Eating Reality Television

Posted on September 5, 2011 by


my big fat gypsy wedding

Thank you for opening the crappy television floodgates Hayley. I watch Toddlers In Tiaras when I’m depressed, to get more depressed.

Recently while eating a bowl of fuck-it-all-Honey-Nut-Cheerios, I caught a riveting episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. And I learned from the mouth a desultory sixteen-year-old bride, that she’d never met a gypsy girl who’d gone to school. Why? Because they don’t  need to. They don’t need to because boys make the money and girls keep house. I mean, what kind of idiot would ask a girl how school was? Also, she added, while adjusting her strapless gown and checking her cleavage, that looking good WAS a full-time job. After we were introduced to her husband–a young man who planned to make a living doing, ya know, odd jobs. I really hoped her plan of being taken care of by him worked out.

I have another  reality television confession. I saw an advertisement for a new show, Russian Dolls. And I’m looking forward to catching the premiere. Who would pass on a show about first generation Russian daughters who are being groomed for success via becoming airbrushed humans? The futility of the very idea, led me to the kitchen for another bowl of cereal.

I’ve learned important things during my reality television binges. I have. Second to gypsy girls not going to school, the most amazing factoid that I’ve gleaned? Flippers. Flippers are fake teeth worn in the mouths of six-year-old beauty pageant contestants who are flawed because they have lost their teeth.

The ultimate goal of  toddler beauty queens, gypsy brides and the Russian dolls seem divergent when floating down a river of Honey Nut Cheerios. But they are related.

Each show also features the mothers of the girls or women the show is ostensibly about. The mothers are generally (not always) flirting with obesity. They are often filmed eating or clutching water bottles and giving their daughters instructions. Always they also gaze at their daughters with something disturbingly like envy.

The mothers in each show perpetuate the beauty industry’s most important tenant: there is always something to be fixed and a new flaw to discover. The mothers school their daughters to believe that they are fundamentally and outwardly flawed. And what does this do to their daughters inner world of self-worth and ideally self-love? I would guess overbearing focus on flaws, and attainment of perfection, compromises the chaotic task of mastering self-love.

Do the mothers of these girls campaign so hard for the beauty industry as a preemptive strike? Is their goal to let their daughters know that without diligence and make-up galore, posturing and cultivation of feminine wiles their daughter’s will not survive the judgements of others? Is their reasoning in fact a manifestation of mother-love so complete it only looks like abuse?

If girls grew up to love their freckles and plump thighs, they’d have a lot more time for other activities. For example, Sarah Palin may have learned more history. I may have learned how to add or punctuate. Okay, I have no idea if any of that is true. But the point is, a lot of brain power goes into which mascara to buy and that’s just  for the typical woman. AKA me– the fuck it all cereal eater. The toddlers and the gypsy brides and the Russian Dolls? Buying mascara is ALL they’re doing.

These three shows are just symptoms. They couldn’t exist if there was not an appetite for them. They are like extreme sports. They showcase something women are  familiar with (flexing our feminine wiles, heck we’re trained/socialized and learned on the subject)  and bring it to a new and altogether terrifying height. We watch like we watch base jumping, awe-struck and curious if it will kill the jumper.

If I watch these shows and I don’t use the excuse of sociological research for scathing social criticism? Then I’m not part of the solution. I’m part of the problem. I can’t believe that’s where I’ve wound up.

I felt clever. But it turns out I’m just a consumer of sexy toddlers (an oxymoron), teenage gypsy brides and Russian women turned doll-like. I will look for something familiar in the faces of the Russian women. Because I’ve got some Russian in my veins. It’s unlikely anything stout or ruddy will be found. But I’ll look anyway.