• Thu, May 13 2010

‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey’: In Which Things Get A Little Too Real

Where I come from, there is just one word to describe the ugly turn that “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” took this week.

Oy.

It didn’t take long to realize that this season, there are exactly two — count them, two — interesting things happening in the combined lives of all five housewives. 1. Caroline’s daughter Lauren is dating Vito, her son Albie’s best friend, and Albie is pissed about it. 2. Danielle.

Danielle, Danielle, Danielle. It’s probably time that the show changed it’s title to The Danielle Show. I think the abject lack of substance in the other housewives lives was best demonstrated at the lunch date with Jacqueline, Caroline and Teresa, in which the most interesting thing that they could possibly come up with was Teresa being late to arrive, and then talking about sex. Until, of course, Teresa brings up Danielle, which she does before they have even made it 1/4 of the way through their salads.

Don’t these women get sick of themselves? I’m sure that there’s other riveting footage that isn’t being shown — maybe of the housewives taking shits or something — and I’m sure that some of the Danielle drama is produced. But I felt some bile rising in my throat as soon as I realized that the little lunch date was only going to revolve around bashing Danielle some more, and then Big Bully Caroline finding a use for herself by using Jacqueline as a punching bag, as she is wont to do. And I have to wonder: how do any of these women even choke out Danielle’s name anymore without realizing that despite their professed hatred for her and the nasty, ugly vitriol they spew in her direction only confirms the fact that they have absolutely nothing else going on in their lives? I mean, I’m getting sick of talking about Danielle. And I’m not even doing it.

What I wonder — nay, what I hate to think about — is how much this dynamic mirrors most suburban lives. I know that when I was growing up, most of what everyone talked about was everyone else. And that’s all light and fluffy and American, until you get down to what the show kind of hinted at this week, and what made it such a hot mess to watch — these women are kind of for reals fucking up their kids. And it is being televised.

On one hand, you have Teresa’s little anorexic-in-training, Gia. That whole plotline is basically like watching Toddlers and Tiaras, only at least T&T had the class to make a whole show about how fucked up it is to turn your little girl into a walking Barbie doll. And Teresa, naturally, is the one doling out most of the barbs towards Danielle, when in the meantime she’s busy imparting her own superficial values on her children and then watching in what I hope is horror as they spew anti-semitism back in her face, a la last week. Yes, Teresa, that’s the kind of thing that happens when the only thing you teach your kid is how to be pretty and walk like a model and shriek with disingenuous joy.

OK, so then you have Jacqueline. I have to admit, I kind of like Jacqueline, and I totally feel for her. She is really taking in in the ass it from everyone, between Caroline and Teresa insulting her and calling her weak to her face, her daughter Ashley being a brat-face and moving out, only to return home with bags of dirty laundry (yes, literally and figuratively), and her husband telling her who she can and can’t hang out with. Here’s hoping that Jacqueline completely loses her shit by the end of the season and rips everybody a new one. And also punches Caroline in the face.

And then finally, you have Danielle. Apparently, despite the show’s best efforts, Danielle being crazy wasn’t enough to carry the entire season…and so now, we have to drag her daughters into it. And here is where the whole thing becomes questionable — the question being, how much fucking up of children are we supposed to watch, in good conscience, as entertainment? Danielle’s daughter Christine, who was recruited by IMG on this week’s show, is absolutely painful to watch. Painful as in, I get a sick feeling in my stomach and feel sad and question humanity. Not painful as in, I get some twisted joy out of watching it, the kind that comes with watching adults’ lives be ruined where at least you can have some self-righteous indignation about it and know that they’re grown-ups making their own choices.

The more we see Danielle, the more we realize that her crazy runs a little deeper than something most of us should be comfortable laughing about. And her daughters, at 11 and 15, know it. And unlike “Jon and Kate Plus Eight,” where the kids are so young that you can’t really tell yet what kind of damage is being done to their psyches, Danielle’s kids are old enough to grasp the entire, twisted meaning of it all, know that their mother is perhaps seriously delusional or at least being portrayed that way, know that it’s being televised nationally, and know that they are part of it all, and so are suffering before our very eyes. What is this, a fucking Roman coliseum? Cause that’s what it’s starting to feel like.

The point is, reality TV is light-hearted fun, or so I’ve been told. When it gets to the point that you’re just watching children be destroyed by their parents, I would say that for most of us, the fun is gone. I know that the shows are probably already done being made, so all we can do is hope that this was the only episode in which everyone’s kids are pushed unwillingly (except Gia…poor, poor Gia) into the spotlight, and that Bravo is planning on doling out some serious cash for therapy.

Other things I learned this week:

  • Last week we learned that Dina is quiet crazy. Now we know it’s because she was physically abused as a child. “Did you ever try knocking the shit out of her?” she asks Jacqueline about her parenting style. “A good old-fashioned Italian beating,” she goes on. “It’s like, the kind of beating your parents give you where they don’t really want to hurt you, but they want you to learn a lesson..I never did anything wrong cause I was afraid. I was afraid A) of disappointing my parents, and B) getting a beating.”
  • Caroline has absolutely nothing to say if she’s not bullying someone or shit-talking Danielle.
  • Teresa’s vagina is swollen as a result of her pregnancy.
  • Danielle believes that Teresa’s daughter’s height precludes her from ever becoming a supermodel.”She’s not a supermodel – she’s four feet tall.” And, she’s eight.
  • Fashion Week has been reduced to about 50% runway shows and 50% filming of reality TV. Now that we know that RHNJ were there too, that makes our heroines, Project Runway, and The City all there at once. It’s nice to know that at least the artistic integrity of design has remained intact.
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