Archive for the ‘reality tv’ Category

Let’s not hit each other, ok?

March 5, 2013

What’s far more troubling than admitting I watched the Vanderpump Rules reunion special yesterday? That the show so quickly glazed over domestic violence. Though in this case, it was female-on-male.

Now, now, now — I’m well aware that 85 percent of domestic violence is perpetrated against women, and oftentimes those violent acts happen in the midst of a relationship. One-third of homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner — that shit isn’t to be taken lightly, and it isn’t to be overshadowed by what I’m about to say.

But, lately I’ve seen a lot of double-standard acceptance of female-on-male violence. In Vanderpump‘s case, Stassi admitted to physically hitting ex-boyfriend Jax during an argument — to the point where she bloodied his nose. If you’ve seen the muscle-bound Jax and the small Stassi, you probably shrugged off her admission as harmless — along with his agreement that he deserved it, a statement far too many women confess sans Jax’s confident, self-assured demeanor.

But I kind of hate that. Self defense aside, I don’t like the public acceptance of this kind of violence. Or maybe I don’t get the public acceptance that a woman isn’t dangerous and can’t inflict actual emotional and physical harm on a man. Or maybe I hate how these interactions trivialize assault and violence — after all, many victims don’t have Jax’s confidence and strength when faced with abuse.

I’ve blogged many a time about male-focused abuse regarding Amber Portwood from Teen Mom and her violent behavior — and yes, once regarding Tool Academy but it’s important to remember. We should label domestic violence as a seriously offensive act, but we can’t be selectively outraged about who the recipient is.

It’s counter productive, even to those who recognize that women are far more disproportionately the victim.

P.S. I still think men should be able to march in Take Back the Night, too.

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Teen mom waxes her 3 year old’s unibrow, commences unhealthy body image obsession early

January 7, 2013

“I feel like a good mom,” Farrah Abraham told US Weekly after waxing her 3 year old’s unibrow. And then we all tilted our heads to the side quizzically…

Though it’s not entirely surprising that Farrah — who herself has gotten breast implants, a chin implant, and nose job in the span of two years — is obsessed with body image, it’s extremely troubling that she is instilling that obsession in her child at such an early age. 

“I felt bad for her,” Farrah said, calling the decision to wax her kid’s unibrow monumental and implying that it’s somehow life-changing. Well, (1) you should probably feel bad for her because (2) maybe it is life-changing — studies show that moms can influence children’s body image, and going so far out of her way to physically remove a unibrow she obviously felt was unsightly definitely sends a message to Sophia.

Keep in mind Sophia was totally freaked out by the waxing attempt, which was described as “botched,” and Farrah had to tweeze the rest of it while she was sleeping. Call it wrong of me to judge how a parent raises her daughter… buuuuut it’s probably worse for Farrah to traumatize her child, literally making her live the “beauty is pain” mantra so Farrah herself isn’t embarrassed by how Sophia looks.

I feel terrible for lil’ Sophia, as children often mimic behavior that gets them attention from parents — and if what makes Farrah really happy is when Sophia looks a certain way, then Sophia could become obsessed with achieving a body image that’ll make her mother proud. Though maybe Farrah wants to drive that point home early — in which case I’ll be in the kitchen slamming my head in the refrigerator door. 

RHOC: The key to winning over someone’s kids

July 16, 2012

There’s an art to stepping into a family — and by that, I mean that dating someone’s parent is dicey. It’s awkward enough when you’re first meeting someone’s family — their parents, their siblings, their relatives — but meeting someone’s kids is a whole different ballgame. And one preconceived notion that I despise, as the child of divorced parents, is that all kids will automatically dislike their parents’ significant others.

I do think it’s easier for people who meet the kids when they’re young — the older that the kids are, the more attached they probably are to the idea of their parents as a solid couple. You don’t want to be seen as the wrench in the relationship, but, on the other hand, young adults can probably perceive problems in their parents’ relationship and wouldn’t necessary jump to blaming the newbie.

Anyway, this is all spawned from watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and seeing Vicki try to urge a relationship between Brooks, her boyfriend, and her children Brianna and Michael. The way that Brianna describes Brooks — pompous, intrusive, condescending, evasive — are all the exact qualities you don’t want to portray. If ever there was a harsh critic, it’s someone’s kids — you don’t get brownie points for impressing them with your worldliness.

Because really, kids are just looking for their parents to date people who are friendly, funny, and genuine. I think this is who everyone wants to see their friends and family date, but adults often don’t realize that kids 1.) don’t seek an authority figure and will immediately reject someone who tries to adopt that role, and 2.) aren’t impressed by arrogance. It’s not a job interview where you need to brag about yourself to win the employer over — it’s more about sitting back, listening, observing, and feeling out when the time is right to add your two cents.

That kind of sounded harsh but… it’s true. In my experience, I’ll respond far better to someone who is just friendly and not abrasive — people who want to belittle me, tell me what to do, or make obvious attempts to assert their dominance in the food chain? Yeah… not interested. This is what Brianna was saying — families already have these set traditions and routines, so the best way to get on the kids’ good sides? Act like any guest — don’t try to take control; don’t try to rewrite the traditions.

There’s definitely some finesse to finding those spots — when to speak up, when to ask questions, when to take a backseat. But Brooks being more concerned with flaunting his wealth and ownership of Vicki than really getting to know Brianna and trying to organically find a place in their family? That’s not going to rub any of her kids the right way. Be sincere and genuinely nice; understand that it’s not your job to replace anyone; and don’t act sketchy. Brooks? He won’t tell anyone his job. You only get one first impression, and trying to avoid talking about how you make money is an instant red flag… even outside the OC.

So should kids be blamed for not being welcoming enough to newbies? Is it the children who are being stubborn because they don’t want their moms/dads replaced? I don’t think so. I think this is the misconception, but that reality shows these newbies have trouble establishing a space in an already existing family unit. And I get that it’s a tough thing to navigate. But I can assure you that treating kids with disrespect, attitude, and self-centeredness isn’t the proper path. Maybe they’re just trying to make a splash, but try wading into the waters instead of attempting the cannonball… and then bellyflopping.

RHOBH: I’d often say, ‘Just hit me so we can get this over with.’

January 31, 2012

Reality TV shows are often nothing but a cesspool of one or all of the following: cat-fighting, bickering, hooking up, and has-been celebrities (or celebrities who have never made it above the C-list). The reputation that these shows have — that it’s just mindless entertainment — is something I’ve often disputed, especially when it comes to shows like 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and the Real Housewives series. I think this is especially true in tonight’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion special (part one), during which Taylor Armstrong’s abusive relationship with her late husband Russell was discussed in pretty candid detail.

Yes, these vivid descriptions of emotional and physical abuse — coupled with the psychological trauma they cause — were sandwiched between arguments about Lisa calling Adrienne’s dog “Crackpot” instead of “Jackpot,” and debates about who sells stories to tabloids. But what Taylor shared with the world provides an honest look at domestic violence that people need to know about — it’s not as simple as Russell yelling at her or hitting her, and then her leaving. It’s a continuous cycle that is complicated; that pushes people away; that leaves people feeling empty and lost.

“I would often say, ‘Just hit me so we can get this over with,'” Taylor told host Andy Cohen, concerning Russell’s abuse. She explained that it gets to be routine, that it becomes easier not to fight the inevitable rather than make things worse. That she was at such a loss for how to stop the domestic violence, she invited cameras from BravoTV into her home in hopes that their watchful gaze would reduce Russell’s violent behavior. Adrienne commented that she thinks the cameras saved Taylor’s life — I agree.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one-third of female homicide victims were killed by their partner. In 70 to 80 percent of intimate partner homicide cases, the man had a history of abusing the woman. There are 16,800 domestic partner homicides each year — a number higher than the death rate of HIV, emphysema, or gun-related assaults that ended in death. Russell’s rage was so uncontrollable that, according to Taylor’s new memoir, he once told her that he was afraid he was going to kill her.

In the end, the cameras did put pressure on Russell to shape up, as he lamented Bravo’s painting him as a villain during the show’s first season. He blamed the show for slanderously ruining his life, career, and marriage, but more than anything I think he really blamed the show for putting a spotlight on his abusive ways and for publicizing his abusive actions — something he most certainly wanted to keep private.

Her plan was an interesting twist that showcased both her privilege and vulnerability — few women could end abuse by inviting cameras from a reality show inside their homes, yet her struggle was similar to any woman of any class who is dealing with domestic violence — she was trapped in a state of financial insecurity, destroyed self-confidence, and constant fear.

“Some days I still wake up and think, ‘Am I supposed to be doing this, am I supposed to be doing that?’ because I’m used to someone being there and telling me what I can and can’t do … I’m able to make my own decisions now and it’s hard,” Taylor told Andy. Camille chimed in, citing ex-husband Kelsey Grammar’s emotional abuse and controlling nature, and the complexity of this violence really reared its ugly head. You try to please that person, but nothing is good enough, and eventually your own self-image is tarnished by this abuser ingraining his own ideas in your head — that you’re dumb, worthless, and constantly disappointing.

And even more confusing to the ladies was Taylor’s insistence that, after sharing with them details of Russell’s abuse, they come to be friends with him. “I was very confused by it because one moment she’s telling this story that’s horrific to hear … but on the other end she wants us to like him,” Camille said. Lisa described one of the texts she saw from Russell to Taylor, in which Lisa said that “[Russell] called her an f-ing whore to start off with, he called her a piece of shit.”

It’s a tough road to walk — in trying to piece together her marriage, Taylor really couldn’t undo the months and maybe years of confiding she had done, telling her friends about Russell’s violence. She might’ve thought things would be better if Russell felt more welcome around her friends, that maybe even being around her friends more and at more social events could help reduce the violence — no one knows but Taylor. Some of the women took this as evidence of Taylor’s dishonesty, but really it speaks to her really hoping that starting from scratch would provide a different outcome — that her friends and Russell getting along would ease tension and change the abuse. But it was merely trying to put a band-aid in the wrong place, not an attempt to deceive her friends. Perhaps in convincing her friends it wasn’t that bad, she was hoping to suppress the abuse in her own mind, too.

Something Taylor said at the beginning of the episode was very telling: Russell was extremely narcissistic, often telling Taylor how much everyone loved him. This self-importance and ego perhaps drove him to react violently when questioned, to demand control over every aspect of Taylor’s life, to think that Bravo was the reason that his life was tumbling down — not able to see the wrong in his own actions or take any responsibility for them. When it comes to dating, this extreme narcissism is a definite red flag.

And so I’ve been writing about domestic violence for paragraphs and paragraphs, and I know it might not be as scintillating as the gossip about Adrienne’s chef, Bernie, dissing Lisa. But it’s important that this show, the epitome of glitz and glamour, not shy away from these real life problems that people of all classes face. What am amazing, public platform for raising awareness about domestic violence — its complexity, its heartache, its tragedy.

I don’t care if people are attracted by the drama of it all — I just hope they leave the reunion special with more education on the topic. Yes, it’s ridiculous that one of the housewives’ friends owns a pair of $25,000 sunglasses — but it’s also ridiculous that so many women are assaulted and murdered each year by their partners. And I’m glad this realty show is at least introducing this conversation into the world.

Teen Mom 2: Coal mining, child support, and self-doubt

January 20, 2012

Where to begin this week with Teen Mom — coal mining? Child support? Jenelle’s ability to somehow convince everyone in her life that her often delusional perspective makes total sense? Let’s take these topics on, inverted pyramid-style.

Teen pregnancy, class, and coal mining 

I never thought I’d see the day when two of the topics that really interest me — teen pregnancy and coal mining — would intersect, but this episode made subtle mention of them. Leah briefly mentions that her husband, Corey, is taking a coal mining certification test. Later, Corey makes a quick remark about spending his days working in a coal mine.

Leah and Corey live in Elkview, West Virginia, a city surrounded by coal mines that sit just an hour and a half from Raleigh, West Virginia, where the Upper Big Branch mine disaster killed 29 coal miners in 2010. When mining companies are lax about following — or in some cases blatantly ignore — safety regulations because they want to maximize profit, coal miners are put in extreme danger.

The job already puts coal miners at increased risk for health problems such as black lung, not to mention the higher rates of heart, lung, and kidney disease found in those who live in mining communities.

I wonder how much of Corey’s decision was based on his own socioeconomic standing. The Charleston area’s unemployment rate has steadily been decreasing, dropping from 7.6 percent in June 2011 to 6.4 percent in November 2011, but Corey is also limited in his job search because he has a high school education and needs a full-time, decent-paying job because he has a family to support — and coal mining jobs have an average starting salary of $60,000 per year. That’s quite a luring paycheck for someone with a family and no college education.

With 17.8 percent of West Virginians living below the poverty level — higher than the national average of 14.3 percent — residents are already at a disadvantage class-wise. The percentage of people with a high school diploma is 3 percent below the national average, with the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree 10.4 percent lower than the national average. Born into this socioeconomic scenario, teens like Corey and Leah would have to work harder than many to move above these statistics. Add two children into the mix, and Corey likely sees coal mining as one of his only options — which is an unfortunate predicament considering how dangerous it is.

It’s this cycle that keeps low-income people in coal mines, putting their health and safety at higher risk than higher income people who can afford a college education that won’t leave them in the coal mines (they’ll have equally or more lucrative career options with less danger to their health and safety). I know Leah gets some type of compensation for the show, so I’d be interested to know how that all works and to hear his motivation for choosing this job.

Jo and child support

This argument is a he-said, she-said battle. Kailyn says that Jo isn’t around when Isaac visits him, and that Jo wants to split Isaac’s expenses right down the middle — something she thinks is unfair given their unequal incomes and the fact that Jo still lives at home with his parents. Jo thinks that Kailyn is trying to get Jo to support her — claiming that she wants to live off him and the government, refusing to get a better job because she wants to work with her boyfriend.

I’m not sure what the arrangement was, but Kailyn isn’t in the wrong to formally ask for child support. They’ve had trouble in the past coming to verbal agreements when it comes to custody and had to go to court for that, and Kailyn seems to be struggling even with nonprofit assistance with her housing. Jo isn’t supporting Kailyn, but providing her with money to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide for Isaac — costs they should be splitting down the middle anyway.

And does anyone else take issue with Jo just devolving to call Kailyn a bitch whenever he isn’t getting his way? She’s a bitch, a piece of shit, etc., always being called these things in front of their son — it just makes me cringe.

Jenelle’s running mouth

As an aside, does anyone else notice that Jenelle speaks so assuredly that everyone around her just nods their head, agreeing that her logic makes sense, when really she is just spouting bullshit? I think I’ve heard her say that she needs to “get established” and “establish herself” about 974 times ever since her episode of 16 and Pregnant, and I still have no idea what it means.

It’s very peculiar, literally watching someone deceive themselves on camera — watching a teenager talk pretty maturely as if she knows everything about the world but then lives as that immature, still-learning young person who only seems like she actually knows what she’s talking about. Having the knowledge — yes, I need to go to school and get a job and stay away from my deadbeat boyfriend — to create a formula for success, but completely not listening to her own advice.

I think I find it fascinating because I have a tendency to try and find assurance in my own decisions by talking to other people, explaining my thought process and the reasons why I did something in an effort to really convince myself — rather than them  — that my decisions were the right ones. I think people especially do this when they know deep down they’re making poor decisions, but they want to display a confident exterior so people won’t question or challenge these poor decisions.

Teen Mom: Maturity = talking about sex, not just having it

December 28, 2011

New Year’s resolution: Start blogging again! It’s not January yet, but I did just watch an episode of Teen Mom 2 that caught my attention. Nothing like getting a head-start on my resolution!

So, this week Kailyn decided to get an IUD, an intrauterine device, which is T-shaped and can stay in the uterus for as long as five years. It works to prevent egg fertilization, and it’s something Kailyn decided to try because she had trouble remembering to take her pill every day. Though she is using protection when having sex with her boyfriend, Jordan, she makes the decision to further prevent any possibility of pregnancy with the Mirena IUD.

What gets me is that Jordan was extremely squeamish when Kailyn told him about the IUD. She admitted beforehand that they never really talk about sex — they just have sex — and her prediction that Jordan would be awkward was right. She wanted to let him know about her decision, and he looked uncomfortable, remarked that it was embarrassing, and later apologized for his awkward reaction.

My theory is that if you’re mature enough to have sex, then you need to be mature enough to talk about it. Talking about sex can be awkward, especially when you haven’t brought up the topic with a partner before. But this lack of communication has a significant affect on the lack of contraceptive use, whether it’s people feeling awkward about mentioning using protection during the act or one partner assuming the other has the birth control covered without any verbal confirmation.

So you have to weigh — is this awkward moment more difficult to deal with than an unplanned pregnancy? And if you’re afraid of what your partner will say, is that a red flag regarding your relationship? If you take contraception seriously but you’re afraid your partner won’t agree to use any, is that really something to compromise about? But all these questions assume a certain outcome — you won’t actually know your partner’s response until you talk about it.

According to one study, kids whose parents talked to them about sex as a teenager were more likely to delay sex and practice safe sex than kids whose parents did not talk to them about sex. And it’s important to start those conversations early, for the air of shame and humiliation to be taken away from sex — because yeah, it’s awkward as a parent to talk to your kid about sex. But if you set the example that talking about sex is taboo, then an unhealthy cycle of silence begins — then young people think it’s unacceptable to talk about sex, and they feel uneasy about voicing concerns and asking questions.

It’s obvious I haven’t blogged in a while, as I’m just being long-winded here for the sake of hearing myself type. Anyway, it was an interesting scene — two adults who have no qualms about having sex with each other, having difficulty actually talking about something they do regularly. This communication problem is something adults of all ages experience, and addressing it begins with removing the stigma about admitting out loud that, yes, you’re having sex and there’s nothing to be ashamed about.

Teen Mom: Only women wear engagement rings

August 22, 2011

On this week’s episode of Teen Mom,  Catelynn and Tyler discussed how things would be different for them now that Tyler has officially graduated high school and will start college classes while Catelynn continues to finish her high school classes. One of Catelynn’s concerns was the ladies who Tyler might meet at college, and she half-joked but half-seriously suggested that he wear an engagement ring to let them know he was taken. His response? He doesn’t have to wear an engagement ring, but Catelynn does because she’s a woman.

Engagements and weddings are littered with patriarchal undertones, and Catelynn was right to question why Tyler didn’t wear an engagement ring. Catelynn wears a ring around her finger 24/7 that lets any passerby know that someone else has staked his claim, yet Tyler isn’t expected to — and doesn’t see a purpose — in doing the same for Catelynn. She is merely asking for equality, but Tyler shuts her down with the old standby of “that’s just tradition.”

Just because something is tradition, though, doesn’t mean it’s logical or the best way to do something. Is the best way to show a mutual commitment to each other that only the woman wears an engagement ring? Not really, especially when the woman is vocal about not wanting to be the only one in the relationship doing so. But Tyler completely disregarded her arguments anyway, unwilling to entertain them because it’s easier to keep with tradition than break the mold.

And it might be easier to keep with tradition than field questions about why he’s wearing an engagement ring even though he’s a dude, but they plan on getting married — shouldn’t he be most concerned with his partner’s feelings as opposed to society’s feelings? It’s times like these when we really need to think critically about our actions. When your response to a question is, “Because that’s just how it’s done,” then you need to step back and ponder, “But why is it always done this way? Is that motivation something I believe in?”

Though Catelynn’s motivation — so that girls will know you’re engaged and won’t talk to you — doesn’t exactly exemplify trustworthiness, the bigger problem in this argument was that Tyler so quickly aimed to end it with, “You’re a woman, so deal with the inequality.” It’s times like these that couples could and should think critically about a solution or compromise that satisfies them both, rather than rely on a tradition that will leave someone — likely the woman if we’re talking heterosexual relationships — feeling unheard and unfulfilled.

RHONY reunion: Success, alcoholism not mutually exclusive

August 3, 2011

On the second part of the Real Housewives of New York reunion special last night, there was a lot of bickering and interrupting and eye-rolling. But what really stuck out was the discussion about whether Ramona is an alcoholic, and Ramona’s subsequent declaration that she couldn’t be so successful if she had a problem with alcohol.

This is when the term “functioning alcoholic” was thrown around, with the blond side of the couch saying the term was an oxymoron and that you can’t be successful and be addicted to alcohol. Now I’m not saying Ramona is an alcoholic — I can’t simply as a viewer of an edited TV show diagnose her. But I can take issue with her comments that (1) wine isn’t alcohol and (2) if she were an alcoholic, she wouldn’t be able to manage a successful empire.

Firstly, wine is alcohol. It might be classier than beer or liquor in social circles, and it might be good for your health depending on the medical studies you read. But it still is a type of alcohol, still can cause liver disease like any other type of alcohol, and still can breed and feed an alcohol addiction.

And “functioning alcoholics” are common, as about half of all alcoholics are high-functioning. They have college degrees, good jobs, families, and to the outside world seem very successful. It’s really dangerous to adopt and publicize the notion that alcoholism and success are mutually exclusive, because it misleads an audience that might use that explanation to shrug off their own alcoholism or the alcoholism of a friend or family member.

Sarah Allen Benton, author of the book Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, told The New York Times that this enabled her own alcoholism:

Having outside accomplishments led me and others to excuse my drinking and avoid categorizing me as an alcoholic. My success was the mask that disguised the underlying demon and fed my denial.

We have a lot of mental profiles for what we think specific people look like — we think a drug addict looks like X, a terrorist looks like Y, an alcoholic looks like Z. We probably wouldn’t look at President George W. Bush, Winston Churchill, Stephen King, or Mary Tyler Moore and think “alcoholic,” because we think addiction is obvious and conspicuous. But these people and many other prominent faces, as well as countless other successful people, have been addicted to alcohol privately while enjoying success publicly.

High-functioning alcoholics often implant themselves in scenes where there are a lot of other people drinking so they blend into the crowd, and their success sinks them into a deeper denial than a non-high-functioning alcoholic because they don’t see a problem — if the money and opportunity keep rolling in, why mess with the formula? Regardless, they still constantly think about drinking, have trouble with controlling how much they drink, and use alcohol as a reward for their successes.

Also, alcoholism can be a deadly disease, and I don’t appreciate the housewives who scoffed at the idea that successful people could be alcoholics. It wasn’t just that some of them were trying to defend Ramona because she was their friend and being attacked by several people for her penchant for pinot gregio — it was that there was an air of superiority in how they quickly labeled as absurd the idea that a successful person would fall victim to alcohol abuse. Newsflash: alcoholism isn’t just for the plebeians.

Click here for information about alcoholism, support groups, and professional treatment.

Reasons why The Voice > American Idol

June 30, 2011

After randomly watching a rerun of The Voice, I became hooked. Initially, I wasn’t too interested in watching because so many singing-related talent shows have been infiltrating the airwaves. You’ve seen the shows: The Sing-Off, X-Factor, America’s Got Talent, and, of course, American Idol — in fact, I watched American Idol religiously in its first few seasons but eventually grew bored with it.

But I’ve become engrossed in The Voice. My boyfriend and I watch it every week, vote for the contestants, download the songs, tweet about it constantly, and spend way too much time critiquing the performances afterward (yes, we devoted 90 percent of our dinner conversation Monday night to The Voice). So what makes The Voice so much better than American Idol, the premier singing competition reality show?

1. The contestant pool 

American Idol‘s restrictions on its contestants are aimed to attract young, raw talent. The rules stipulate that you can’t have an agent, manager, recording contract, acting contract, or any other contract that the producers think would stop you from participating in the show; if you’ve been on the show before, you can’t re-audition if you made it past certain levels previously; and you have to be between 15 and 28 years old. Their restrictive contract also turns off applicants — Vicci Martinez made it to the regionals of American Idol but didn’t want to sign the restrictive contract and dropped out.

The Voice has more lax eligibility restrictions. Like Idol you can’t be related to anyone who works for the show or the production company, but the only age restriction is that you must be at least 16 years old. You can’t be holding or running for public office, either. In fact, Voice winner Javier Colon (34) and top four contender Beverly McClellan (41) wouldn’t be eligible to audition for American Idol.

The contestants on American Idol are typically less refined, lacking in professional experience, and are young — and sometimes it’s neat to see someone young like Diana DeGarmo make it to the final two, but it also makes for a lot of mediocre talent as you watch the numbers dwindle from 24 to, say, the top four. The Voice allows for more honed talent, with people like Dia Frampton — whose band Meg and Dia has been to Warped Tour several times and releases a few albums; Javier has released two albums; Vicci boasts eight albums; and Beverly boasts five.

Whereas American Idol wants raw, untapped talent, The Voice allows contestants who have had record contracts and albums but haven’t achieved mainstream success. I like that all the competitors are at the top of their game, have training, and are equally, highly talented with experience in the industry. It makes the competition more fierce and exciting to watch.

2. The time lapse 

I lose interest in American Idol because it drags on for months. Week by week, one by one, the dead weight gets voted off. I’m not interested or sad to see mediocre talent get voted off — wake me up when the best singers are left. But even then, the performers still sometimes aren’t that dynamic (likely because of inexperience). I like the fast pace of The Voice — two episodes (maybe three?) of auditions, then battle rounds, then quick cuts on each team from eight to four to two to one.

It’s hard to see talented people so quickly get kicked off the show, but it makes you want to watch when the cuts will be so dramatic. And the show doesn’t lose your attention because there’s only four episodes of voting. I can’t handle American Idol‘s six episodes of auditions, plus a few weeks of Hollywood auditions, plus 12 weeks or so of live voting.

3. The audition/competition structure 

I know everyone loves to see people humiliated on American Idol, but I like the idea of blind auditions only for people who are actually talented. No exploiting people for ratings because you know the ridiculous contestants get ratings, no wasting the judges’ time, and an element of mystery for the judges who have nothing to judge contestants on but their voice. I find this refreshing and interesting.

I also like how the judges have a personal, invested interest in specific people in the competition. I loved the battle rounds most of all — hearing two people sing a song and deciding who I thought sang it better. It really gets to the point — there’s no room to float by in the middle for a while, you need to be on your A-game because there’s no floating by. If you are mediocre, you won’t make it past the blind auditions (if you manage to get picked for a team).

The thing I lament about the structure is that most of the judges this season didn’t want to choose when it came time to allocate votes between their final two contestants. They evenly delegated 50 votes of 100 votes to each person, not wanting to make a decision. This hurt their finalists more than anything, because it gave the audience complete control to choose who stayed and went.

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Overall, The Voice is just more fast-paced, fun to watch, and is seeping with talent than American Idol. The Voice focuses on the well of experienced musicians who had small successes (I actually had a song from Dia’s band on my iPod, courtesy of seeing their music video on MTVu in college), but are stuck in a musical limbo where they’ve put out albums or signed record deals but aren’t seeing mainstream success (artists shouldn’t be “past their prime” just because they aren’t in their 20s anymore). I prefer the fast-paced, highly competitive, talent overflow of The Voice to the dragged out, hit or miss American Idol. 

Sexual histories: Is it lying if you don’t talk about them?

June 16, 2011

Unless you haven’t dated or ever been physical with anyone before, you undoubtedly enter new relationships with a history. Past flings, past relationships, past experiences — everyone’s history is different, from the number of people in your relation Rolodex to the extent of your relationships with those past people. But if you don’t share this history with your partner(s), are you lying to them?

That was the claim made on the reunion special of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Here’s the rundown: Alexis and Jim have been married for seven years, and Alexis and Peggy have been friends for four years. About 15 or so years ago, Jim and Peggy “hung out” (Peggy’s euphemism) but then decided they’d be better off as friends. When Peggy asked Jim if Alexis knew about their past, he said Alexis didn’t know and “would never know.” A few months ago, Alexis found out about Jim and Peggy’s fling.

The other housewives said they thought Jim had lied to Alexis, and Tamra was insistent that this constituted Jim keeping secrets from her. But Alexis said they agreed at the beginning of their relationship not to discuss their histories. They were starting a new chapter together, and they weren’t interested in the previous ones.

Rarely do I agree with anything Alexis says, but in this case, she’s right. It’s important for partners to create those boundaries when it comes to discussing their past relations, so that both parties are clear about what they do and don’t want to know. There is value to knowing — and it’s essential to ask about — whether that person is free of sexually transmitted infections in every case; the value of knowing how many partners someone has had and the explicit details of what they’ve done is on a case-by-case basis, depending on the person receiving the info.

So Jim and Alexis decide and agree that they don’t want to know about each other’s past. When Jim doesn’t tell Alexis about his fling with Peggy, that isn’t lying or keeping secrets — it’s simply keeping to the agreement because Alexis doesn’t want to know about Jim’s past. I also agree with Alexis that if Peggy thought it was important to tell, Peggy should’ve mentioned it to Alexis — Jim has no obligation to disclose that information because of the no-info-sharing agreement, but Peggy isn’t under any such contractual constraints.

Sharing info can be a slippery slope. My boyfriend and I have discussed, in relation to Real World‘s Dustin not telling Heather about his porn star past, how the line is blurry when it comes to what you have an obligation to tell your partner. Questions like, “Have you been tested for STIs?” or “How many sexual partners have you had?” or “How many long-term relationships have you had?” are easy to think of and might even come up in casual conversation. “Have you ever done gay porn?” probably isn’t.

But here, the line was drawn firmly in the sand — they don’t want to know anything, so Jim isn’t a liar. This would be much more complicated if there was no agreement in place — should Jim warn Alexis about his fling with Peggy? Is it up to Alexis to ask Jim if he’s slept with every new woman they meet? Is he a liar for not disclosing at all, even if she never asks? “Liar” isn’t accurate unless he denies a fling with Peggy, but withholding information you think your partner should or would want to know is deceptive — not to mention it puts that person in the sucky everyone-knows-about-this-but-you position.

(On a sidenote, hearing Peggy’s side of the story and how determined Jim sounded not to let Alexis find out makes me curious whether they actually did have such an agreement and/or whether he had lied about it to Alexis in the past.)