I am out of my hibernation. The reason: The cruel, barbarous, brutal mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes alligator bag! For a worshipper of FAME (fashion, art, music and entertainment), the act is as abhorrent as the destruction of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Okay, maybe not of that magnitude, but still a destruction of a beautiful piece of art!
Nevertheless, the annihilation did wring my heart and make my knuckles white. Oh the horror! For those of you who have not heard of it, the act was performed by Clint Eastwood’s daughter on the reality show, Mrs. Eastwood and Company (the specific use of the last name obvious for rating purposes). In the show, Eastwood’s daughter cuts and burns an alligator Hermes bag with a ferocious beastly expression on her face, in the name of performance art. Really, destruction of art in the name of art, justified? (An idea to be explored at a later time).
The heinous act performed on the reality television show stirred the following thoughts in my brain: First, what is it that attracts a person like me (with discriminatory tastes and a reasonable level of intelligence, to watch reality television); second, what are the limits/parameters that reality stars have to cross week after week to get viewers like me return.
Between the Kardashians, Shahs of Sunset, Jersey Shore and now Mrs. Eastwick and Company, there is an overdose of reality television. They have become part of a pop-cultural phenomenon. The shows have high ratings, so even if we are closet watchers, the fact remains that a good number of us are watching. In an intellectual tete-a-tete, most of us decry the social evils that such shows are breeding, yet we watch them.
One reason is voyeurism. It is titillating to spy on the intimate behavior of others. A spy-like feeling is evoked while watching such shows-their highs and lows, their make-ups and over-dramatized break-ups, entering their homes and boudoirs, seeing what they eat or not, how they look like with gobs of mascara running down their cheeks while crying, hearing the profanities they use, Bentleys they drive, mansions they live in etc.
Vicarious living is another reason. An average person’s life between work, chores, home responsibilities, running errands is bound to take a tone of monotony, no matter how hard one tries to spice it up. It becomes rote living. There is no way around it. Reality TV provides that dose of glamour, excitement, enchantment and razzle-dazzle that an average person lacks in day to day life. It is the same as buying a Tattler magazine to get a peek inside the lives of the “oh-so-exciting” crowd.
Yet another reason for such viewing is because it makes us feel good about ourselves and our relationships. Most of the reality shows have a high level of disfunctionality (rightly so, otherwise why would I watch it!!) Despite all the wealth, fame and glamour, there is angst, anger, treachery, heartbreak and a degree of mental retardation (not from a medical standpoint of course!) This makes us feel good about ourselves and for some of us even provides hope. After all, if a dysfunctional, limited intelligence person can reach the pinnacles of success, why not me.
Such shows, also provide a certain amount of social interaction in our very isolated, heavily dependent on the World Wide Web, modern lives. The stars invite us into their drawing rooms and bed-rooms and there is an element of reel human interaction, even if for a fleeting moment.
Whatever the reason, reality TV is here to stay. There is certain stickiness to it.
Now, the question is how far do the reality stars have to go to create the stickiness. What do they have to do or more appropriately “out do” in order to get me back on that couch week after week? What boundaries do they have to cross? In fact, are there any boundaries?
Mere providing of glamour, hot surgeried-up botoxed bodies, designer clothing, long fluttering stick-on lashes is not enough anymore. The ante has been upped, the stakes are higher. Gone are the chaste days of MTV’s Real World. The audience needs bombshells, hysteria, shock and awe and the studios are ready to dole our dollops of it. Extravagant weddings are broken up in less than 3 months, a gay Jewish Persian man is united with his conservative Islamic father, paternity issues are raised and resolved. Over the top tactics such as the mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes bag get the necessary notoriety necessary for a hit reality show.
In the case of the Eastwood show, other than Mr. Eastwood who even knows or cares about the other members of his family. If they portray themselves as a normal (synonym for functional) family, why would we want to watch them. There will be no ratings and in turn no renewal for the next season. So, the demolition of the Hermes bag provided the necessary shock and awe element for a hit reality show. Proof is in the pudding, I am writing about it, even though I am least interested in Mrs. Eastwood or her Company. The studio execs used the obliteration of the Hermes bag as a perfectly strategized move to Bite me with this Reality!