We all know who Kim Kardashian is, but do any of you know what she did for a living before her notorious sex tape with, then boyfriend, Ray J, made her a household name? Yeah, neither did I (she ran a boutique called Dash, at the time, little known outside of the Los Angeles area). Before her tabloid cover days, Ms. Kardashian was likely more well known for the men in mother, Kris Jenner's life (father, the late Robert Kardashian was a part of OJ Simpson's defense team and stepdad Bruce Jenner was a gold-medal winning decathlete) than the men in her own.
As her Twitter followers exceed five million, there is no question that Kardashian has become the poster child for the new celebrity, a breed of famemongers who are more known for something they did rather than what they do, who, to paraphase Ricky Gervais, 'wear their fame like an open wound'. It's easy to lump the everyday people who make it onto reality shows into this category. Their brush with fame, like a shooting star, is brief, but fabulous…sometimes. The rise is fast and the attention, addictive. Many find themselves unable to go back to regular life and they try anything from posing for Playboy to selling stories of depravity to anyone willing to listen just for another chance at the limelight. Some have had surprising success sequeing into legitimacy (Elisabeth Hasslebeck's rise from fourth place finisher on Survivor to co-host of the View is the gold standard) and others have found new ways to beat and stretch their fifteen minutes into submission (Omarosa, so infamous she doesn't need a last name, appeared on the Apprentice back in 2004 and just had her own show, the Ultimate Merger air on TV One this year.
The rise of reality television as a form of entertainment has allowed for the democratization of fame; now, you don't have to be rich, talented or connected to have the world at your feet (albeit temporarily). So now, everyone can have it, but not everyone has 'it'. Case in point, the aforementioned Kardashian. I can't question her business savvy; it takes smarts to develop what could have been a career killing faux pas into a multi-million dollar empire, but what exactly does she do? For the most part, her money comes from endorsements, which are due largely to the fact that she is attractive. There is no professional expertise or experience that comes with her name being on a label. The sad part is that no one would really have batted an eyelash at her if not for that sex tape. Her mother had been trying for years to get the show off the ground, but no go until Kim caved and dropped her lawsuit against Vivid (the company distributing the sex tape)and settled for $5 million, essentially putting a price on her body and self-respect, but ultimately the move gave her and her family a future and a fortune.
Now young women like Montana Fishburne, Devon James (Tiger Woods' alleged porn star mistress), Jaimee Grubbs (Tiger Woods…again), Michelle McGee (Jesse James) and recently, Brittney Jones (Ashton Kutcher) all look to sell their sex tapes or stories for a chance to make a name for themselves. The key is sell yourself (and others) at a cost. While the Kardashian clan exemplifies this new model for fame, they didn't invent it. That title goes to none other than Paris Hilton. Back in 2003, Hilton was more known for her recognizable last name than anything else. But then came THE sex tape, 1 Night in Paris, which bolted her from the society pages to the front pages. Her show the Simple Life (with pal Nicole Richie) became a hit and Paris, a star. Soon books, TV appearances, endorsements and fragrances followed. Paris' uber-successful model has become the way to gain access into the upper echelons of fame once reserved for the impressively talented, but what does her and those like her success say about us?
Is it any surprise that youngsters put all their business on front street without regard for the affect it might have on family or loved ones, much less their reputations, when they know that it could lead to more friends, more fans or a larger following? Exploitative fame has whet our appetites for the kind of notoriety which celebrates exposure over decency and self-control and wields lack of discretion as honorable truth-telling. But truth at what cost? What’s off limits? In today's culture, 'friends' are people who have access to your profile not people who you have fostered a close bond with over a period of time. A social network, more often than not, refers to interaction online rather than face to face. When bonds are so vast and indistinct, is it any wonder that they are disposable?
What makes reality celebrity disturbing is that it suggests that what you're seeing is normal, that this is what real and regular people do. And more often than not, what these 'real' people do is coarse and rude. It reinforces the idea that the most interesting people are the ones that are harsh, that show little restraint or respect for other people. Initially, such behavior was marginal, a freak show that we watched out of horror and awe, but now, it's just awe. And don't think it's just women; Simon Cowell, Gordon Ramsay and Perez Hilton have built their houses with their acidic tongues.
The rise of those whose public actions betray the core values we claim to hold dear is more a statement of our character as a nation than it is on theirs. Maybe deep down inside we wish we could be as outgoing and as outrageous; maybe we believe that such behavior is more exciting than our 'hum-drum' lives, but what kind of world will we create if that kind of behavior becomes the norm? The majority of people aren't like those who you see on reality TV because most of us will never be in a situation where our actions are broadcast and scrutinized by millions and most of us wouldn't want to be, but our viewership casts the vote. How can we invite someone into our house through our television that we wouldn't waste a minute of our time with in person?
I don't hold myself to a different standard; I'm addicted to the Real Housewives... and some of the women featured on these series are the most annoying, cringe worthy people EVER. So what to do? If you share my dilemma here are the solutions that I have brainstormed for myself: one, get a life. To clarify, I have a life, but if I have the free time to watch people living life in a way that I find deplorable then I need to find something else to do with my free time; two, choose to believe that most 'reality' is scripted, meaning that these aren't real people but second rate actors loaning their name and likenesses to a show, so in fact, I'm not endorsing bad behavior; I'm simply watching fiction, people playing out a plot. This choice alleviated me from the guilt of watching, but reality's success thrives on the suspension of disbelief. The fun comes from thinking that there are people out there that are this crazy. So in good conscience, I can't play that card; third, I can choose to only watch reality shows that showcase talent and are in place to help people reach their dreams (Project Runway, Top Chef, etc) or shows that are played as exciting games (Survivor, the Amazing Race, even Big Brother) because I can accept that people will behave differently in a competitive setup. I don't believe that because I am ruthless playing Monopoly that somehow that translates to who I am on a regular day.
I know that because we watch people on TV that that doesn't mean that we will emulate them or admire them or that they're even liked, but I no longer want to reward people with my time for selling themselves in the absence of talent.
After weeks of seeking and searching, I have decided to bring this series of articles to a merciful end. I was really surprised by how few options there were for the summer, but usually the warm months are the time when the most exciting things to do are outside the house. I consider it a lesson learned. Since my options for the final slot were grim, I took a page from installment six by compiling some of my favorite bits and pieces from the news covering the past three and a half months. See if you agree with some of my noteworthy selections:
The BP spill
There, obviously, was nothing entertaining about this man made mess which initially started with an oil rig explosion in April that left 11 dead and 17 injured, a fact that was often overshadowed by the horror of watching the live video feed of hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The loss of life was even more heartbreaking as the bodies of the eleven were never found. During this tragedy you would be hard pressed to find articles which spoke the names or showed the faces of the victims (possibly out of respect for the privacy of the families), but images of oil covered birds and blackened beaches abound. Our earth is a non-renewable resource and I value measures to protect it, but the media changing the focus of this event entirely into an eco-centric one doesn't change the fact that eleven people are gone and if we instead make changes to protect the well being of those who work in the industry, the state of the environment and all other animals in it will naturally improve.
John Mayer Quits Twitter
For a man that probably says too much (see Playboy interview), John Mayer deleting his Twitter account makes a lot of sense considering the 140 character limit. After a couple of major snafus in the media: having an impromptu press conference where he discussed break up with Jennifer Aniston; doing a comedy routine where he riffed on his relationship with Jennifer Love Hewitt; describing Jessica Simpson as 'sexual napalm'; using the n-word in an interview , perhaps a break from constant exposure and commentary is just what the singer-songwriter needs, but then again he signed up for Tumblr, an easy to use short form blog. Let's hope the next thing that comes out his mouth that raises an eyebrow is a song.
Ines Sainz allegedly gets ogled by Jets players
The Mexican reporter tweeted that things got uncomfortable and awkward in the Jets locker room while she was waiting to interview quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Instead of all eyes turning to the inexcusable behavior of the New York team, they were turned with vicious ferocity back at Sainz. Fellow (male) reporters suggested that her attire was inappropriate and implied that she deserved the unwanted attention that she got. What’s hard to believe is that grown men can't control themselves around a pretty woman. What's sadder is that instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they point the finger.
The proposed mosque near WTC site
You might think word of this site just recently went around, but initial reports about the construction (formerly called the Cordoba House, now known as Park51) were made last year. So why all the brouhaha now? Because its an election year and nothing galvanizes the vote more than propaganda and demagoguery. Protesters and public figures have vilified the imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, suggesting without proof, that his group has ties to Islamic extremists. Such talk reminds me of a time when the U.S. put its own citizens in camps because they looked like the enemy. We should watch that we don't repeat past ignorance.
Montana Fishburne does porn
I cringed when I recently saw Laurence Fishburne as a presenter at the Primetime Emmys, not because he did anything, but I squirmed as I thought about the fact that everyone in the audience and those watching at home were aware of his daughter's embarrassing attempt to make it (no pun intended) by peddling her flesh in a skin flick. To explain her actions, she had said, 'I view making this movie as an important first step in my career. I've watched how successful Kim Kardashian became and I think a lot of it was due to the release of her sex tape by Vivid. I'm hoping the same magic will work for me. I'm impatient about getting well-known and having more opportunities and this seemed like a great way to get started on it.' Why the daughter of a successful black actor can't have Daddy pull a couple of strings in Hollywood is beyond me, but her belief that porn is the doorway to mainstream success is disturbingly misguided.
The Hills ends its run on MTV
The granddaddy of all fakety fake reality shows aired its series finale after six seasons with a closing shot that was supposedly tongue in cheek, but really its tongue was sticking straight out at the viewers. Hints have dropped through the show's run that while scenes were not explicitly scripted, they were apparently staged. Some cast members have even said as much; when asked about an apology she received from Spencer Pratt over the phone, Lauren Conrad (the series lead for the first five seasons) responded, 'To be perfectly honest, I wasn't on the other line of that call...That was filmed and I wasn't on the other end...so I didn't know about it until--So, no, I never did get an apology.' Coincidentally, the fans didn't either.
A Strong Opening is Key: The anticipation was greater than the performance, but the show started off on the right foot when Eminem made his long awaited return to the MTV Video Music Awards performing a medley of his two hits songs, Not Afraid and Love the Way You Lie featuring a surprise appearance by Rihanna. Seeing Mr. Mathers start his performance on a underground stage, reminiscent of his 8 Mile days, is a reminder of his growth as an artist. Back then, Eminem was just as apt to spit a rhyme as he was to spit in your face, but here he's pensive and apologetic, though his duet with Rihanna hinted at fire beneath the surface. And Rihanna's fire engine red hair is no longer a distraction, clownish at first, I'm getting used to the new look.
A STRONG OPENING IS KEY: Then Chelsea Handler, host of her own eponymous late night talk show on E!, hit the stage in a parody of Lady Gaga, complete with a steel cage of a dress and a house-shaped headpiece that a scared dove barely flew out of. To be honest, I'm not a fan of Handler, so she was already three feet in the grave when she started her dry monologue. I laughed once and that was only because my sister's response to one of her jokes was funny. Handler seemed to have a bit of humor obsession with black males: from joking about doing a 'prayer circle' with Snoop Dogg, to riding off with Rick Ross at the end of her monologue to a video clip where her butt was being slapped by various black men as she walked down a hallway. At one point a group of three black guys chase her down the hallway for a chance to smack dat a**. Not…my…favorite…moment. Handler is only the third female to host the VMAs and her work last night made the argument that she should be the last.
Goo-goo for Gaga: Lady Gaga and her little monsters (as she calls her fans) ruled the night winning top honors, Video of the Year, for her video for Bad Romance. It a shame that she didn't perform, but she certainly entertained with her ever changing wardrobe; in one outfit she appeared to be dressed as gilded peacock complete with a spiked golden feather headpiece, but nothing topped her finale meat dress with ground chuck beret and mutton chop boots. Clothing aside, The Lady seemed genuinely happy and touched by the wins and when the audience was given the opportunity to look beyond her appearance, it was clear to see that she has a hell of a voice, which she gave a taste of when she sang a couple of acapella bars from her upcoming album Born This Way. My head went askew though when she said, 'God bless pop music and God bless MTV.' The home of the Real World and Jersey Shore needs God's provisions? On second thought, maybe they do.
Swift & Kanye - the Sequel: Everyone was wondering what would happen with the participants in last year's most talked about VMA moment returned to perform. Both chose to address Kanye's behavior; Swift's song Innocent offered forgiveness and hope for redemption: It's okay/life is a tough crowd/32 and still growing up now/who you are is not what you did/you're still an innocent. Kanye's song selection was more self-deprecating, odd for the notoriously egotistical performer. That's why I took a look at the lyrics, which honestly, feel more like a man that knows who he is and unapologetically asks you to put up or shut up; Every bag, every blouse, every bracelet/ Comes with a price tag, baby, face it/ You should leave if you can't accept the basics/Plenty b*****s in the baller-player's matrix/Invisibly set, the Rolex is faceless/I'm just young, rich, and tasteless. Doesn't sound like an act of contrition to me, but it's Kanye…why would it be?
What's a Bieber?: I guess it's my age, but I don't get Bieber fever and quite frankly, I hope I never catch it if it means that I drool over a prepubescent with a bowl cut. His performance was live only in the sense that it aired as it was recorded. His dance moves are Usher-lite (makes sense considering that Usher's his musical mentor). There's nothing about him that makes me think this kid has the career of a white Michael Jackson instead he's more like this generation's Aaron Carter.
High on Hyperbole: is Drake truly the most exciting artist out here right now as Justin Timberlake excitedly proclaimed? And really? Kim Kardashian is a fashion icon? I nearly choked on my dinner when I heard that .
M-T-Ehhh…: the live performances didn't have much buzz worthiness, no water cooler moments. It's one of those rare times where I actually didn't want to hear the album version and was desperate to hear someone step outside the box. I would think the MTV stage is the one place that you could risk take with relativity little backlash. Kudos to Florence and the Machine for offering something that made me sit up, but otherwise…slim pickings.
Age ain't nothing but a number: When Cher stepped onto the stage to present the last award of the night wearing her, at one time scandalous If I Could Turn Back Time peekboo spandex leotard with garters, I thought to myself, this woman is 64 and working it better than half the people there and most of the people half her age. God bless her!
The Spin Crowd
Kim Kardashian executive produces and makes an appearance on this latest E! reality trash-fest which follows the staff of Command PR as they set up a new office in Los Angeles. Nothing exciting or memorable here. Although the series does raise a couple of questions, like why company president, Jonathan Cheban and vice president, Simon Huck, live together when they both should be making more than enough money to have separate quarters. Another phony-baloney slight of hand that can only be attributed to the constant 'need for drama' on these types of shows. Other than the occasional jolt of a celebrity cameo (Kelly Rowland, Mario Lopez, Kelly Osbourne, among others), there's no one in the cast that's endearing or interesting enough to keep me watching. Everyone's too busy waiting for a pause in the mindless banter to give a quotable insult to a colleague. I like playing the dozens like everybody else, but who in their right mind would do it at work? PASS!
The producers of 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' cheapen the price of love to the tune of $250,000. Not a bad price, you might be thinking, but remember that the two shows in 15+ combined seasons has produced only two marriages. Previous participants of the aforementioned shows return to the house for a chance at cash and 'love'. The series is an amalgamation of Survivor and Big Brother. Each week there's a challenge for a rose. The winner gets immunity and one step closer to the cash prize. He or she also gets to handpick three people from the house for a date and give one of them an immunity rose . For some of the contestants, this is clearly all about the dough (a few are on the show and in a relationship), so I find it deceitful for the producers to pretend that they have any interest in sowing seeds of romance when in reality they just hope that someone loses their inhibitions (frequently) while the cameras are rolling (ratings!).In an interesting twist, the men vote off one women and the women vote off one of the guys which will likely encourage a lot of romantic shenanigans in an effort to stay in the house. And if that's not enough to pepper the pot, the cast stays in one room! Nothing says lovin' like shacking up in room with bunk beds. I've only watched one installment of the show and have no plans to waste any more brain space. I'm not comfortable with love (or the promise of love) being used for manipulative means. And can someone please explain to me why in the eight years that 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' have been on, there's been not one bachelor or bachelorette of color?
The Monique Show
Don't get me wrong; I love Mo'Nique. She is an unlikely star who has risen from stand up comedian to TV star to movie star to Academy Award winning performer. Few people can claim a similarly impressive resume. That being said, Mo'Nique's many charms do not make for a good late night host. She doesn't open with monologue like most of her competition. Instead, she interacts with her audience and sidekick, Rodney Perry. In the show I watched, they invited two studio audience members to battle in a dance contest. Mo'Nique implied that the move was unscripted, but nothing about it felt fresh or off the cuff. Her delivery feels more like a sermon on Sunday morning, just around the time when the pastor is winding things up and getting louder as he make his final points. Except Monique doesn't get louder, she is loud. Every comment is punctuated with an exclamation point. Her questions don't flow; they seem to be fed to her from the show runners and when she compliments her guests, you'd think she was meeting the Queen Mother or Nelson Mandela. Her praise is often too big for the person, not undeserved, mind you, just overdone. Mo'Nique is one of those rare performers of color who have the potential to explode in the mainstream; just because her show is on BET doesn't mean she can't have non-black guests. A woman who has such great vision for herself shouldn't be so limited when it comes to who she talks with on her show. Perhaps instead of hug at the end, she should give herself a swift kick.
The Real Housewives of DC
Considering that I picked the NJ sister show as one of my favs for summer viewing, I thought I would be willing to give this latest entry a chance…not so much. They advertise the show as an inside look at DC's mover and shakers, but it really is more of a glimpse at some of DC's upper and upper middle classes. Nice to see though that most of the women are married, making them actual 'wives,' though housework is hardly on the agenda. The forced interaction is palpable. These women don't know (or necessarily like) each other. If the cameras aren't there, neither is the relationship. And I hate to be judgmental, but why glorify the behavior of a notorious party crasher like Michaele Salahi by giving her a prime slot on this show?
Auto-Tune the News: Bed Intruder Song
If you ever believed that white TV journalists reporting stories in African American communities conspired to seek out the loudest, most ignorant, inappropriately dressed 'eyewitness' as a means of shaming the black race, look no further than this youtube video which uses actual footage from a news telecast of Antoine Dodson who intervened when an intruder broke into his sister's bedroom and tried to assault her. The resulting youtube clip is an autotuned version of Dodson's account of the previous night's event set to music. All at once, funny and ridiculous, the video is heighten by Dodson facial expressions and hand motions.
P!NK - Glitter in the Air
I usually enjoy watching live performances on youtube. It's one of the few places where you have unlimited access to some of your favorite artists' shows. This clip from the 52nd annual Grammy Awards was, in my opinion, the performance of the night. Despite being in the music business for over a decade, P!nk (nee Alecia Moore) stole the show with a career defining performance that literally raised her to new heights. It was a risk taking rendition of a surprisingly subtle song from the errant pop singer, from the choice of costume to the acrobatics above the crowd. But interestingly enough, despite everything there to distract, P!nk's (live) vocals keep your attention the whole way through…although the trick in the end is pretty cool.
Newsroom- Portable Sewing Machine….
Before the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, there was the Onion, the place on the web for insightful, incisive satire. Originally produced as a free parody newspaper, the Onion has evolved to include videos and a podcast. While many of the clips featured on its youtube channel could be spotlighted, I chose this one because it shows what the Onion does best, take a serious issue, and flip it on it head. Warning: some of the content on the Onion channel are not for the uptight, faint of heart or underage. View with caution.
Man Forced to Marry Girlfriend
Brought you by Vejatv.com
This is the sole non-youtube video on the list and it's a good one. I can't confirm whether the source is real, but this clip is apparently from an Indian news broadcast and the title speaks for itself. It is terrible to laugh at someone else's pain, but the man does himself no service as he cries, writhes in pain, pulls out his hair and faints. Bonus: the narrator does a wonderful job describing the absurdity of the scene without a hint of sarcasm or judgment.
West Coast Swing
Not that you were looking for this particular type of clip, but I had to include it because this style of dance is becoming a favorite of mine. It's not the kind of swing that you would expect: brass heavy sound with high flying aerial dance tricks. On the contrary, this dance is much more grounded and smooth; a slotted dance, as it is called, because the pair moves up and down on a 'line' on the floor. Unlike most other dances, it can be performed to a variety of music styles: fast and slow, classic and contemporary.
Marvin Gaye Sings the National Anthem
Ever wonder how the Star Spangled Banner would sound if sung like a slowed down love song? No? Then clearly, you've never heard Marvin Gaye do what only Marvin Gaye could do with our beloved anthem. Sung at the 1983 NBA All Star Game, the balladeer takes a bold step forgoing the usual trumpets and drums for a keyboard and a smooth syncopated beat. Watching this clip, you'd have thought members of the audience were at one of his concerts rather than a sporting event. For a moment, I thought the man would be showered with some lady's unmentionables rather than applause.
Would you take marital advice from someone twice divorced? You might, if you were trying to figure out what type of behavior to avoid once married. What about listening to lessons on love from an admitted player? Maybe, once again, if you were looking to avoid becoming easy prey. The same counsel that we (and by 'we' I mean women) would be wary of in person, we seem to clamor for in print. We'll read books by gay men, straight men, single men, divorcees, widowers all in hopes that they will give us insight on getting that elusive hardware on our left hands. But maybe we should check our sources.
Consider some of the titles that have come our way in recent years, for instance, 'The MANual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date and Mate--and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top.' I read this book when it came out, not for any dating tips, but to get another perspective on the male mind. It should come as no surprise that someone who looks at dating as a game of one-upsmanship would frame his point of view as how to get the better of an opponent, but falling in love or seeking love shouldn't be played like a game of chess; because if you 'win,' how do you plan to date someone that feels like a loser and would you want to date someone who is, in a sense, a loser? And if every man treats a woman like a conquest, what happens when she's conquered? Is he going to want to settle down and get married? Not likely. What any woman can tell you is that once a man gets want he wants, he's gone. Especially if he's playing games.
Another recent addition is comedian Steve Harvey's New York Times bestselling book, 'Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man'. What makes Harvey, who is now happily married for the third time, an expert? There's no doubt his fan base from stand up performances and his nationally syndicated radio show, as well as admirers of his old school, 'tell it like it is' style of advisement have contributed to the book's smashing success. Harvey has even refashioned himself as 'love doctor' appearing on Nightline and Good Morning, America to dole out the truth about dating to lovelorn singles. Why his advice is mainly geared at women is beyond me. Can't men be clueless too?
In our society, it seems as though there has been a flip in the balance of power when it comes to dating. It used to be that a women's intuition ruled when it came to courtship. Men would have to play by a lady's rules if he wanted a chance. Now, with the decline of chivalry and the rise of extreme feminism, women's needs have taken a backseat to men's wants. A woman who desires marriage is portrayed as desperate and needy, someone to be avoided at all costs. For evidence, look no further than the movie He's Just Not That Into You, based on the book of the same name, which itself was inspired by a Sex in the City episode.
In the movie, woman are depicted as clueless, frigid and home wrecking. In one storyline, a character named Beth (played by Jennifer Aniston) decides to break up with a boyfriend after 7 years and no proposal. The resolution? After observing her sisters' soulless marriages, she agrees to continue the relationship so long as he is committed to her. The characters end up marrying in the end, but not until after Beth gives up her desire to wed almost as if the writers were saying, it shouldn't be about marriage, it should be about him. Mmmph! Give me a break!
No man has ever been depicted as weird or uptight for not wanting to get married. As a matter of fact bachelorhood is celebrated in our society as something that should be held onto for as long as possible. Single men are cool, hip and happening; single woman are sad, lonely and desperate; men's lives are full and active; a woman doesn't really feel completely fulfilled until there's a man to come home to. Where's does this all come from? I blame it on the fact that most of Hollywood is male (men compose over seventy percent of TV writers). I also blame women for believing the reality that these men create.
People often downplay the connection between the movies and Main Street, but art has strong influence on our culture. The fantasies created onscreen often become the next big thing. So, when TV tells us that marriage is a holdover from a bygone era…we believe them; when TV tells us that the most desirable woman is the most sexually uninhibited, we believe them; when TV tells us its more entertaining to watch women prostrate themselves for one man, we say, that's the way it should be! They're right! But who does this inuring benefit?
The majority of dating reality shows of the 21st century have fifteen to twenty women seeking the hand of one guy: The Bachelor, Ochocinco: the Ultimate Catch, Rock of Love, For the Love of Ray J, and, Lord God Almighty, Flavor of Love, sending the message that no matter how crusty the intended, women will go for it. Shows that put a twist on it (Average Joe, For Love or Money, Joe Millionaire, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?) do so to the detriment of their female participants, attempting to reveal them as superficial or venal.
When a woman does come around to try to clean up the dating muck being dish out by her male counterparts, she is often criticized, as in the case of The Rules authors, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, who were called out for not having a sufficient background to be doling out dating advice or Patti Stanger, CEO of the Millionaire's Club and star of Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker who was mocked because she was unmarried. No such arrows were thrown at VH1's Steve Ward who hosts Tough Love and remains without girlfriend or wife.
Dating is a challenging prospect especially for those who seek to be married, but it becomes even more daunting when dealing with negative ideals created by books, TV and films. Say what you will about the challenges of marriage, but for many single women (and men) that is still the ultimate goal of dating. For the media to put men in the position of being all knowing when it comes to relationships is to ignore women's natural intelligence when it comes to the same subject. I'm not saying women are smarter, just that our point of view is equally valid.
SCREAM QUEENS 2
(Mondays @ 10 on VH1)
This installment of the series features the same premise as the first: a group of twenty something beauties are brought to a tricked out fun house for a once in a lifetime opportunity, a role in the movie Saw 3-D. But the second time around features a new host, Jaime King along with acting coach, John Homa and director, Tim Sullivan. The three mentor the actresses as well as act as judges.
The contestants are thrust right into the action with an opening challenge that requires them to perform a scene reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm Street (one of my favorite horror flicks). The winner of the challenge receives a guaranteed callback (immunity). Gabby, a 24-year old from New Mexico, gets the win and the title of frontrunner. This distinction doesn't go unnoticed and a couple of the girls snicker that the judges didn't really like her performance as much as they liked her 'essence'. Me-ow!
The next day, the participants meet with John Homa for an acting class, the highlight of the episode. The focus of the lesson is rage; the women are required to say a few short lines while smashing pumpkins with a bat. In some cases, I felt myself squirming at the falseness of the performances, while with others, I was nodding my head, completely feeling where the scene was taking me. That's the thing about art, it's all about connection. The difficulty is that the horror genre requires a lot of over the top dialogue, expressions and story lines. How a performer brings that across without making the audience burst out laughing is what separates the women from the girls.
The final segment is the director's challenge where the actors had to film three brief scenes which were edited together to create a 30-second movie trailer. Each scene requires them to show different qualities all integral in being the ultimate scream queen: sexiness, ferocity and fear. The winner of the director's challenge becomes that week's leading lady. The poorest performer gets the axe.
Although the series doesn't make me want to see Saw (no pun intended), it does make me want to watch Gabby, Jessica and Tai (my picks for the final three) to see how they progress in their performances and in dealing with the growing intensity of the tests. While most of the other actors are forgettable, the interviews they do that narrate the episode feel sincere and not overly catty or scripted, surprising considering that they are performers. For many of these women, more than the movie role, being on this show is probably the biggest chance that they have had so far in their careers and that urgency (maybe even desperation)to succeed fuels the fire that pushes the show forward and makes it a can't miss.
IF YOU REALLY KNEW ME
(MTV, Tuesdays nights)
This series follows 'Challenge Day (a movement to create dialogue and break down cliques amongst teenagers) as it travels to high schools across the nation. The show opens with featured students describing their self-appointed clique (nerd, band geek, jock, etc). They describe the social environment in the school and how they interact. A few adults chime in, but the focus is squarely on the kids.
The day opens with a few games and icebreakers to get everyone comfortable with the faces that they'll be seeing for the next few hours. After that, the mediator introduces himself and then literally, steps outside the box. This box is made of pieces of tape placed on the ground, but it symbolizes the cramped space that a lot of the young people are in by force or choice. He goes on to say that 'outside the box is where life really happens.' He opens the floor by talking about his own life, his failures and challenges, allowing all others in the room to feel free to do the same. The kids are separated into small groups and are asked to finishing the following sentence: if you really knew me, you would know…
To speak openly about your fears, to be vulnerable in front of people who may not like/know you takes an immense amount of courage. Listening to these young people tell their stories with trembling voices and streaming tears tells me that we have a generation of youth who are hurting and breaking under the expectations placed upon them by society, family and friends. As each student finishes the sentence, there are no judgments, no advice, just comfort offered by fellow group member who a few minutes prior was likely just another face in the hallway. It was quite a revelation to see a jock, who admitted to tormenting band geeks, put his arm around one who had just confessed to being gay.
The next phase of the challenge is 'The Power Shuffle'; all the students stand on one side of the room, as the announcer calls out an event or gives a description (e.g. 'if you have lost someone to or been a victim of an act of violence), those to whom the words apply will cross a line to the other side and face those remaining who will then hold up the sign language sign for 'I love you' (pointer, pinky and thumb fully extended, with middle and ring finger down.) As everyone looks across the room and to their sides, they realize that they are not alone in their experiences and more so, that there are people who will love and support them. A point was made of a young man who seemingly crossed the line almost every time and as you can see from the example above, walking to the other side of the room meant you had survived or witnessed something traumatic. For this kid to have seen and lived through as much as he had (and still be in school) spoke volumes about his character and guts. There are men and women twice his age that would crack and break under similar circumstances.
Finally, the mediator poses the question, 'what will you do differently?' After all, talk of change is not as important as practicing it. Each student is asked to take the love and learning that they experienced and bring it into the world. At the end of the episode, we witness how some of the 'Challenge Day' students apply the experience to their lives; a couple of students from various cliques decide to hang out together; a jock goes to his football team to address underlying racism; and in another one, a teen courageously reaches out to her visibly uncomfortable father.
Perhaps 'Challenge Day' won't change a generation overnight, but I commend MTV for stepping away from the usual fluff and filler and exposing its audiences to a movement that can have a positive lifelong impact.
I promised a music article in the last installment of the Summer's Seven Guilty Pleasures, but truth be told, I don't listen to the radio that much or buy albums anymore, so when I do hear a song that registers…it means something: that the performer has done what few artists have been able to...they caught my attention. During the summer I expect a few anthems (a la Beyonce's 'Crazy in Love') or laid back jams (Kid Rock, 'All Summer Long'). This summer hasn't delivered a standout so far, but below are a few choice contenders:
(The Superstar Collaboration)
LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE - EMINEM FEAT. RIHANNA: A great song has contrast and builds. This single, off Eminem's 'Recovery' has Rihanna singing a soft, breathy hook while Eminem spits out verses with a contained rage that makes the lyrics shoot out at you. (Currently #1 on the Billboard 100)
(The One Hit Wonder)
IMPOSSIBLE - SHONTELLE: The song isn't impressive for Shontelle's voice, although she does have a lovely one, you can hear better ones singing in church on Sunday. No, the credit for this song belongs to the producer, Arnthor Birgisson, who crafted an airy ballad that floats like a feather and just as easily blows away.
(The Dance Song)
YOUR LOVE IS MY DRUG -KE$HA
Since Ke$ha has released three catchy Billboard charting singles from her album 'Animal,' she can't be labeled 'one-hit.' Despite not making it to #1 (the song peaked at #4), Your Love Is My Drug benefits from Ke$ha's loopy party girl delivery and fun lyrics.
(The Country Crossover)
NEED YOU NOW- LADY ANTEBELLUM
Despite there being more country music stations than any other type of radio station in the US, artists from the genre rarely make a dent on the Hot100... that is until the success of uber-stars like the Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain and Faith Hill. Lady Antebellum joins the list by using the tried and true method of country voices, with a mainstream sound.
(The Love Song)
UN-THINKABLE (I'M READY) - ALICIA KEYS
Word is that Keys' now husband, then boyfriend, Swiss Beatz inspired the lyrics in this song. A big difference in tone for Keys whose vocals usually express ache and yearning. She's singing about love this time, not loss. There's a peace and calm to the single that makes it a standout in Keys' repertoire.
(The Cameo Song)
ALL I DO IS WIN - DJ KHALED FEAT. T-PAIN, LUDACRIS, RICK ROSS & SNOOP DOGG
There's usually one single during the summer season that features over two well known artists, kind of like 'We Are the World,' but on a smaller scale. You'll see this more with non-performers (I'm talking to you, Diddy!) who cover themselves by featuring a hot beat and every artist they've ever met.
(The Fad Song)
TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE - CALI SWAG DISTRICT
The season would be incomplete without the song that sparks a dance craze, like the Macarena and the Soulja Boy before it, this song's verses are mostly filler while the main course is the chorus which allows you to 'dougie' to your hearts content.
(The Comeback Song)
POWER - KANYE WEST
After an absence instigated by his mic-checking Taylor Swift at the MTV Music Video Awards, the wild, wild West returns with a monster single that confirms his talent and (once again) showcases his ego. Is it a march, is it a rock song or a rap song? Who cares! Kanye, can do.
As I write this article, we are slowly, but surely approaching the unofficial end of summer. Hopefully, you've been out and about enjoying some sun, surf or sand. But if the recession has been keeping you homebound, have no fear! There is still lots of entertainment to be had for the tightfisted couch potato. For the next seven weeks, I'll be sharing some of the best stuff to be seen and heard from the comforts of home at little to no cost, especially if you have internet or cable/satellite and if you don't, it's probably because they can't attached a dish to the rock you've been living under. Some of the selections might surprise you, but I hope you approach this list with an open mind (which is easy for me since I have fourteen hours a day of free time). If you check out the suggestions, let me know what you think and be sure to recommend a few viewing delights of your own.
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY (Bravo, Mondays @ 10pm):
Yes, I'm picking the oft-maligned, but oft-watched 4th installment in the Real Housewives franchise and not only that, but I'm picking the wives from a state with probably the least cachet. The cast might not have the same pedigree as their sister shows, but at least they are actual housewives. There's only one divorcee on the show and she's the black sheep.
The series, in its second season on Bravo, centers around sisters Caroline and Dina, Jacqueline (their brother, Chris's wife), Teresa, a longtime family friend and Danielle, an acquaintance (barely) and aforementioned black sheep. The show works better than it predecessors for three main reasons: one, most of the cast are related in some way and have known each other for a long time. The dynamics are developed and the interactions aren't forced; two, the problems feel relatable. Nobody's talking about how hard it is to keep up their $3.5 million summer home. And three, the tension is real.
Danielle is an outsider, but a necessary antagonist. After watching the other cast members speak disparagingly of her and bully her (to the point of the police being called in one episode), I felt sorry for her. After the first season's finale, most of the women decided to cut off all communication with Danielle, who in the process, has become more paranoid and deluded in the isolation.
Mother hen, Caroline, leads the anti-Danielle charge and has encouraged others to stay as far away from her as possible. Her lack of Danielle interaction limits her camera time, but when she does get some, it usually centers around her children Albie, Lauren and Christopher. Lately, though, Caroline's tough as nails demeanor is showing cracks as her children leave home and her husband remains engrossed in work, leaving her lonely and sad.
Dina, after being the focus of much of Danielle's verbal attacks, decides to leave the show , but not before taking some time to get closure (i.e, give Danielle a piece of her mind and then some). Teresa and Jacqueline are both dealing with new babies (a girl and boy, respectively); Teresa has four kids under 10 and not a babysitter, nanny, cook or driver to her name; Jacqueline, on the other hand, has to deal with three kids at various stages in life (newborn, 9 and 18). Her oldest, Ashley, moved out after an argument and was engaging in a nasty twitter battle with Danielle. The feud came to a head at a fashion show where Ashley, falsely thinking that Danielle had attacked her mother, comes from behind and pulls out her hair. Charges are pending…and I can't wait!
THE CHERRY ON TOP: interestingly enough, the breakout star of the season isn't a cast member, but a hanger-on, a sixth man if you will, Kim G, a two-face, double crossing camera hog. The woman will befriend anyone in the cast, almost as though she's making a play for a spot on the show…hmm…don't be surprised if they make her a series regular.