen six or seven times already. I don’t understand that there is any genuine value in this or that it improves my life in any way; but it’s not doing me any harm either. These so-called housewives are harmful. They are dangerous. Ridiculous and patently absurd; but dangerous nonetheless. They are purporting a way of life that has truly become the so-called American dream. They are what the majority of the nation aspires to be. They are the ideal, so to speak. And a country in which a bunch of plastic, vapid femme fatales have become something that are viewed with envy and awe, is a country in a whole whopping heap of trouble. It’s hard to believe that when our forefathers declared that we are all to have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that they had NeNe Leakes, Bethenny Frankel, Teresa Giudice or Lisa Vanderpump in mind. In fact, if the forefathers had access to a crystal ball and had the insight to foresee this nightmare, I suspect they may well have scrapped the whole endeavor.
And bear in mind, the toxin is pervasive. Because the natural offshoot of the devilish housewives is a show called Dance Moms. It is every bit as gross and loathsome as the Real Housewives, except now they have gotten innocent children in on the repulsive action. The show revolves around a wildebeest of a dance studio owner and the frazzled, angst-ridden, tear-stained children that she pushes and prods and criticizes and pits against each other, while their massively incompetent mothers, clearly attempting to rectify their own failures by living through their children, bitch and moan and backstab each other and jockey for position as the competitions ensue. It makes me shudder at what’s next. Maybe a show about nuns forced to have sex with truckers in an effort to create the most interesting baby. Or maybe a show about choir boys made to compete in a beer pong contest where the last one standing gets promoted to head boy.
Let me tell you something, dear readers. If you think the fictional worlds of movies like The Running Man, The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games are not eventually coming to network television, you are fooling yourself. Brace yourselves.