Reality TV

#BB20: Cruel Cruel Summers

As a mother of four fairly independent sons, I feel a little less atrocious excusing myself to steal away for guilty pleasure TV consumption..

than I did when my youngest two were toddlers.

However, the fascination with the erratically scheduled reality show Big Brother began at an inconvenient period of my life, a time when I was more apologetic about cramming it in.

“Why are you watching this show now?” my husband once asked nearly a decade ago, “Didn’t this take up an hour of your time last night?” Sheepishly, I replied “Yeah, they announced last night that it would continue tonight. It’s a major competition secluding people in a house who rarely see sunlight. The schedule NEEDS to be condensed so people can return to their lives.”

It was as if that could explain it all away. To strike a compromise regarding time allotment, I made the decision to break from all other programs on all other networks. It’s ludicrous how much of a commitment today’s TV shows require (also see: The Bachelorette, 90 Day Fiance, shows that often demand 2 hour chunks of viewing a singular episode).

As I nursed my newborn twins nearly nine years ago, I somehow was rapt by the day-to-day minutiae of polarizing strangers sharing a house with the end-goal of being the last one in it. Alliances form in the process of plotting to overtake the house, but none can truly be trusted as the individualistic objective is to wipe everyone else out.

Astoundingly creative physical and mental competitions are held to secure positioning in the house as well as one’s safety. Far more captivating however, are the social dynamics and inevitable backstabbing that occur on Big Brother. Viewers find those scenarios most relatable as they are metaphorical to everyone’s lives. Consider the themes of: Trust, loyalty and how one maintains dignity while trying to come out on top. How many real life situations can you apply to that symbolic structure?

I’m not one to play underhanded social games, but I’ve been on the receiving end of them. I have had to learn how to combat sneaky people, plotting and competitive coworkers and the like… Ignoring folks is the strategy I most often employ, but that’s far from an option in this reality TV game if your desire is to triumph.

Another aspect of Big Brother that has me glued to the tube? “Showmances”. It is always fascinating to me to observe and note how romantic relationships form either due to boredom (There is a lot of downtime for contestants who are stripped of phones, technology or anything connecting them to the outside world and its news), bonding over shared duress, or legitimate connections that wouldn’t have formed had a bunch of random people not been thrown together under the same roof. More importantly, under the same roof sans outside interference or assistance.

The anachronistic notion of not being able to Google or Facebook- research a romantic interest rings sweeter in today’s day and age. Of course, you cannot help but ponder whether or not a couple will have staying power beyond their seclusion in the dry-aired B.B. House. There, the rare glimpse of sunlight (in limited outside moments restricted to right beside the house and no farther) is a treat.

From an anthropological viewpoint, what’s almost as intriguing as the game dynamics is the way the show has usurped the summer hours of its fan base. It is one thing to be committed to a television program, but quite another to pay for the show’s much-dissected “live feeds.” Many fans do this and what that entails is tuning in to the events of the house as they occur 24/7. With the feeds, fans get to witness a lot of the dramatic happenings that will ultimately be left on the cutting room floor.

The live feeds have also inspired an entire social media subculture: Fans interact with one another and weigh in on occurrences that do not necessarily make it to the televised footage.

From an objective standpoint, you might declare “why would I be interested in the every move of a stranger in a house?” Bear in mind that those in charge of casting have not chosen humdrum, uncomplicated individuals. They’ve selected a deliberately eclectic mix, while foreseeing intense clashes and connections.

Troy McEady tweets about being glued to the Big Brother live feeds each summer.

They have also chosen contestants with a wide range of views, knowing that some of the more conservative notions will garner shock and dismay from the more liberal critics (and vis versa).

The B.B. experience reminds me of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series that was so popular during my childhood in the 1980s.

As this is the 20th season of Big Brother, there was no social media when the show was first created two decades ago. However, from early on, B.B. called upon the audience to impact the game. In the age of social media, it is an exquisitely simple feat, with the viewers choosing game twists and even godawful meal selections (such as what constitutes “slop”) as punishments for the contestants.

Know that watching Big Brother may require a far greater commitment from you than you ever imagined possible. Once you become interested, you’re likely to become invested.

Suddenly, you may find yourself not only choosing players’ adventures…..

but how you spend your summer.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#RHOBH Recap: Runways, Recourse & Regurgitation (Season 8 Finale)

In a season of aspirational living rather than actual events, the tiresomely affluent ladies of Beverly Hills presented us with a finale to regurgitate all the mini “dramas.”

Dorit learned – at her beachwear runway show -that the Beverly Hills Lifestyle feature isn’t coming to fruition. This is recourse for her constant kvetching that the photos stunk. But to learn this news at one’s big event is emblematic of being on high and getting a severe humbling. Add to that Kyle’s attack on Dorit at the same event, Dorit’s Event! as Dorit reminds Kyle. This is the second time Dorit feels slighted in this manner. However, who can blame Kyle for thinking it’s pretty crappy of Dorit to rewrite Herstory by giving Kyle a villainous role in #PantyGate?

On that note, I must say I felt a kinship with Kyle who refuses (consistently — because I noticed it last episode too) to say the grotesque P word. She refers to the garment as underwear. We have something in common. As I suggested, this retired argument should be labeled #GrannyPants at this point (Sigh).

While Dorit has the models prance around looking lovely in her Beverly Beach suits, real people with an actual iota of flesh on bone deem them impractical. This is why Erika remarks from the first row: “These would look great on Lisa Rinna” and under her breath “And only Rinna.”

I’ll pause here to say: Thank God Dorit is on this reality show. Why? Because without RHOBH, Dorit would not have met LVP, a matriarchal figure who perpetually has put Dorit in her place this season. Without LVP, can you imagine how much BIGGER Dorit’s expansive ego would be. There’s still work to be done here…

Now, about LVP’s ego….hmm.

Kyle storms out of the event after feeling that Erika hasn’t backed up her gripes about the “underwear” drama with Dorit. In a testimonial, Teddi remarks that Erika’s silent stoicism is equally irksome to her earlier temperamental outbursts.

Mauricio is seen gabbing with Edwin about implementing a top-notch security system for the new mansion. This was cobbled together by editors who scoured the cutting room floor looking for inconsequential footage they never dreamed would become useful. Fast forward a few months and Kyle and Mauricio’s home is burgled with sentimental items stolen.

Other things that have happened since filming wrapped:

Erika’s book is number 9 on the New York Times bestsellers list even though the Pretty Mess remains pretty buttoned up about her past. That’s the most common review I’ve gotten about the memoir.

Kyle’s American Woman is a show you can watch now, I think. However, if you’re the diehard Clueless fan that I am, you’ll want to preserve memories of Alicia Silverstone in her most iconic days.

Dorit is still truly, madly deeply in love with PK and…of course, vis versa. Neither of them will ever let you forget it. Viewers are wondering if we’d have heard more about Beverly Beach if she’d kept the original name, Navah.

LVP requested that editors sneak in a subliminal message to Pandora in the credits. She’d really like to have some grandchildren. For now, plans to adopt more dogs are on hold…even canines that look like her husband Ken.

Lisa Rinna has been wracking her brain like mad (as we saw during the scene with Jonathan Antin and Lisa’s husband Harry Hamlin), wondering how detrimental her good behavior has been to her future on this franchise.

Teddi has been reassuring Rinna: “Look, Meghan McCain didn’t call YOU boring, you’re good.” Despite that, Teddi was the only accountable, measured voice of reason this season and she’ll be getting another….

Mark my words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bravo TV

#TimesUp, But Will Men Change How They Speak to Women?

‘Vanderpump’ party planner: I was joking about Katie’s weight

PAGE SIX, Katie Maloney and Kevin Lee

I shouldn’t let a man rattle me with his words or frighten me into this type of paralysis.

I have a severe case of “writer’s block” and it all began with a man’s rant. This was someone I had championed and promoted, whose work I had lauded to others, but with one swift misunderstanding, he lashed out publicly rather than reaching out to chat one-on-one. After clearing up the complete misunderstanding and apologizing, I am left with that residual crummy feeling from the insults hurled my way.

“Nothing to worry about, all’s fine,” he said at the end, to wave a magic wand over it all and make me forget his temper had erupted like Mount Vesuvius. Can you take back that awful jab about my writing? I wanted to ask . He had implied that I do not take what I do seriously, which could not be farther from the truth. Not only do I take everything I do way too seriously, but when I pour myself into work, it is something I put significant time and effort into (There is not only writing, after all. There is also fact-checking, editing, revising…There is waking in the middle of the night as another thought comes to me and rushing to rewrite a portion. I could go on and on). In this case, male bravado was at the center of the storm.  This was someone who was worried that I had inadvertently tarnished his tough guy image. Ire had gotten the best of him and he immediately lashed out impulsively. A couple of comments were issued to me to make me perfectly aware that no woman should ever do that to him and no woman would again.

While I am not the first woman to feel intimidated by a man, I am more attune than ever now to the idea of women who are afraid to speak out. While sexual harassment in particular is a current focus, there are other types of fears women face when it comes to the opposite gender. It is not always about trepidation. Sometimes it’s about hesitation.

A friend of mine is afraid to tell her male boss she is pregnant because of the disparaging remarks she knows he will make. The last time she was pregnant, this same boss gave her hell and spoke derogatorily of her to their colleagues.

“I won’t be disclosing this until my pregnant belly is staring him in the face and it’s impossible to hide,” she tells me, “He will start complaining and laying a major guilt trip on me with regard to what will happen to my position, with the employees I manage, and with our clients. I’m perfectly capable of running this entire corporation and having everything go smoothly through my maternity leave. I know precisely who to delegate tasks to in that period of time…Yet, he was awful the last time I was pregnant. He made me feel as if I had committed the gravest injustice to our company. Otherwise, I love working here. I don’t want to ever feel chased out. I have been dreading how I’ll eventually have to let him know I’m pregnant this time around.”

Despite what we would expect from the Corporate America of 2018, being pregnant or being a mom comes with its own challenges in the workplace. Our kids come first, but having to leave a meeting due to a child’s allergic reaction (this happened with me years ago) can illicit obnoxious remarks from the higher ups. When dealing with male – as opposed to female – bosses, we smack our heads against the wall in frustration. How will this person ever get it? He’s never going to become pregnant or physically give birth to a child.

On the subject of “getting it” and truly understanding women, let’s talk about women’s bodies. Over the years I have been horrified hearing men opine in an unsolicited manner on the female form. Two nights ago, on Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules, Lisa Vanderpump’s party planner Kevin Lee approached server Katie Maloney at an event to express shock over (his perception of ) her weight gain. As it happens, Katie is svelte and absolutely stunning, but not ask stick thin as some of her cast mates are. “What happened to you?” Kevin asked, which immediately took Katie aback. He proceeded to tell her she must take care of her body and that he was “worried” about her.

Publicly castigating a young woman before the cameras about her appearance does not smack of worry to me…but perhaps that’s just me. My personal contention is that Kevin was being catty.

In his non-pology to Page Six https://pagesix.com/2018/02/06/vanderpump-party-planner-i-was-joking-about-katies-weight/, Kevin gave the excuse of being Katie’s “friend” and declared that she’s been so “sensitive” lately. Congratulations, Kevin. Like so many great male deflectors before you, you turned it around to blame the woman you insulted. You expressed that the fault lies in her psychological makeup.

It also pays to note that Kevin is one of those extremely thin men who could consume cheeseburgers for lunch and dinner daily, but still fall over when the wind blows. I have doubts about his understanding of female hormones and related weight fluctuations, the challenges of staying in shape and the unbalanced amount of criticism women (versus men) receive about appearance and physical fitness.

While it might prove inaccurate to state that Katie Maloney was fearful of Kevin Lee, something in her made it impossible to respond with anything other than a quick initial defense. She was essentially rendered speechless and this is not an uncommon response to the shocking things men will say to women. Historically men have felt they have the license to comment on women’s bodies, to let them know they appear fuller than they used to, to suggest they lose weight and imply they aren’t trying — when that most often is so far from the truth. With #MeToo and #TimesUp, men are starting to pause before making sexually suggestive comments to women..so… can we also school them on refraining from commenting on a woman’s weight?

I have been horrified about this for years and I’m hoping that 2018 might finally usher in some progress. I’ve been married for close to two decades, but I remember a blind date from many years ago who stared at my waist. “I normally date women who are a size zero or two,” he told me unabashedly. At the time, I was a slender 4-6 and was appalled, but also incredibly frustrated. I exercised on a daily basis and tried to cut down on junk food..and it seemed all for naught. I was probably even more conscientious of watching my weight then because I was in a brutal Jewish Manhattan dating scene where Natalie Portman was every man’s ideal. While I could not change what my date was attracted to, the fact that a man had actually said this to me, and that I ended up feeling apologetic to him at that time, reflects something that was wrong with society.

When I was pregnant many years later, a guy who happened to be rather portly and disheveled approached me to loudly declare “wow, that’s HUGE!”, pointing to my stomach. I looked at him dead-on and without realizing I was reenacting a scene from Sex and the City, (one that must have been stuck in my subconscious) I replied “I’m pregnant! What’s YOUR excuse?”

The problem we face today is that we, as a society, are still conditioned to men speaking a certain way to women. In Kevin Lee’s mind, it was OK to justify Katie’s hurt as the result her being too sensitive. When our president was accused of making the moves on a female reporter, one of his initial responses was “Have you seen her? I don’t think so.” While two wrongs don’t make a right, my immediate thought was “Donald Trump, have you seen you?!”

But you see, this is not the response that comes to others’ minds. Why? Because wealthy and powerful men “can” make these types of statements and they “can” demand to be flanked by beautiful women. Our society has long rewarded these men throughout history. Luckily now in 2018, women are starting to say that this type of treatment is no longer tolerable.

I saw far fewer people comment on Katie’s physique after Monday night’s episode of Vanderpump Rules than those who lambasted Kevin Lee on social media. If the episode had aired 10…even 5 years ago, I think more people would have chosen to comment on Katie and scathingly scrutinize her body type. I’d like to think we are making progress, that we are getting bolder and speaking up for ourselves. Unfortunately,  I also know firsthand that we still have a long way to go.

 

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#MeToo and #TimesUp Because the Time Has Truly Come: An Overdue Assertion About American Filmmaker Woody Allen

Woody and Sun Yi Huffington PostPhoto Source: Huffington Post

I’ll never watch another Woody Allen movie again.

I have a shameful secret though – I’ve enjoyed a handful of Woody Allen films over the last few  years. Previously, I separated his personal life from who he is as an artist. Let me say that I did so with an intense amount of inner shame. It prevented me from even disclosing to friends that I’d watched one of Woody’s movies. Well, that all stops immediately.

When I think about how many people ignored Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein’s victims and how the credence of their accounts was minimized, I’m reminded that Woody film fans are unwittingly doing the same by supporting Woody. Paying for his movies not only generates revenue for a specific film, but also creates a demand for future Woody projects.

I have never been sexually harassed in a way that was deeply scarring (upsetting? yes, greatly. Throughout the 1990s, I had several negative experiences in the workplace that I’ll never forget). I was never sexually abused or preyed upon. But that hasn’t stopped me one iota from thinking long and hard about Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen. It’s impossible not to as a women and with all the #MeToo and #TimesUp coverage. On a seemingly unrelated note, I was privy to some intense social media hate and personalized, targeted harassment that sprung from my covering a TV show. That negative experience got me thinking more about the subject of victims.  When I sought help from others, truth sounded stranger than fiction and I panicked, thinking: this is really bad, but who believes me? Who would believe some stranger would really tweet out insane threats about me? Who would believe this resulted from my writing about a ridiculous TV show?!The idea of not sounding credible when something very real and incredibly frightening was happening made it even scarier.

I’ve discussed this before, but anyone who writes gets to encounter extreme personalities  on social media. There are people who get angered by very (seemingly) minor things. While I in no way compare myself to a Weinstein victim (I reiterate: I DO NOT compare myself to a Weinstein victim at all!), due to my recent experience, I did a lot of thinking about victims’ credibility (whether they are victims of abuse, harassment or cyber harassment).

Can you imagine the level of disgust, mortification and inner turmoil Harvey’s victims felt as they continued to see him produce movies, profit and thrive?

Going back to Woody Allen, he preyed on his ex wife’s underage adopted daughter…and yes, Woody and Soon-Yi allegedly ran off into the happily ever after…

There are people today who argue: “Well, Woody and Soon-Yi have been married a very long time now. She’s no longer underage today….” There are many justifications being made. But does Woody and Soon-Yi’s  “happily ever after” negate the extreme impropriety, the violation of a child, in the origins of their story?

The late esteemed American writer Gore Vidal once referred to this country as “The United States of Amnesia.” In the U.S., a filmmaker can be disgraced but eventually we forget because of the incredible work he has to offer….

No More. And I hope that #MeToo and #TimesUp change that about America.

A Hollywood insider recently speculated to me that he wouldn’t be surprised if Weinstein has a new movie by 2030. That is, IF Weinstein does not face criminal charges for actual rape. Whether the insider is off-base or not, it is sad that he can even state this thought and consider it a possibility. He says he sees Hollywood as completely corrupt and screwed up and I’m sensing that the #TimesUp movement will change that.

However, we see that A-listers continue working with Woody. He even has a new movie coming out soon. Who knows what could happen with Harvey if he avoids prison and if the protective and highly industrious Weinstein camp creates the effective sort of “spin”?

As of today, there is no way to know for certain what the film industry will be like by 2030, but until then…

I will not be watching another Woody Allen film.

 

 

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