A few years ago when the first “Real Housewives” show on Bravo surfaced quicker than pictures of Anthony Wiener in his BVDs, the locale of the show was Orange County California, which, although is a serene and aesthetically beautiful area south of Los Angeles, it just didn’t entice me as a New Yorker to follow all of these blonde, botoxed women. Fast forward a couple of years later and New Jersey was the selected state, specifically Northern New Jersey, which is quite different culturally than South Jersey. Having spent an enormous amount of time in Northern New Jersey and being related to housewives of that area, I was curious to see where the line between fact and a good plot line would be drawn. After the first two seasons, what I found was the equivalent of eating a box of Entenmann’s chocolate frosted donuts 10:00 at night: it tastes good abut you feel completely toxic the next day.
There seems to be a cast type of the main characters for all of these “Housewives” shows: the not-so-bright but good hearted one, the bossy one, the one your a little jealous of, the lost one, and of course, the villain. On the New Jersey saga, the one who I thought was a little bit lost was Dina Manzo because it was hard to tell what she was searching for in life and was constantly seeking peace with teas, gems, and a spiritualist who became her BFF. Dina could not take the bad energy of the villain so she left mid-season, as did the villain Danielle Staub, who is now seeking treatment in stripper rehab after a three day gyration binge at Scores… I wish I was kidding.
As I awaited the new season of “RHONJ,” I was eager to see the prior Jerseyites who are Caroline–the bossy one, Jacqueline–the one I’m a little jealous of because no matter how many degrees are on my wall, my lifestyle is nowhere near what her’s is, and Teresa–the not so bright one, as evidenced by her malapropisms, but appears to be sweet and happy no matter what the circumstances are.
In between last season and the current season, it was made public that Teresa and her husband Joe Guidice were in bankruptcy and the opulent lifestyle that they flaunted on the show was really owned by Bank of America. The Guidice’s publicly stated that everything was great and they were victims of the economy. Unfortunately, I have seen this way too many times where the blame is put on everything from the dot.com bubble burst of 2000 to the recall of Skippy Peanut Butter and not people accepting what their actual net income is, also referred to as living in denial. We had also witnessed Teresa’s Italian temper–as she called it–in the famous table flipping episode in Season 1, which has been replayed more times than Lindsey Lohan walking into a court.
With all these intentional characters in place going about their business as if there were no cameras, even though anyone that has done any filming for TV knows there has to be crew to produce TV-quality work, I was very uneasy watching this season because the behavior now passed splurging on junk food and crossed over to sexism, violence, and ageism.
Lets start with violence. Two new characters brought in are related to Teresa: her bother Joe Gorga and his wife Melissa, and her cousin Kathy Wakile and her husband Rich, who looks like Robert DeNiro as Sam Rothstein in the last scene of the movie “Casino.” Melissa has now replaced Teresa as the not so bright one, Kathy is the lost one and Teresa has now become the villain. There is clearly jealousy and tension between brother and sister and at the Christening which they all kept exclaiming was so sacred, there was quite a bit of boozing. Having been to numerous Christenings, I do not recall people doing shots like it was a bachelor party. A few scenes later after gossiping about each other and spearing the stink eye across the room, Teresa went over to congratulate her brother and his wife, which only agitated her brother to the point of him slamming the table like a neanderthal and ordering his sister to get away from him. As more back and forth power struggles ensued, what happened next was really revolting: Joe Gorga became enraged like someone spilled drambuie on his Adidas track suit as the venue was filled with children of all ages, playing or in strollers. Then a brawl broke out that you would expect from The Situation of the “Jersey Shore,” except it wasn’t in a dive bar but in front of all these kids dressed in their Church clothes. In addition, to watch a sister flinch because she is afraid her brother is going to take a swing is abusive and is not what I consider to be a little brain candy.
The next scene after the dust up, which I am sure every catering hall owner looks forward to, Teresa and her husband Joe are outside and husband Joe tells her to “shut up,” which is separate from the condescending tone with which he normally speaks to her. Really Joe? “Shut up,” on TV? Nice. Do you speak to your Mother that way or just your wife? I am sure if someone spoke to any one of your four daughters like that, you would want to take care of business. While I am on my sexism tirade, we could use a little less of Joe Gorga constantly wanting to maul his wife and expressing the fact that part of her job is to take care of him. We get it, Joe Pesci, noodles and nookie.
Next, ageism came from Teresa. One nemesis, Kim G., is a reality show star wanna-be who has it in for Teresa, now that Danielle is gone. Teresa has stated that Kim G. is elderly. At an event where Kim G. was a few tables from her and was no doubt talking about Teresa, Teresa again made another old lady reference about Kim G. until Caroline told her to pipe down; Kim G. is about four years older than Caroline, who is in her late 40’s. Everyone has a different definition of what is considered, old but I think elderly is pretty well defined as at least 80 and above. Really, Teresa, its so derogatory when you demean another woman that way, whether you like her or not, and it will come back to bite you in the backside someday.
One would hope that a reality show depicting housewives and their families who are all parents to mostly underage children would be better behaved and more mature than their kids but its not, which only means that this particular show will be duplicated many times over as long as there is money to be made, lives to be humiliated, and audiences who will eat it up no matter what discriminatory behavior is aired.