It's that long stretch between Christmas and New Year's which can mean only one thing - time to watch schlock TV. All the shows I've heard so much about but haven't had time to attend to beckoned me with their siren song, and I fell captive to two: Toddlers & Tiaras and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Sure, I could have cleaned out closets or gone shopping or lunched with friends or taken up macramé but those two shows called to me. I'm glad they did, because I now know that we have very little to fear from terrorists or climate change. Our biggest threat resides right here in the good ole US of A, and it's wearing diamonds and a spray tan.
In case your holidays were not misbegotten like mine, I'll briefly summarize these two shows. On Toddlers & Tiaras, ordinary women live out their fantasies through their daughters by dressing them in clothing that costs more than their mortgages and by allowing them to behave like bitches or, as the moms describe it, as "divas." Oh, did I mention that many of those daughters are still in diapers (or act as though they should be)? If they were being judged on grace or manners, most of them would be immediately disqualified. I am of course exempting the babies who, if not old enough to voice their disapproval of having lipstick applied to their baby-lips, have no business being paraded onstage for the fulfillment of their parents.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are, for the most part, unhappy, insecure women who are clearly keeping the community's plastic surgeons in Lamborghinis. They dine together and then call each other names in private. They live in palaces and employ legions of "help" while complaining about how busy their lives are. One housewife in particular (and since she lives in a mansion and is not actually a wife probably needs to leave the show) is so self-obsessed that you can picture her demanding to have the other housewives removed from her camera shots.
So the surprise - to me at least - is how much these two shows have in common. Sure, the toddler crowd seems to live in places like Louisiana, Georgia and Arizona - far from Rodeo Drive. But these pint-sized divas come with entourages similar to their California counterparts. People who make their hair look like sculptures (and not the good kind, if you know what I mean.) People who fawn over them and make allowances for their bad behavior. Also sparkle. Lots of sparkle. The Beverly Hills sparkle is surely more expensive but the excessive amounts adorning the wee ones and the bosomy ones are similar. So is the self-absorption, as though no one else is worthy of attention or a crown or fame.
Fame seems to be the be-all and end-all on both shows. Some get it through their husbands. Camille Grammar, epically insecure, blew up when she thought one of the other housewives questioned her worth without her (soon-to-be-ex) husband, Kelsey Grammar. And yet, Camille frequently refers to herself as "we" and name-drops Kelsey's name at every turn. She famously has children who were birthed through a surrogate and surrounds herself with people who trip over themselves telling her why the rest of womankind is jealous of her. Some get it through their children - as is the case with the tiara'd children. But on both shows, it appears that beauty is only mascara-deep. Once the makeup comes off, these people look fairly ordinary (if you don't count the lips swollen to the size of small fruit).
Why is fame so important? When did it become the goal in life? Several women on both shows have observed that "you can't take it with you." But why does that mean you have to spend it all to become famous or to win a crown or to lord it over others? If you can't take it with you, how about donating some of it to people who are hungry or sick or living in poverty? And why are the toddlers being judged solely on beauty (please don't talk to me about talent - shaking your hips and looking like a prosti-tot do not constitute talent!)?
You know what happens to a toddler who throws tantrums, spends hours getting her hair and makeup done and then claims another child is "stealing her spotlight?" She turns into Camille Grammar. This is a cautionary tale for a new age. It's not too late to rehabilitate the little ones. Send their moms to some kind of rehab/boot camp which will give cable channels a whole new night of programming. Teach the tykes a sport or how to color or how to plant a garden. Teach them that we create our own value in this life by making the world a better - not necessarily prettier - place for others. Teach them that substance trumps sparkle any day.
Then take the Housewives of Beverly Hills, New Jersey, New York and wherever else they reside and force them to fire all their "help." Make them shop at Marshall's and TJ Maxx while performing 20 hours of community service a week until they begin to look forward to it. Now that's good TV!