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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Real Housewives of Armageddon

by digby

Another astute observation from the Vanity Fair article (and the organizing hook of the piece) is the extent to which the Trump White House is like a reality TV show:
As everyone knows, the president himself is inordinately engaged with cable news, and his roots as an entertainer lie in reality television. And it may be that reality TV has lessons to offer. Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, a co-creator of the Lifetime series UnReal, told me that she found Trump to be eerily similar to her UnReal antihero, Quinn King, the female producer of a Bachelor-type reality show, Everlasting. Like King, Trump has a knack for expressing shocking sentiments that others may recoil from, Shapiro told me. And, like all great reality-TV personalities, Trump and many of his staff are “sound-bite machines” who share certain qualities: megalomania, a delusion of grandeur, a willingness to say anything, and little regard for what anyone else thinks: “They are this functionally dysfunctional ramshackle group of people who have come together through their own extremes.” Shapiro is currently preparing the third season of her show, and I asked her the secret to maintaining interest season after season. She said, “A rotating cast of characters always helps.”


But I think it's true.Trump has one gift --- self-promotion. The problem is that this Reality Show has no producers scripting the story line. It's more like watching a disaster unfold on live TV.


This CNN piece from last October talked about this phenomenon explicitly:

Bravo's "Real Housewives" producer Andy Cohen maintains that casting someone who people love to hate is absolutely critical. This "love to hate" concept is an important distinction from plain old "dislike," given that Housewives who are thought of as sniveling, grouchy, boring, or simply rude eventually become universally ignored -- by their castmates, by the audience and eventually by the network itself, which usually fires them after one dud of a season.

If reality stars are going to make it big, they've got to amp up the drama -- and by drama, I mean totally insane behavior.

Thus, Donald Trump is the perfect Real Housewife -- the perfect villain -- in the sense that some of us cannot stop talking about how much we freaking hate him. We can't stop retweeting his deranged rantings. We cannot stop fact checking his obviously false statements. We cannot keep looking at each other -- whether in real life or on a comments board -- and asking, Can you BELIEVE this guy!?

In short, we cannot look away from the specter of Capital "C" Crazy before us, even if we shove an entire basket of deplorables over our heads.

If Trump had a "Real Housewives" tagline, it might be, "Hate me all you want. I'll be back for more."

It is as though Trump has taken the basic tenets of reality TV and shot them up with steroids.

Let's take a look at a short list of reality TV casting requirements, and see if he fits the bill.

1. Is the character willing to say or do just about anything to become famous?
2. Is the character polarizing among castmates and viewers?
3. Is the character highly charismatic, yet highly offensive?
4. Is the character willing to be groomed by the network?
5. Is the character predictably unpredictable?

Add to this list the requisite delusional nature of most reality TV stars, and you've got our 2016 Republican candidate for the presidency.

To Trump himself, this list might seem totally incomprehensible. Because reality stars also have a shallow understanding of their flaws, and a tendency to blame their rampant inconsistencies -- say, with truth telling -- on whimsical lapses in judgment. Reality villains are also forever threatening to quit their jobs, or to not show up for their next appearance -- a move that keeps viewers and producers on their toes.

Sound familiar?

Sure does ....