Last night, much to the bf’s horror, I engaged in a simultaneous viewing of “The Bachelor” (woo-hoo, two-hour special!) and the season finale of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” I’ve never wanted one of those split-screen TVs so much in my life. The season finale of “Love and Hip-Hop” was also on but I was too wrapped up in Courtney’s antics over on ABC to do a three-way viewing.
I know these shows are generally on a learned person’s no-no list (was the GOP debate really that much better?) but I have learned to shamelessly embrace them. Yeah, that’s right. I stay home on Sundays to watch RHOA and I definitely watched Part I AND Part II of the Basketball Wives-LA reunion. John Salley will be employed forever refereeing that match-up.
But I have wondered for some time what the hell is going on with me. I have seen some general de-evolution of my earnestly-crafted intellectual persona but this is like total demolition. And I’m not the only one. Part of the reason I don’t watch these shows in shame is because I know most of my friends are watching along with me. I won’t throw anyone under the bus (although I do knowChico loves him some “Bad Girls Club”) but safe to say these folks may not be the demographic the producers expected.
It’s no secret that all of these shows feature women behaving badly. Last night on “The Bachelor,” a slightly imbalanced contestant vowed to “rip off” the head and verbally assault another contestant that crossed her. I am well-acquainted with the weekly beatdowns on “Love and Hip Hop.” The relationship between Kim and Nene on “RHOA” got so bad that Kim is moving to another show. The recipe for sure success in these shows is consistent cattiness, an occasional fistfight replete with weave pulling, and finally a vow to never speak to a woman who has in some way violated the trust you shared with 16 million viewers. In short, these shows are all train wrecks. There is not a single person you actually envy (although I do have a bizarre fascination with Drea from BWLA- they did you wrong girl!) and you spend most of the episode declaring the characters to be the worse people you have ever seen.
One of the most interesting things I have noticed is that men rarely play much of a role in the drama of the relationships between these women. Nene’s problems with her other cast members are almost exclusively about gossip or doubting she is RICH. The only man prominently featured (or mentioned) on BWLA is a semi-mute Doug Christie. Of course, “The Bachelor” is a little different but even the drama there circulates mostly around how the women act with each other when the Bachelor isn’t around. I have a sense that “Love and Hip Hop” is different since the women exist in a world run by men but for the most part, the women on these shows are able to generate drama without stealing each other’s husbands.
My fem crit books would say that we are driven to these shows out of bizarre desire to engage in a fabricated version of womanhood. The clothes, the cars, the hair, the help- it’s what we are supposed to want. But again, I can honestly say, I don’t want any part of these women’s lives (BW Laura’s hair is kinda dope tho…) So what is it? Are we, at some base level, attracted to watching bad people behave badly? Do I secretly want to watch them fall apart on-screen to assure myself of my own life choices? Is this all just an exercise of condescension? I hope not. But the emergence of the female reality star is fascinating to me and I’m sure tells more about myself than I am willing to admit.
What do you think?