The Guiltiest Pleasure

Reality TV scratches my id.

Who needs natural raspberry flavors?
via http://flickrhivemind.net

As even the occasional visitor to my well-appointed little lockdown ward knows by now, I indulge a fair few guilty pleasures. Some might even say I have more vices than virtues, though I think it just seems that way because I so often air my dirty laundry for your amusement, which is a compulsion of a different sort, but perhaps that’s a subject for another day.  Among my filthy little secrets are insatiable appetites for swearing and the now-verboten Hostess Zinger (the sticky red coating over the Twinkie is pure bliss); my collection of Fleetwood Mac records; the admission that I like Grace Jones’s cover of La Vie en Rose better than the Little Sparrow’s original; and of course the fact that I have watched that dreadful 90s turkey Practical Magic about a hundred times. (I just love that scene where they all get trashed on midnight Margaritas and sing The Lime in the Coconut.)

Up until recently however, none of my little treats or crutches could really be classified as shameful (well maybe the Grace Jones business, but I’ll bet there’s at least one person on the planet who agrees with me on that score). I viewed them as the standard foibles of a reasonably functional member of the modern world. As guilty pleasures go, I reasoned, mine were all fairly tame. Now, however, I find I have finally given myself cause for concern, and that’s going some from a woman who whole heartedly exhorts others to serve ham salad finger rolls at parties.

Since I know the suspense is killing you, I’ll fess up. It’s reality TV. Though not a huge fan of the genre generally, I do follow Project Runway and Top Chef, and even occasionally look in on the Real Housewives. (New Jersey and Atlanta only — I can’t tell one California bleach job from the next, and the New Yorkers are all too familiar.) As a rule, I prefer the competitive formats to the biographical ones. I mean really, Kim Kardashian has marital problems and mother issues. Well who doesn’t? Eating bugs for money, modeling for morons or camping for cash? Who cares? No, my newest guilty pleasure takes reality TV well beyond the usual limits of both decorum and decency, into the territory I think of as Surreality TV, which is why, I suppose, it appeals to me. That’s right, you guessed it, I have developed a (borderline) obsession with Mob Wives of Chicago. Really, I just cannot get enough of this show. Look!

First of all, is it me, or do they all look like a bunch of cranked up trannies who just knocked over the make-up counter at Macy’s? Allegedly. The extensions, the Vegas makeup, the boob jobs and the sparkles all telegraph drag show to me. And who doesn’t love a man in a tiara? Whenever I’m watching the show, I’m also half expecting one of them to burst into “Son of a Preacher Man.”

I know it’s horrifying, and yet I cannot stop watching, so intense is the fascination. And before you go all violence-desensitizes-us-and-destroys-society on me, let me just say that it’s not like I’m watching Showtime for lord’s sake. This is on VH1, the regular cable channel that brings you a thousand hours of 80s music videos every week. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good indication that this show is in the right place in terms of its overall intellectual level.

Nora: “I’m gonna resume my father.”
Renée: “I think it’s exhume.”

Almost as tricky as spelling HUMILIATION.

I especially love the hapless therapist who clearly wants to run from the room and looks like she’d probably rather be counseling a rabid civet than a woman who routinely gets into extension-yanking, bitch-slapping, knock-down, drag-out fights with her “friends.” I may be wrong, but I’d be willing to wager Dr. Thing pops a little vitamin V before Christina’s sessions. I know I would.

Dr. Thing: “How are you planning to work that out?”
Christina: “With a BLEEP shovel.”

Sometimes, the wives are very funny — on purpose — as when Pia the stripper comments on Nora’s obsession with digging up her father’s body to prove that it is actually he (“The German,” who died in stir) and not some hapless hobo that the feds sent to the cemetery. Pia, who is clearly practical-minded, says, “It’s not like the man dug himself up and went to 7-11 and got a sandwich and a Coke.” No argument there.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What is the possible appeal of something this grotesque? I’d say that there’s such a sideshow feeling to it that it is entirely irresistible, especially to those of us who grew up in more emotionally-restrained environments. Take me, for example. As the product of a New England culture that looks upon anything more than a handshake as an intimate act, I find these women mesmerizing. Among my people, the only time anyone gets whacked is when Bitsy agrees to Binky’s request that she wear a saddle over her flannel nightgown on a Saturday night, but these ladies threaten to kill one another on a daily basis. With shovels.

What can I say, it gives my id a workout. And everybody knows how important a limber id is. If you don’t believe me, just ask Big Ang.

Big Ang via Reality Nation.

About WSW

Writer, wife, mother. Toiler in the bottomless, black, soul-sucking coal mine of domestic life. Thank God for the portable bar.

Posted on September 25, 2012, in Commentary, The Slattern Speaks and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. I do love a man in a tiara. I think I’ll go limber up my id while contemplating the virtues of lip implants :)

  2. Do you remember that night, many years ago, when you and I met up to have dinner on Mulberry Street in Little Italy? It was a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant with yellow walls and formica furniture, right next to… John Gotti’s headquarters. Yes, he was still in active service then. And that night there was a major meeting-of-the-mobsters, and their wives and daughters were all in the restaurant having dinner meanwhile. Luckily for us, there was a table for two left…
    The video you have posted here comes nowhere near (my memory of) the reality of that night!

    • I guess Chicago plays by its own rules, Gumba. As for the night in question, that particular shade of yellow haunts my dreams to this very day, and my sight never fully recovered from the glare. I think they illuminated the place with Klieg lights. Argh.

  3. Haven’t gotten into Mob Wives as I’m already overloaded with gluttonous pleasures. I’ll see if I can make room though. ;-)

  4. I like Top Chef and Project Runway. I just detest the singing comprtition shows, here in the UK they have to have a sad backstory and then tell you about their terrible life while they play a Coldplay track in the background.

    I don’t really care if someone is thinking of someone who died while they are belting out a Whitney Houstion song. You can be sure that on Top Chef no one is thinking about a departed relative whist whipping up some Shiso Soup with Lump Blue Crab and Chayote Thai Basil Relish.

  5. I had no idea ‘mob wife’ was a lifestyle. The voices, the hair, the injections, the shovels – I couldn’t look away. No wonder you’re hooked.

  6. Having an eight-year-old, and a job that knocks me out, I have some pretty tame viewing habits. Maybe I will sneak an episode one day. Or perhaps it is best that I don’t. . .

    • There’s the risk of taking the Mob Wife attitude into the classroom, but from what I’ve read on your blog, it could be an advantage. Just sayin’ . . .

  7. I couldn’t look away. It was like watching the Tranny version of Ultimate Fighter. I might actually have to tune in to that which fills me with shame but what can I do? There is something fascinating about watching people with giant boobs and hair and voices deeper than my husband’s throw down in evening wear.

  8. That was frightening. Entertaining but very scary, they do look like trannies, actually I have seen better looking trannies.

  9. Hi KS, it’s me Tom. Loved your post even though it had me bouncing all over the place. Some comments:
    1) I loathe the latest incarnation of Fleetwood Mac. I like the original with Peter Green and Jeremy Spenser. They played Chicago Blues and didn’t sound like they were played at 78 rpm.
    2) When I drank I played Tusk on every jukebox that had it. The video was so-so but watching drunks react to marching music is great.
    3) I catch Big Ang every chance I get ’cause she’s a hoot and reminds me of some of the wives of my father’s friends.They were broads, in the nicest sense.
    4) When I was in hospital, the TV could only get CBS and I was forced to watch the beginnings of Survivor. It imperiled my mental health. No amount of drugs, alcohol or promises of wild weekends with Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders could get me to watch. They are a sign the end is near.
    You’ve struck a chord with this post, huggies.

  10. It’s funny how so many people say they hate reality TV, but it remains popular. I think there are just certain *types* of reality TV we don’t like. For example, I love Top Chef, Biggest Loser, Dancing with the Stars, Chopped, The Sing Off; but I don’t watch things like the Real Housewives, Survivor, or the Kardashians. Maybe the ones I watch are really game shows? Maybe there should be a sub-genre called Reality Game Shows. Hmmm…

    • For years the joke around our house was that the next crazy thing you’d see on TV was “Eat Bugs for Money.” Ever heard of Fear Factor? It’s disturbing when outlandish humor becomes reality — or surreality. Thanks for stopping by!

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