A horrifying moment
Not everyday, but often, I like to watch The Rachel Maddow Show. Today, after reading and watching the incredibly depressing news of the day — North Carolina’s amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions; demonization of the poor; general willingness to let people die when they get sick — I found I wasn’t up for it. I flipped to Bravo instead, and on went the Real Housewives.
And here’s the terrifying thing I realized:
The Real Housewives shows present a more centered, rational, relatable moral universe than does American politics.
Three Ways the Real Housewives Shows Are Superior to American Politics:
1. When somebody on Real Housewives claims “I never said such-and-such”, Bravo’s editors roll the footage. And then you know what that person said!
2. When castmembers or their families get sick, others act like it matters. They don’t act like the person — even if it’s somebody they really don’t like! — deserves it.
3. Many Real Housewives are obsessed with appearances, to the point of surgery, overspending, self-loathing, and even destruction of their family bonds. Same with politics.
The difference: In the Real Housewives universe, there’s more of a reckoning of the costs involved: surgeries go wrong, families go bankrupt, spouses and kids walk out, people become addicts. And even in the context of a reality TV show, the costs of those consequences are more fully realized — people leave the show because it’s too much, they go to rehab, they file for bankruptcy and own up to having to start over, and they offer and demand apologies from one another because whatever else the Real Housewives universe will let you do, it won’t let two people with a genuine disagreement go more than two weeks without hashing it out. And then, at the reunion show, they hash it out again. Because however genuine or false their other bonds, they are contractually obligated to deal with one another, and there’s footage of what they’ve said and done.
Real Politics Example: The Anthony Weiner story — which had consequences not just for his family and career, but also for his, you know, being the person who was doing to most to point out Clarence Thomas’ conflict of interest relative to the Affordable Care Act. This concern gets no oxygen as he becomes just a punchline. Never mind the human toll of his actions on the people in his life, the very real policy toll is ignored. Only the tabloid punchline endures.