Tuesday, October 16, 2012
In the 2008 movie “Untraceable” a serial killer kills his victims faster, depending on how many people are watching his murder room through a live feed on the Internet. The more people watch, the faster he kills. Even though connecting to the live feed is contributing to the death of the victim, people around the globe log on and watch. Are they complicit in the murder? Yes. But they're not murders – they just are humans who can't look away.
From the age of the Christians vs. the Lions, humans all look at horrifying things willingly. It's our nature, with a mix of motivations. We want to know what's going on, so curiosity; we want to feel grateful it's not us in the situation; we find pleasure in watching how other humans act and react, we gain knowledge so we know what to do in similar situations … even if we'll never be in those situations.
This is about Jill Zarin. Isn't everything about Jill Zarin? Don't the planets spin, doesn't the dawn rise, don't tulips come up in April because of Jill Zarin? Oh, no, only during the season. The season of Real Housewives of New York. If it's one of the other seasons, then the planets, dawn, and tulips owe their existence to Taylor or Kyle or Teresa or Caroline or Nene or Kim. During New York's turn, even Jill faces competition from Aviva.
Other networks, like other solar systems, have their own satellites. But Bravo is the daddy of them all, where it's at, where it started, where it turns. Bravo is the original, the one to beat. So Bravo is inevitably the one where the change has happened first.
What change? Oh, the shift from “normal” people, tapping into their typical activities and individual peculiarities, to abnormal megalomaniacs, Frankensteined together by the focus of the camera and the glamour of attention.
Jill Zarin wasn't a monster when she signed on to do the show. She was a typical New York woman who had married well and enjoyed privilege. A mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a former career woman, a shopper with money to burn … someone whose life seemed enviable. The conceit of the show seemed aimed towards viewers wanting what she had – what all the housewives had. So how did she get to the place where what she has in life is not enough unless she can continue to flaunt it? Reality Show Sickness? “On Display”-itis? Can we coin a new term? 'Cause, baby, she's got it.
And so do the other housewives on the list. Aviva, the newest, made the turn only weeks ago, when she had to film the reunion shows and realized she didn't have the support she thought she would or didn't think about needing, but suddenly realized “hey, might be good” to have. She didn't quite pull it off. But give her a few years' experience and she'll either come out smelling fresh and clean or she'll disappear into the same rabbit's hole that got Jill, Kelly, Taylor, Kyle, Caroline and others.
And what lures them to the edge of that hole? The belief that there are enough fans to go around. That as long as there are viewers, anything they do is justified. Untrained market analysts, they talk about “team” this or “haters”, tweeting jokes about other cast members appearing on live show, becoming hectors who are caught up in their own hubris. It seems obvious that 95% of the cast and secondary cast of The Real Housewives of New Jersey think they are popular, admired, believed. How did they get this opinion? From not reading everything that was written about them, but only from a favored list of opinion. From ganging up and blanket marketing, shouting as a chorus, from their side of the issue. Who can hear the other side above that din? Actually, a lot of people can.
Where the Jills and Carolines misstep is when they think that if everything is rosy in their little cocooned world, then everything is all right in the whole world. It's just not so.
In the last year or two, there's been a change in some of the housewives that is leading towards the demise of the franchise. It is becoming common to read the sentiment in forums on the shows, that the viewers feel sick after watching the shows. Pledges to “not watch again, if” pop up all the time. Of course, these are across all the boards, not just the ones those who pick and choose would see.
Watching someone like Jill Zarin or Taylor Armstrong has caused physical illness and depression. Some viewers have posted that it takes them several days to get through one show. And yet … they keep watching. But will that continue? Will the audience develop thicker skins or will Bravo change tacks? Will they realize that these women whose lives are the show are not the same as the women whose lives were merely shown on the show?
Will Bravo make a correction in the course of this franchise or will it crash on the rocks? At risk are women like Jill Zarin and Taylor Armstrong and Aviva Drescher. They need therapists and a lot of alone time, not another season under the microscope. And strictly for respect for their audience, Bravo needs to remove these people for whom opinion has become truth. In my opinion. As someone who feels she is about to crash on the rocks of self-disgust, merely for tuning in to watch Season 3 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, with Taylor Armstrong at her grifting, lying, horrifying best. I don't think I should feel violent disgust and still do something. Right?
Damn you, Bravo!