Everyone wants to be famous. And anyone who denies this sweeping generalization may just be waiting for their opportunity. There are tons of them. Just the other day I was subjected to hearing a teenager yell to his friends, "Hey, that's how you become famous on YouTube!" These days, anyone can be a real housewife of YouTube. If you just figure out how to do it.
But when something goes awry in reality show world, i.e. the death of a relationship, the death of a person, the evil, maniacal system of reality television is to blame. Blame the show. Blame the wife for wanting to be on the show, which forced her to find 50k to spend on their four year old's birthday party to show America their real Beverly Hills lifestyle. The pressure of reality shows is just too much for their stars. Although, as an obsessive viewer of the Real Housewives of Anywhere, I don't remember anyone really complaining about the extravagance, except maybe those kids for having to mind the centerpieces.
When word of the suicide of Russell Armstrong of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills circulated, victims of reality shows spoke out. Reality has ruined their lives. The Salahis of the one minute long Real Housewives of DC pointed all fingers at Bravo. Bravo doesn't prepare its reality stars for what's to come, they said -- the fame, the infamy, the recorded images of them crashing a White House State dinner and then the delusional insistence that the images recorded them not crashing it. There was an entire article written about the Salahis, with many, many, many quotes of their intense suffering as reality stars. Within these quotes, they suggested Bravo design a handbook. More quotes.
But perhaps it isn't the reality shows that ruin the stars' lives. Reality itself is a tough thing. A day to day struggle. You can't ask for the check in order for reality to end. It just goes on and on, and on, no matter how much you try to control it. If anyone saw my reality, I probably wouldn't have any friends left. It takes a lot of effort for me to be socially functional. Especially since the camera wouldn't lie, no matter how much I'd want it to. (Hence Jersey Shore, and all of its awesomeness.)
Of all the Real Housewives, the most popular and now beyond successful was Bethenny Frankel, who wasn't even a real housewife to begin with. Certainly all the other housewives aren't smart savvy businesswomen like her, despite their efforts to become such halfway through the season. But they don't need to be; they really don't. They don't need to become singers, bakers, or even the Joneses. The real housewives really need to be just that: real -- authentic and true. Because the great thing about these reality shows is that they record the most private thing we have as human beings: our realities. That's why we love them.
It's easy for the media to say that Bravo put pressure on the Armstrongs to live a life they didn't rightfully have. It's easy to blame the Armstrongs themselves for choosing to be on the show. Perhaps it's easy to blame Taylor Armstrong for wasting all that money on collagen -- actually I kind of do blame her, she really doesn't need it. But the reality is, as viewers, we saw a tragic ending that we never saw coming. And that Bravo didn't write.
The real tragedy of the Armstrong suicide is not that Bravo exploited its stars (which it didn't). The real tragedy, as I see it, is the suicide itself. That someone felt so trapped in his own life that he felt he had no other choice to but take it. But perhaps that's too much to even say. Controversy and blame are certainly easier.
But maybe fame does indeed ruin people, instead of people ruining themselves. I don't know for sure, I'm not famous. But there is one thing I do know, from watching the Real Housewives on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and every marathon in between. The one thing I've learned is that money can't buy you class; but it definitely can buy you a spot on a reality show. If that's what you truly want.