Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reality TV

Nearly everyone conforms to crude, cartoon stereotype (bitch, gold digger, flamboyant gay, recovering addict, sofa spud, anal perfectionist, rageaholic), making as many pinched faces as the Botox will permit, a small-caliber barrage of reaction shots that can be cut from any random stretch of footage and pasted in later to punctuate an exchange. (Someone says something unconstructive—“That outfit makes her look like a load”—and ping! comes the reaction shot, indicating the poison dart has struck home.) Younger reality stars may have more mobile faces, though in time they too will acquire the Noh masks of the celebrity undead. Their range of verbal expression runs mostly from chirpy to duh, as if their primpy little mouths were texting. The chatty, petty ricochet of Reality TV—the he-said-that-you-said-that-she-said-that-I-said-that-she-said-that-your-fat-ass-can-no-longer-fit-through-the-door—eventually provokes a contrived climax, a “shock ending” that is tipped off in promos for the show, teasers replayed so frequently that it’s as if the TV screen had the hiccups. The explosive payoff to the escalating sniper fire on The Real Housewives of New Jersey was a raging tantrum by Teresa Giudice, who flipped over a restaurant table in a She-Hulk fit of wrathful fury and called co-star Danielle Staub a “prostitution whore” (an interesting redundancy), all of which helped make for a unique dining experience and quite a season finale. Good manners and decorum are anathema to Reality TV, where impulsivity swings for the fences.
The usually insufferable James Wolcott on Reality TV

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