The Real Housewives And The Recession

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Like most of you I have watched more than my fair share of the "Real Housewives" series on Bravo.

In most of these series the women start out normal enough, I guess. They're kind of rich, kind of spoiled, buy $2000 Gucci bags without thinking about it too much, you know that kind of thing.

But, and this has become a pattern across the various iterations of the "Housewives" series, by season two they become fire-breathing, anorexic-looking, back-stabbing mega-bitches! And the "New York" series is the worst offender of all.

Look, I admit it, I watched the show. I thought they were interesting/deluded enough to keep me more or less hooked on what was going on in their ridiculous lives, but by season three they had become so mean to one another, constantly ripping each other new assholes both in person and behind the scenes, that even I, after a while, could no longer stomach it. They were always, always rude to one another, always conniving against one another, forming these silly alliances that seemed about as well-grounded as a house of wet napkins, and so on and so on.

Friends, I have to say, it was hard to watch. My real life is stressful enough. I would watch the show and feel like I needed to watch TV to wash the memory of the TV I had just seen from my brain. And there are some outright psychos on this show, who seem like they need to be locked up, like now.

Kelly in NYC is thoroughly nuts. She started off the show as a still pretty-enough I guess but obviously faded one-time model, about as dense as anti-matter, who never-the-less still loved to pick fights with people who were much smarter and cleverer than she could ever be. Her season two bar fight with Bethany ranks as one of the all-time classic instances of what it looks like to watch an argument between a smart person and a less smart person. Hint: the less smart person lost.

Jill Zarin, the "fabric expert," started off the show as a honk-voiced New Yawker, who, despite this, still seemed like a decent enough woman, and a good friend. In fact I liked her, she reminded me of various girls and women I knew growing up, especially those I would meet during my summers upstate, who were either from Queens, Brooklyn or Lawn Guyland. I didn't always get along with these people, but, still, Jill was like a blast from the past every time I watched the show.

But screw that, Jill has become a scheming, mean-spirited, clumsily back-stabbing harridan in season three. Everything that happens anywhere seems to personally hurt and offend her. All she does is bear grudges, and undercut people who she used to claim as friends.

God, there are so many more women on these various shows who seem ripe not for syndication, but a padded cell. The various insanities of Danielle from the New Jersey series have been well-documented. (Apparently now she has a sex tape on the market that she almost certainly leaked herself. Ugh, and double ugh. Who, other than the morbidly curious/really drunk, could ever want to watch this?)

But, again, by the second season of the "NJ" series even Danielle found a way to get one circle closer to true crazy, pushing herself into her daughter's already creepy modeling career, all the while finding ways to make it entirely about her. She is so obsessed, and lives so much through her daughter's career and future, she almost seems like one of those crazy witches from "The Mists of Avalon."

Still, the shows are not without some redeeming merit. For one thing the recession has finally caught up with the various players on screen, making them a bit more "real" than perhaps the stars ever hoped they might be. Theresa from the New Jersey series is, apparently, $11 million in debt. Folks, according to various documents I've seen, her family's entire annual income is in the neighborhood of $200,000 a year. Only $80,000 of that, or so, comes from actual work, the rest comes from contributions from her relatives. Nice relatives!

Now she's trying to sell her lavish mansion for something like $3 million. One question: how in god's green earth does anyone get a mortgage for a $3 million house (it was surely higher than this during the housing bubble) when they make less than a quarter of a million bucks a year?

In fact, their monthly costs include something like $1280 per month for a Cadillac Escalade, which, by itself, would total around 15% of their annual salaried income.

This is insane.

So it is with some satisfaction that now we see that she has to pay the piper, in a big way. To me Theresa has larger symbolic value. I see in her a micro vision of our larger economy; built on mountains of bullshit, all for the illusion of prosperity. And now that the debt collectors have come calling she/we have to go scrounging around our couch for some change to throw in the pot. Because we sure as hell can't actually pay off what we owe.

It's the same thing with the flagship series for the entire "Real Housewives" empire: the Orange County version. On this series you have a housewife, Lynne, who was so clueless that on one episode it was shown that she didn't actually know whether or not her McMansion had an air conditioner. She also didn't know, yes, whether vegetarians could eat horseradish.

And now her family has been kicked out of their home by creditors, since they are broke. But not so broke that she didn't have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a boob job for her, and a nose job for her daughter. Her husband seemed like an okay enough guy, but obviously he was also living in Da Nile.

And now all the women on the California show are going broke, except that Vicky, because their hubbies all made their quick millions in "construction" and now they are all "unemployed."

Will the construction boom ever come back? I am betting no way Jose. Bubbles don't reinflate. But these shows will never die, because bubble heads are immortal.

My wife, Randi, sees a deeper issue with all the show. Typically between seasons one and two all the women lose craploads of weight. She believes their edgy, twitchy, anxious behavior is in keeping with people who are constantly on diet pills. This makes all too much sense. As they say you can never be too thin or too rich. Hmm, wait a second, something seems wrong with that.

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