Saturday night in early June in Southern California, guess what I did? If you guessed: attended an impromptu Miley Cyrus concert, rode around Sunset Boulevard in a limo, and danced in an over-sized Taco Bell that’s been converted into a night club, you would be wrong. That was Friday night. On Saturday, I was sitting at home watching a mini marathon of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and losing faith in the future of mankind.
As has been well documented on this site, I am a big fan of trash reality television (Girls Next Door and Shot at Love w/ Tila Tequila being my two favorites). Trash reality helps us all feel better about ourselves by presenting us with “real” people who, though rich, are less intelligent than the average iPod shuffle (2nd generation or newer). They are the cable television equivalent of laughing when an old person falls down, and heaven knows we need that kind of humor now more than ever, what with the economy and all.
What I am not a fan of, however, are reality shows that document the utterly uninteresting, thoroughly commonplace lives of people who happen to be wealthy. I am of course referring to The Hills and all their spin-offs. I don’t give a damn about the inter-gender drama going on in the local high school cafeteria . Should I care about the same drama just because it’s happening in Beverly Hills? This same “gawk at the rich” format afflicts “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” They spend hours talking about who’s cheating on whom, who’s been a bitch to whom, and who bought what with what credit card. There is, however, one notable and disturbing difference. The protagonists are moms. Which means they have kids. Which means they are not only making a circus of their own lives, they are also erasing any hope their children might have of staying out of rehab.
For those of you unfamiliar with the trash TV scene, TRHoNJ is the fourth in an ongoing Bravo series, which films wealthy housewives in swanky neighborhoods across America – from Orange County to Manhattan – while they spend their husbands’ money and compare boob jobs. As a side note, the fact that the New Jersey show does not feature any families living in meatpacking plants or atop heaps of industrial waste immediately calls the show’s “real” aspect into question. These Carmela Soprano clones are hardly “real housewives” and the parallels with the mafia matriarch serve only to create the false hope that they might get gunned down by a rival goomba.
But I digress. Since these women are all mothers, a fair portion of the show depicts their interactions with their children. As you might expect these women all “love their families more than anything in the world.” To that end they are more than happy to take their 12 year-old daughters shopping for thongs, get their 7 year-old daughters signed with modeling agencies, openly discuss their failing marriages in front of their kids, and basically do their best to ensure all their children will be pregnant by the age of fifteen. And the cameras eat it up.
These are women who are operating, both mentally and socially, on the level of the average American eighth grader, yet here they are, charged with nurturing another human being to adulthood. Their parental competency is only slightly higher than that of the three drunks in “The Hangover” who wake up to discover a baby in their hotel room’s closet. At least in the movie, the baby gets returned to its real family. No such luck for the Jersey kids.
As stated above, I have no problem with people who volunteer to be America’s court jesters. Reality TV exists to shine a spotlight on all that is excessive, petty, and pathetic in modern Americana, and I – from a purely ethnographic standpoint – am thankful for it. If Nick Lachay and Jessica Simpson want to film the first two years of their marriage and then act surprised when they get divorced, that’s their business. If Heidi Montag wants to make her existence the punchline to a joke, so be it. This is America. It is their right. But when kids get dragged into the picture, it suddenly seems less amusing and just plain irresponsible.
In celebrating the gaudy, vacuous lives of this clique of money-pits with breasts, Bravo cannot help but focus on the fact that these women are terrible parents. Bad parenting makes good television and the parents and producers are happy to exploit it. But let’s not forget that, with the possible exception of a mid-pregnancy crack habit, there is nothing more destructive to a child’s future than a television camera. And yet on rolls the Real Housewives series. Now in it’s fourth season. For that reason, I have commenced an indefinite boycott of the Bravo channel. I can handle a television channel stealing three hours of my Saturday night. I cannot handle one undermining the future of my race. I will not be an enabler to our extinction.
That is all.