Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life imitating “art”

Over the long Easter weekend, I did a long dog-sitting stint for my dog-nephew Jack, and ended up with a lot of TV watching time on my hands. Which I spent catching up on “reality TV” shows, mostly the ridiculous Say Yes to the Dress, and the always interesting and often informative whatever’s on HGTV, with all its house hunting, home reno, decoration, an house inspection dramas. I tend to watch a fair amount of HGTV, anyway. But, what can I tell you, for a black Lab, Jack has an incredibly keen interest in Say Yes to the Dress.

Say Yes to the Dress is on the TLC network. TLC used to stand for “The Learning Channel,” but that was in the way back. Nowadays, the “T” stands firmly for “Trash” – trash like Toddlers and Tiaras, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Jon & Kate Plus 8, and The Duggars (19 kids and counting). Sometimes I do so enjoy me a complete and other trash-fest.

Like Law and Order, Say Yes to the Dress is a franchise. The original one takes place in New York, and there are spin-offs for Atlanta, for plus-sized brides, and for bridesmaids.

The ones I saw last weekend were Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.

In the handful of episodes I watched, there was a parade of mostly nice middle class black and white (almost all blonde) sorority girls dithering over selecting the perfect dress. They dithered in the company of their posses, crews that included mothers, mothers-in-laws to be, sisters, cousins, aunts, nieces, BFF’s, bridal party members, gay-boy friends with good taste, brothers, fathers, and a passel of other significant and insignificant others. Sometimes the bridegroom-to-be was on hand.

Some of the brides admitted to having tried on 150-200 different wedding dresses, in search of the “perfect” one.

How could this be, I thought?

Surely, it’s not normal, or a sign of reasonable mental health, to run through 200 dresses before finding Dress Right.

I’m quite sure that none of these lovelies ran through 150-200 boyfriends before getting those little Mr. Right butterflies. So, if you can find your prince without having to kiss 200 frog, surely it stands to reason that you could find a beautiful dress that looks good on you, and is in your price range, without having to try on 200. And drag your running-short-on-patience posse with you.

And no wonder the posse members run short on patience. Matters not whether they give thumbs up on a dress.

If the bride-to-be doesn’t get that “special feeling”, the dress – no matter how gorgeous – is a no-go.

Where did this need to have a dress-gasm come from?

I suspect it stems from watching the first season of Say Yes to the Dress, and saw the first episode in which a young woman saw herself in the mirror and announced to the camera that the earth had moved.

Since then,the bride-to-be – at least if she’s willing to expose her dress hunt on one of these shows – feels like she’s being shortchanged, or not making the bestest dress decision ever in the whole wide world, if she doesn’t get that certain feeling.

This is similar to the Mafia speak phenomenon.

My understanding is that it was only after The Godfather that American Mafiosi started talking like goombahs. Now there’s not a film or show about organized crime, Italian style, in which fluent Mafia New York-ese isn’t spoken. In fact, the argot and speech patterns seem to have been adopted by some non-Mafia Italian Americans, as well. Witness the crowd on Jersey Shore. And, presumably, in the new TLC offering – can’t wait for this one – Mama’s Boys of the Bronx.

I haven’t seen any of it, but I suspect that the way folks behave on those Housewives of… shows owes as much to Desperate Housewives as it does to anything grounded in reality.

Even the reasonably real reality shows – like the ones on HGTV, in which, for the most part, truly normal people look for truly normal places to live and try to make truly normal changes to them – seems to have created a cadre of house hunters who do not seem to believe that it’s okay to live in a place without walk-in closets, stainless appliances, and double sinks in the master bathroom.

Now, as someone with the world’s squinchiest closets, I can understand wanting a walk-in closet. And I like the look of stainless as much as the next guy. But in many of these house hunters, what’s on their wish-list seems like a manufactured desire – manufactured by their having watched all these HGTV shows and coming to the realization that, if they don’t have these items on their list, they’ll look unsophisticated, ignorant, inexperienced.

I saw one show in which a couple with a baby, living in one room in her mother’s basement, and with only $150K to spend on a condo (in California, no less), were turning up their noses at a place with a perfectly working 30 year old stove.

Forget life imitating art. We’ve got life imitating reality shows, which aren’t imitative of reality or life.


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