Posts Tagged ‘reality tv’

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.

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. 

‘Real World’: Double standards when it comes to hooking up

May 5, 2011

‘Tis the season for double standards this week on Real World: specifically, (1) that gal-on-gal sexual relations are awesome but guy-on-guy sexual relations are gross, and (2) gals who have one-night stands are sluts but guys who have one-night stands are ballers.

The same-sex relations double standard came up this week when Heather and Nany had some ambiguous sexual relations. They did more than make out, but Heather wasn’t clear on the details when she told Dustin about it. Anyway, Nany wasn’t fazed by it, but Heather was particularly distraught about what had happened. She was upset after the fact, saying her confusion about Dustin manifested itself in a hookup with Nany.

This is a double standard because Heather initially had said she wouldn’t get with a guy who had been with another guy before — even just kissing. When Heather found out about Dustin’s past (living his life on a webcam with other guys, participating in a guy-on-guy porn where he admitted to giving another guy oral sex), she was very distraught — not only because he lied about it, but because she had established that guy-on-guy interactions made her uncomfortable.

Now, I don’t think this is a true double standard because Heather was upset after the fact, not claiming that it was OK for her and Nany to hook up but not two guys. It does, however, speak to how our own personal experiences can change our judgment calls. There’s something to be said about how we view something we’ve never experienced  versus how our opinion changes once we do experience it. (Other things in the it’ll-never-happen-to-me category — aside from being attracted to a member of the same sex — include unplanned pregnancy, being unemployed, needing government assistance, etc.) It could give her a fresh perspective on how she views Dustin’s past interactions with guys.

Now the other male roommates’ reaction was definitely pure double standard. Mike, who wrote a letter to Dustin basically saying he didn’t like him anymore because he had sexual relations with other guys, and LeRoy, who tried to have a religious intervention with Dustin and encouraged him to ask God for help, both thought the Heather-Nany hookup was arousing and awesome. No intervention with Jesus for girl-on-girl action, eh?

The second double standard was courtesy of Dustin, who was surprised that Cooke hooked up with his friend who was visiting from out of town (later Dustin himself made out with Cooke in the backseat of a taxi). He said he was shocked that Cooke had a one-night stand, saying, “I’m from the South where ladies don’t do that.” I might sound like a broken record, but seriously? You don’t say a word when LeRoy brings home different women, but Cooke does and suddenly you need to imply that she is a slut? Groooooooooan.

Also, for crying out loud, USE PROTECTION. Naomi got a vaginal infection (and a pregnancy scare) likely courtesy of unprotected sex with LeRoy, who admitted to having unprotected sex with some other women in Vegas too (though initially he was not honest with Naomi about it). I did appreciate their mature talk about it, and that LeRoy apologized for putting Naomi and himself in that position by not only having unprotected sex with multiple women, but not being up front with Naomi about it. Pull-and-pray not only is a terrible birth control method, but it protects against ZERO sexually transmitted infections.

Teen Mom: Bitches, prom dresses, custody battles, compromise

September 9, 2010

This week’s Teen Mom brought the drama — Catelynn’s mom was possibly projecting anger over Carly’s adoption while prom dress shopping; Farrah’s therapist put her in her place and possibly made an impact; Gary was a total douche to Amber on her birthday; and Ryan’s taking Maci to court to see Bentley more/ensure Maci can’t move to Nashville. I’m going to try to use as many profane quotes as possible in this post.

1. “You’re being a bitch, bro.”

Gary’s friend illustrated just how powerful peer pressure can be — especially when it questions one’s masculinity. It was Amber’s birthday, and Gary agreed to watch Leah that night so Amber could go out dancing with her girlfriends (keep in mind Gary does not like to dance, as evidenced on the episode when he proposed to her again). Everything was going smoothly, all was surprisingly calm on the Amber-Gary front.

Until Gary’s friend started saying he was being “a bitch” for watching Leah and letting Amber go out without him. Instead of just doing something nice for Amber, the friend suggested that Gary “need[s] to say ‘f-ck you’ and be a man.” Gary takes this wise, wise advice and calls up Amber, demands to go dancing with her friends and says she needs to “spend time with [her] f-cking fiance,” and refuses to babysit Leah anymore. Then, when he gets home, the friend remarks to Gary, “You’re going to cower like a little bitch in a minute to watch Leah.”

This problem isn’t central to couples with babies. I can only speak for heterosexual couples, in which guys are often peer pressured out of doing nice things for their significant other because showing affection or that you care about someone is a “weak” feeling — and because these same guys associate being weak with being a woman, you are then a “bitch” because you aren’t standing your ground as a man, constantly making demands and controlling your significant other like a strong, masculine, powerful man should.

Beyond that, his friend associates taking care of his child as something weak and feminine, too. Why should Gary have to watch Leah at all? He’s a man — and not only should he not have to babysit his own daughter, he shouldn’t even be responsible for finding a babysitter. Problematic because it encourages the parent to be irresponsible, and it speaks to how that peer pressurer views parental responsibility as a father.The entire scuffle wouldn’t have happened without the provocation of his friend, though I’m glad Gary eventually overcame the peer pressure and babysat Leah so Amber could go out.

Both man-to-man and woman-to-woman peer pressure can be toxic to relationships. Friends feel the need to point out problems in the relationship that never were problems. Then the friends convince the person that XYZ action is a problem and that their silence means they’re getting walked all over, and the person instigates a fight. This is why (1) too much friend involvement in the relationship is unhealthy; (2) you need to learn to stand up to your friends’ advice sometimes; and (3) some guys need to realize that you’re not a “bitch” for being a responsible parent/decent human being.

2. “Rude bitch.”

Catelynn and her mom don’t have a great relationship these days — though they tried to have a nice day out prom dress shopping, her mom quickly turned rude, mouthy, and childish when Catelynn disagreed with her opinion about a dress Catelynn liked. Catelynn’s friend’s theory was that “she sees that [Catelynn’s] happy and actually out doing things and it just pissed her off.”

This combined with Catelynn’s theory — that because she didn’t listen to her opinion about Carly, her mom feels Catelynn doesn’t trust or put importance in her opinion about anything — hits the nail on the head. Not only does her mom feel slighted that Catelynn chose adoption against her advice and wishes as a mother/grandmother, but Catelynn’s happiness continues to prove that Catelynn made the right decision and continues to prove that her mom didn’t necessarily know best.

It’s unfortunate for Catelynn though, because her mom’s projections feed into other insecurities that Catelynn has. Instead of being mature, Catelynn’s mom is negative about dresses and the way Catelynn looks in them — though for her mom this is because she feels slighted about the adoption, for Catelynn it merely adds to body issues she has had ever since becoming pregnant. “I’m already self-conscious when I’m in those dresses, I don’t need my mom being like, ‘Ugh,'” she says, adding her prom dress shopping experience “got turned into a horrific nightmare.”

Catelynn’s mom’s attitude also shows how immature she is. Constantly calling Catelynn a “bitch,” she also mimicks what Catelynn says and makes snide comments under her breath — sometimes watching them interact, it’s as if Catelynn is the mom and her own mother is trying to be the defiant child that gets under the parent’s skin. I’m curious if this is always how her mom has been, or if the adoption sparked this childish attitude.

3. “I have no rights.”

Ryan has actually been making an effort to see Bentley more, even asking Maci if they could split the custody 50/50 instead of the current setup in which Maci has Bentley more. Maci suspects it’s linked to the child support Ryan has to pay, whereas Ryan’s parents also seem to be pushing Ryan to get more time with Bentley. Eventually, they talked face to face about it and Ryan let her know he was taking her to court.

Maci was infuriated, saying, “He wasn’t a dad the first year [Bentley] was alive. Why should I have ever let [Ryan] see [Bentley]? He didn’t do a damn thing to show he was a good dad.” Regardless of his past though, and regardless of his intentions, he does have a right to see Bentley. Maci is understandably upset that he didn’t show such motivation sooner, especially when they were together, and I also think she sees better father potential in Kyle — which does not negate the fact that Ryan is his father, and is showing initiative now to see Bentley.

Ryan’s frustration is that because Maci is the mom, she can do whatever she wants with Bentley, but as his dad, his parental rights are more limited. Maci feels like Ryan needs to earn time with Bentley and isn’t entitled to it. There is a major communication breakdown between them, and when parents are separated, communication becomes even more essential. This is unfortunate for them because they’ve always had awful communication — e.g. Ryan has to drag it out of Maci that she’s planning on moving, she’s keeping her resentment bottled up. When you’re separated you don’t have to make a romantic relationship work, but you do have to make a parental relationship work.

On a different note, Ryan was complaining about child support, though he really has no reason to — his calculation was he’d pay $80,000 by the time Bentley was 18 and that it was outrageous, though it really isn’t considering the cost of raising a child ranges from $124,800 to more than $500,000.

4. Boo. Yah.

Seeing someone finally put Farrah in her place was refreshing — not because Farrah is entirely in the wrong to have problems with her mom, but because she was complaining about how doomed her relationship with her mom was at a therapy session that Farrah herself invited her mom to in order to try reconciling! The therapist called her out on her body language and unwillingness to be open to a relationship with her mother, despite the fact she invited her mom there in the first place.

“You’ve got to take a step back and look at what you can do differently, too,” her therapist told Farrah. These words seemed to resonate with Farrah, as she was much more open and friendly with her mom after that. Farrah seemed to feed off getting pitied; I think she wanted people to feel sorry for her — which people do, as her mom is abusive and mentally unstable — and I think she wanted to bring her mom in and get that same sympathy from the therapist. Instead, the therapist basically said, “Yeah, your mom needs to change. So do you.”

It was an important moment because it introduced the idea of compromise. Farrah can’t expect her relationship with her mom — which was damaged before the domestic violence — to be fixed solely by her mother, as it will never be mended or changed if Farrah keeps resisting it.