As a culture, we’ve become obsessed with reality TV—these “real,” heavily pre-planned shows (not scripted, because there’s a difference) that steal at least sixty minutes of our time on a daily basis. We’ve become so obsessed that their stars are now household names, have become legitimate celebrities whether we like it or not, and their own personal and local sayings have even made it into our daily dialogue. After all, who gon’ check me, boo? ‘Bubbies’ and ‘shady boots’ aside, Twitter hasn’t helped matters as many of us find ourselves live-tweeting The Real Housewives and its ilk, despite our immensely futile attempts to give our fingertips and easily drained smartphone batteries a night’s break. But why? Why do we devote so much of our TiVo time and sleep deprived energy into these goat rodeos? You can thank Lynda Erkiletian of ‘DC Housewives’ for that. Some people live vicariously through these oft-talentless stars, while others like me view reality TV as nothing more than an escape.
I’ve been an avid news junkie since 2008—my grandfather…he’s with me, for real. I remember when he’d go on and on about this political bullshit when I was a kid, and I hadn’t a clue nor care of what he’s talking about. Well, now I get it. In more recent years, I was always puzzled by my mom, grandma and late aunt’s infatuation with Bravo and The Real Housewives, or “Real Housewife” as Grandma calls it.
You watch the real-a-tors? GURRLLL, YOU HEARD WHAT NENE SAID? ‘GRETCHEL!’ THAT’S THAT GUY WHO THAT OTHER GIRL HAD! You remember that other girl, the Spanish-looking one with the hair? No, not her—the other one. She had the all black on that time.
Yes, my grandmother—she’s not good with names, and she either mispronounces theirs, gives some vague description from a thousand seasons ago or just confuses the women altogether. Getting back on track, even while on the phone with each other, they’d go on and on, screaming so loud that even the neighbors probably heard them. Then again, the neighbors were probably watching too. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I saw the light.
Nothing was on, and I was with my mom watching Bravo in the living room. It was a bunch of wealthy women on a set that looked like a McHeaven. Then they cut to this crazy chick with bad hair banging on a table in public. In my head, I was like “What the hell?! I GOTTA go Google this!” They were, and still are, The Real Housewives of New Jersey. It was part of Bravo’s traditional marathons that serve as lead-ins for when a new season is about to come on. Needless to say, RHONJ season 2 was my first full season, and I’ve been hooked on the franchise ever since.
See, I have a history with Bravo. Kathy Griffin’s ‘The D-List’ from 2004 pulled me into the former movie network, followed by Ten Things I Hate About You with I Love the 80s alum Mo Rocca, My Life on the D List, Flipping Out and Work Out. Actually, I still remember the first promos for the brand new The Real Housewives of Orange County, thinking that it looked like the stupidest show since the dawn of man. CNN pulled me away from the network in early 2008, and I missed so much good shit. Upon my return, my existing stash of Big Brother, Real World, RW/RR Challenge and …of Love tapes—yes, tapes—grew leaps and bounds thanks to this harem of hedonistic women.
Nota Bene: I gave up my tapes when we had to move back to Baton Rouge from Atlanta in late 2010.
I’ve been a heavy tweeter ever since I first opened my account in 2009 (thanks, CNN), and it’s become the two creams to my five TV sugars. I mean, you’re able to chat with other randoms who are also a little too into these shows. You tweet, retweet and favorite so much that your followers grow higher, and you’re part of a then-active Real Housewives of Twitter or #RHOT feed. It also introduces you to a shitload of the best and juiciest reality TV blogs and vlogs, especially the likes of TamaraTattles, StraightFromTheA, and DaRealRastaBwoiTV.
I can’t necessarily speak for anyone else, but Bravo’s set of livestock, as well as other popular reality shows out there, serve as my escape from the real reality. When MSNBC’s news of tea parties, government shutdowns and shootings of innocent people begin to grate, I feel good, even as a grown-ass man, to cut on channel 50 and hear that one trying to sing, or the “weave-headed heifer” peddling her latest alcoholic concoction. After all, we live in a capitalist society, right? There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that as crazy as your New Orleanian family is, or how much you like that womanizer’s black skinny jeans (the same clown who wears sunshades indoors—back to that in a moment), your life is far easier to stomach. And about those shades: I wore my aviators indoors one time, and my eyes hurt like hell afterwards. You can’t see shit! I don’t get it, but I digress.
For as much as many of us look at these unstable characters as sheer entertainment, many see them as idols. You have tons of people people wanting their perceived…perceived…lifestyle: the short-sold houses, the leased cars, the identical wigs, the lavish production-paid trips to Villa la Pareos296trap7528htha and what-not. They want these because, “the Housewives…they went there that time! Shoo, I wan’ go!” Okay. Look, we all like shiny things, but anyone who closely follows these shows know that while many of our favorite reality TV stars were entertainers and businessmen “pre-Housewives,” as Phaedra Parks eloquently put it, many are also money-grubbers using their respective shows as get-rich-quick schemes. A quick Googling of any given reality TV name, and a slew of financial nightmares will likely come up. Inversely, you have a second set of people who relish in these people’s public woes, and that I don’t like. Either way, it all plays into how many of us watching tend to use reality TV as a gauge, sort of a Venn diagram to our own lives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have one, a life.
Reality TV and their stars have long planted their flags in today’s culture, even making their ways into some poor fools’ wallets. Some shows are genuine, while some rely heavily on shock value. Some of our stars have spun off careers that flex their existing creative muscle while others…just ride on that ill-riding train. Either way, no matter what they do or are going through, the world is either rooting for them to succeed or rooting for them to fail, as many of them feel some sort of need to defend themselves to us. But no matter what they’re doing, their semi-unfiltered lives on the small screen for damn sure make our lives look a hell of a lot better by comparison.
Image used was found through Google searches.