i am the decline of western civilization

I grew up in one of those houses where TV was considered declasse. I am second generation nouveau intellectual, instead of nouveau riche. Sure, I remember my parents watching TV when I was a kid, but it was often Masterpiece Theater. I wasn’t even allowed to watch TV like a “normal” kid until I was eleven, and Mom went back to work. I was one of those kids only allowed to watch a minimum amount of educational programming, and I had to plead for my Saturday cartoon exception.

Of course, I still manage to turn my nose up at much television. And that certainly included all shows of the reality and/or talk variety. I never watched Real World, much less any of its offspring or subsequent reality generations. I never watched the Surreal Life. I never watched Flavor of Love…well, until Christmas break. When I found myself watching Season 2. And I got hooked. And then my family caught me, shook their heads in dismay, and demanded I change the channel from that…trash.

Those couple episode I did catch were the two when New York first comes back to the house. And that’s why I started, out of pure curiosity, watching I Love New York. And suddenly, I was addicted. I couldn’t stop watching New York drunkenly slurring into the camera in her “confession time”, barely able to keep her eyes open from booze and the weight of her false eyelashes. I couldn’t stop marveling at how she managed to look almost like an abstract painting in her makeup application. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the sheer stupidity of the men who came on the show. The show was so well put together – editing, sound, timing – that it was a total train wreck. And I couldn’t stop watching it. Unlike Flavor of Love, which only laughed some of the time at some of the girls, I Love New York‘s production team seemed to be laughing all the time at the misfortunate behavior of its subjects.

Now, I’m addicted to Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School, Starring Mo’Nique. I watch outtakes on VH1.com. I wait eagerly for my TiVO to deliver me another episode on Sunday mornings. I am hypnotized by the sheer tackiness and cattiness exhibited. I giggle at the sound effects, and laugh at the visuals, and marvel at the comic genius of the editing (especially the running gag of the “ching! ching!” sound when Hottie blinks her eyes), but I’m actually falling into the trap of speculating on the girls’ personalities – and cheering some of them on. I have no idea what’s wrong with me. Laughing at a comedy of errors like VH1 reality is one thing – but empathizing with them? Or, worse, laughing with them instead of at them? What the hell is wrong with me?

That said, Charm School is actually extremely funny, and Mo’Nique’s offscreen commentary on the girls is even funnier. I’m not sure if this is in Canada yet, but if you’re in the USA, you can catch it almost any given time on VH1. Go watch. I need more people to talk about this with so I don’t feel like I’m all alone in having fallen from my lofty, snooty perch.

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