keeping up with the kardashians

Kim and Kanye Have Contributed

 

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(Kanye’s ex Alexis, Kanye, and Kim in 2007…they look so young!)

It is all too easy to hate on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for reasons that are not even remotely outside of their own doing. The Kardashians and Mr. West in my opinion all place too great an emphasis on the importance of physical appearance and material goods (a trap I often find myself falling into…except I’m doing so on a much smaller budget). This obsession with looks and things, in addition to constantly showing off these things, irritates a lot of people and makes Kim and Kanye easy targets. Now that Kanye has met with Trump and said he’d have voted for Trump if he’d voted at all, it seems like Kanye’s been lost to the dark side (since I agree that Trump is a man with many racist, sexist, and frightening beliefs that can and will hurt a lot of people). But Kanye’s behaviour slowly but surely crossed over from over-the-top celebrity behaviour to that which appears to be that of a sick person. It is true that I have contributed to his sickness in my own small way by giving attention to Kanye for the outlandish things he says, which probably has allowed his possible mental illness to fester and grow because it was going unchecked. I don’t think all of these outlandish things are irrelevant or wrong, because many times I think Kanye has told the truth about North American culture. Kanye shouldn’t have ripped the mic out of T-Swift’s hand, but I have no idea what the video she was winning the award for is, and I can easily visualize Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video that lost. West’s sentiment was right, action was sooo wrong.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West holding hands as they arrive at the Hakkasan restaurant

Kanye and Kim have stood out among from the crowd because most people, especially celebrities, only attempt to share information about themselves that makes themselves look good or that is flattering. I’ve done a lot of stupid things and struggled with my mental health in the past, so I always feel like a weirdo around people who seem like they have it all together…or who are unwilling to open up about not having it all together. Why I think Kim and Kanye are people I’m so attracted to is because they’ve never pretended to have it all together. I like that Kanye has said what is on his mind at the time, even though I’ve found many of his comments frustrating, disgusting, potentially harmful to others, etc., I do first and foremost respect someone who will speak his truth at the time that it is happening rather than constantly trying to think of how he should present himself to others. Remember this:

It is refreshing, because it often feels like no matter how glaringly obvious certain things are in our society oftentimes no one will call it out. Kanye will call it out, but as we can see with his recent mental health struggles, maybe calling out the truth contributes to developing mental health problems (as well as being so famous that no one tells you no and so Kanye’s ego has continued to grow bigger and bigger which also doesn’t help any mental health issues). 

I got fired from a restaurant I worked at for speaking my mind (and crying while working a couple times…oopsy), so I’ve learned to shut the fuck up and not speak my mind at all times. The greatest thing I took away from getting fired is to not speak my mind when I know the audience I’m speaking to is not going to share my perspective and will likely use what I say (especially when I knew the truth was irrelevant to my bosses…I was told by my manager at this restaurant to lie to him when I didn’t want to take a shift and since I don’t drink, as I’m a recovering alcoholic, he told me to lie and tell customers I drink to sell alcohol better…I told him that I’d rather have him be mad at me than lie…ha…probably shouldn’t have done that considering the outcome of my employment there. Yet, now I have a job I love where I can be more of myself, so in the end, maybe it was worth saying what I felt was the truth…who knows…).

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West bring kids North and Saint West to Serendipity restaurant in New York City

Nevertheless, I don’t think that everything Kanye and Kim have done is negative. Yes, while even my cultural psychology textbook at UBC this past semester took time out to claim that Keeping Up With the Kardashians is completely mindless entertainment (I disagree…it is mostly mindless, but there are also some worthwhile messages the show has put out). Needless to say that Kim and Kanye have become scapegoats for individuals who want to show that they are any number of things, such as 1) they’re above consuming popular culture, 2) they’re not superficial, 3) they have better things to do than care about these people (ummm…then why are you taking the time to bash them?), and 4) the world is headed toward ruin unless we start to focus on what is important.

What I think is sometimes forgotten is that entertainment is intended to help people either escape from their problems or to offer solace that someone else is aware of or understands what you’re going through. Kim and Kanye have offered me both of these things many, many times over the last 10 years. For that I still have loyalty towards them, even though I am repulsed by some of the things that they do. There are people out there who work incredibly hard and don’t necessarily want to watch something “deep” when they’re at home trying to unwind. Watching Khloe Kardashian and Kris Jenner get drunk in a Mexican restaurant then seeing them tee-pee a very pregnant and bitchy Kim Kardashian’s house was hilarious. Yes, I know that the whole set-up down to the last detail was planned beforehand. I don’t care. I was still entertained. It is a privilege to have the time and energy to consume entertainment that is always thought-provoking and enlightening. Some people just want to relax and that’s okay after a hard day’s work or a stressful life situation!

Escapism through television or music is not as dangerous as escapism through crack. Based on the level of criticism heaped at Kanye and the Kardashians, sometimes I think some arrogant-ass apparently super spiritual and highly-evolved people seem to think that a trashy TV show is just as bad as an addictive drug. I disagree.

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One of the things that I like about the Kardashians is that they aren’t rich people who try to downplay their love of their own wealth and all of the luxurious things their wealth affords them. I think this is something that their average fans respect, because so many wealthy people are clearly into beautiful things, yet they front like they don’t care about that stuff.

Kim has turned her image (for doing nothing apparently) into money (by taking part in smart business deals like the creation of “Kimojis”), so even if you don’t think they’re artists (which outside of Kanye, I’d say Kris Jenner is the closest thing to an artist since she has orchestrated their show and likely come up with many of the creative ideas for different show topics) Kim is not embarrassed about being a businesswoman who is about making money. Also, the show has emphasized that while the Kardashian family has had many advantages that have made it easier for them than other people to gain success in the entertainment industry, they are responsible, hard-working (they work a lot even if you don’t think the type of work they are doing is valuable, their days are booked-up with filming, promotional events, overseeing business activities…they’re not sitting around doing nothing), show-up when booked and have gained a good reputation as reliable entertainers who will do what they say they’ll do. I like that Kim is openly about building her brand, because is there anything wrong with wanting to make money and to be successful? Everyone isn’t artsy, and there needs to be room for a variety of women out there. Also, yes Kim was in a sex tape and she has chosen to put her naked body on display. Do I think she is too reliant on her sexuality, or that she would feel like less of a person if she wasn’t hot? Yes, butt that’s not the whole story (pun intended).

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Honestly, if I was disfigured or gained 100 pounds, I’d also (at least initially) feel less confident, so aren’t I also too intertwined with my own sexuality and appearance? I think a lot of people use their looks and sexuality to feel good about themselves without being overtly aware of it, and it is all too easy to criticize those who do this more openly than others. Even if someone works in an office in conservative attire their appearance still impacts how others see and treat them, so no one is exempt from whether or not how fuckable or unfuckable they are to others influences what privileges they receive and which opportunities come their way. Do I think Kim takes it too far by making it seem like it is the most important thing in the world to be sexy? Yes.

But, I also think there are some positives to Kim showing her naked body. It is Kim’s own body, and when she has posted nude selfies, she’s made the point that since it’s her body she gets to do what she wants with it. This is feminism. And as a feminist I don’t want to be told how much of my body to show. Kim has also pointed out that she isn’t telling other women what to do with their bodies, so why do so many other people want to tell her what she should do with hers? Maybe there’s jealousy. Maybe some people wish they could pose naked or look like Kim, so they judge her instead. I don’t know for sure, but in that sense I think Kim has used her platform to get women and men to consider why they care so much about how she expresses herself, when they still have the freedom to cover up as much as they want if that’s what they’re comfortable with. Kim’s message is to each their own, and that is something I can get on board with, and that I need to practice more.

Kim Kardashian looks casually chic at Jimmy Kimmel - Part 2

The other strange thing about their family, which is so disconnected from the reality of the average person, is that the Kardashians come across as completely down-to-earth in some ways. The quality of their TV show has gone down lately, because instead of coming up with fun topics and themes they have focused too strongly on their own fame and celebrity drama, but the show has been on for more than 10 seasons, and the earliest seasons were so much fun to watch. One episode that stands out to me is when Kris raises the issue of incontinence. She explains that after having 6 children, it’s hard for her to laugh without peeing herself. My sister, Natalie, and I love this episode because it reminds us of our Mom! Anytime we make her laugh she has to run to the bathroom.

So Kris Jenner was cleverly aware that she wasn’t the only woman going through this (another strength of the Kardashians is that they’re a female-driven brand…these are women creating their own brands and show, so they know what women go through and profit from this knowledge). Kris ends up getting an endorsement deal in the episode, for a woman’s pad brand (kind of like Depends, but not that brand) and she films a commercial for it. The whole topic was quite entertaining and led to some scenes that had me cracking up! Another early episode was where Kim was asked to pose for the cover of Playboy for a special celebrity issue, and she was told she wouldn’t have to get naked for it (this was back in the day when she didn’t want to get naked on camera). At the shoot, the photographers and Kris Jenner try to pressure her to take it all off (yes, it’s weird that someone’s mom is encouraging them to pose nude). Kim gets really mad and she turns the tables on her Mom and says her Mom doesn’t know how hard it is to be asked to strip down on camera. Kris fires back with letting Kim know she’d love to be photographed naked. Kris hires a photographer, strips down to nothing and poses with Caitlyn’s gold medals (this is back when they were married). Kris is a wild woman and she’s hilarious!

When Kourtney got pregnant with her first child, one storyline was her considering whether she wanted to have the baby or have an abortion. Since Scott and Kourtney were on shaky ground at the time (aren’t they always?), Kourtney didn’t know whether she was prepared to have a child. I love that the show offered abortion as an option, because abortion is often completely avoided in popular culture, and especially on a “light” reality show. Kourtney decided against getting an abortion and choose to have her son Mason, but this is an example of how the show has made a positive contribution by challenging norms and offering women alternatives.

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Another thing is that Kim gains a significant amount of weight during pregnancy, because it’s normal and healthy to do so. On the show, Kim admits she doesn’t like weighing more, instead of being fake and pretending it’s all good since it’s for the sake of the baby. It gives me hope that if I’m pregnant and balloon up, it’s normal, and remaining tiny while pregnant is uncommon and possibly unhealthy. At least Kim’s willing to do what is right for the health of her baby, since I’ve seen some celebrity women who seem unbelievably thin a very short while after giving birth. Ben Stiller’s wife Christine Taylor being the most extreme example I can remember…3 weeks after the birth of one of her children she was on the red carpet stick thin with a flat stomach. This is clearly a harsh judgment on my part, because I do not truly know what Kim or Christine Taylor have done to their bodies, but it seemed impossible that Christine Taylor was a healthy weight throughout her pregnancy if she could be this thin such a short while after having a baby. I am speculating in a negative manner, but may be she restricted her calories while pregnant due to a fear of gaining weight? I tried to find a picture of Christine Taylor from the night I’m thinking of, but couldn’t, probably since it was more than 10 years ago.

The Kardashians seem to have put all of their embarrassing stuff out there (and this last year indicates that maybe they’re facing harsh consequences for doing so…some privacy is good), so in terms of what they’re trying to do they’ve really gone for it. There might be quite a few other people, famous ones, who are just as messed-up as the Kardashians, but these people might also go to psychotically extreme lengths to conceal their own dysfunction. So maybe the Kardashians are huge liars who fake everything, but I also believe that in some ways they’ve been much more real and self-deprecating than the vast majority of other celebrities. I think this is partly why people care about the Kardashians enough to SPEND MONEY ON THEM. Just because someone can be an actor in a movie and have some studio heads and a director believe in them, doesn’t mean they can market themselves in a way that a person in middle America will spend a dime on a product that they’re hawking. The Kardashians and Jenners have been able to do this time and time again.

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NOW TAYLOR SWIFT: Kanye’s lyrics about Taylor Swift were sexist and offensive in my opinion. I would have supported Taylor Swift if she had told Kanye to go fuck himself for writing such rude thing about her…BUT SHE DIDN’T!  

Here’s the excerpt of their videotaped speakerphone discussion about some of his lyrics:

Kanye West reads the “Famous” lyric: “To all my southside n—-s that know me best, I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex.” Taylor Swift: “I’m like this close to overexposure.”
Kanye West: “Oh, well this I think this a really cool thing to have.”Taylor Swift: “I know, I mean it’s like a compliment, kind of.”Kanye West: “All I give a f–k about is you as a person and as a friend, I want things that make you feel good. “Taylor Swift: “That’s sweet.”
Kanye West: “I don’t want to do rap that makes people feel bad.” Taylor Swift: “Umm, yeah I mean go with whatever line you think is better. It’s obviously very tongue in cheek either way. And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that’s really nice.”Kanye West: “Oh yeah, I just had a responsibility to you as a friend you know, and I mean thanks for being so cool about it.”Taylor Swift: “Aw thanks. Um yeah I really appreciate it, like the heads up is so nice. [inaudible] Even asking or seeing if I would be okay with it and I just really appreciate it. Like I would never expect you to like tell me about a line in one of your songs.”Kanye West: “It’s pretty crazy.”
Taylor Swift: “And then the flowers that you sent me, I like Instagrammed a picture of them and it’s like the most Instagram likes I’ve ever gotten. It was like 2.7”
Kanye West: “Relationships are more important than punch lines, ya know?”Taylor Swift: “I don’t think anyone would listen to that and be like that’s a real diss she must be crying. You’ve gotta tell the story the way that it happened to you and the way that you experienced it. You honestly didn’t know who I was before that. It doesn’t matter that I sold 7 million of that album before you did that which is what happened, you didn’t know who I was before that. It’s fine.”

 

Taylor reminds him about all of the success she had prior to him interrupting her acceptance speech. Taylor, it’s ok to be pissed off that this arrogant asshole keeps pretending he made you, when he didn’t. You created yourself, wrote your own songs, and have worked your butt off, and please don’t downplay that.

(Sidenote: Yes, I still enjoy and listen to the song Famous even though it contains lyrics that offend me. Nevertheless, when Kim dropped the receipts (aka the proof) of what Taylor actually said when Kanye told her part of the lyrics, (he left out the “I made that bitch famous” part) Taylor said she was flattered and gave her blessing. Once the song came out Taylor released a long statement pleading complete ignorance about the song or any of its lyrics. Taylor was caught in a lie, and the most annoying part is she didn’t own it and apologize.

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So Kim did prove that Taylor Swift was willing to lie and cover up certain things once public opinion about the song was unfavourable. I found that satisfying because I respect Taylor Swift as an artist and as an incredibly hard worker, but I think she relies on a virginal image (for example by saying she wouldn’t show her belly button…so what if you did show your belly button?…and then she ended up showing her belly button anyways, so it was like, why’d you get on your high horse about how much skin you’re showing anyways?…and Taylor seems incapable of admitting she’s had sex. But maybe she shouldn’t have to, but to me it seems like she likes to play the innocent card hardcore) and downplays her ambitiousness. Taylor Swift to me is that girl that wants to be liked by everybody so badly she won’t openly admit to disliking another person unless she already thinks everyone will be on her side for doing so.

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The last thing I wanted to say is that Kanye has lyrics that inspire me as a female. Yes, he also has lyrics that are sexist and wrong. I am working on having less of an all-or-nothing approach to things and my relationship with Kim and Kanye (even though I don’t know them and likely never will) is an example of this. Rap music gets an especially bad rap for its depiction of women, but I always prefer a straight-up attitude to a thinly-veiled version of sexism. Many men look at women as pieces of meat, but of course, few will admit that. John Mayer’s “Your body is a wonderland…” lyrics have always bothered me more than rap lyrics, because the subtext is still the same: you’re hot and so I want to fuck you. Except John Mayer probably uses these cheesy-ass sentiments to get women in bed.

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One Kanye song I love to listen to when I’ve wanted to get myself back on track, stop focusing too much on a man, and shift the focus to where I’m going in my own life is called “I Wonder”.

The most important lyrics to me from the song “I Wonder” from Kanye’s album Graduation are as follows:

You say he get on your fucking nerves
You hope that he get what he deserves, word
Do you even remember what the issue is?
You just trying to find where the tissue is

You can still be who you wish you is
It ain’t happen yet

And that’s what intuition is
When you hop back in the car
Drive back to the crib
Run back to their arms
The smokescreens
The chokes and the screams
You ever wonder what it all really means?

[Hook]
And I wonder if you know
What it means, what it means
And I wonder if you know
What it means to find your dreams

How many ladies in the house without a spouse?

Something in your blouse got me feeling so aroused
What you about?
On that independent shit
Trade it all for a husband and some kids

You ever wonder what it all really mean?
You wonder if you’ll ever find your dreams?

I have taken these lyrics to mean (since I don’t know what Kanye actually intended them to mean) that it’s important for women to stop playing the victim and crying about how men are hurting them, since there’s always people out there that will keep on hurting you if you don’t walk away. Instead of simply claiming to want to be independent while secretly just looking for a husband and a family (which is a beautiful dream too…just admit it if that’s your dream, or if a combo of the two or something else is your dream then that’s all good, too), it’s important to look inside and figure out what one’s dreams are and to try to achieve them. I guess that’s why I’m writing this right now, I have a dream of sharing my thoughts with others and having them think or feel differently or stronger about their own ideas and beliefs as a result of what I have to say. Now, if I could only get paid the big dollas for doing so…still, I wonder.

Hope 2017 is better for Kim, Kanye, and everyone else on this planet!

 

Embrace Your Freakishness!

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After it poured outside for most of the day, it finally turned sunny out just after 4, so I got off my butt and headed out onto Main Street with the hopes of finding some sweet soul to interview.

Brittney’s look appealed to me, and when I asked her if I could interview her she obliged. Her answer to my question about whether or not she’s ever felt like a freak or an outsider, and if she has what’s helped her through it, was great. Brittney (brittney@laceembrace.com) suggests “EMBRACING IT”–how apropos considering she works at Lace Embrace. I wholeheartedly agree. As they say, let your freak flag fly!

If you’re ever interested in a corset, sexy lingerie, old-fashioned clothing, or pin-up style outfits go visit Brittney at Lace Embrace Atelier on Main (or check out Scout just off Main which is owned by the same person).

UnREAL: Realistic Representation of Reality TV

I started watching UnREAL on Thursday. It is now Saturday, and I have just finished watching all 10 episodes of the 1st season of this outstanding scripted dramedy. UnREAL is about the behind-the-scenes action on a fictional reality TV show called “Enchanted”.

I am a huge fan of reality TV. As a teacher, it is my job to be sociable, patient, friendly, and emotionally available to students during the day, so I look forward to getting home from school, downloading a reality show, and being able to zone-out and observe different personality types and drama without having to react to them…or smile…or respond in any way. Therefore, I find these shows highly entertaining, and, yes, relaxing.

While I am a fan, I would also be an idiot if I were to deny the fact that the aspects of humanity that reality TV shows use to create drama are primarily negative. I believe that my life has been positively impacted by some of the stories I have seen shared on reality TV, but there are also many values that are promoted on most of these shows that are disgusting: judging women and men based on their physical appearance alone, taking advantage of people’s insecurities and/or mental health issues, and reinforcing racist, sexist, homophobic, and various other stereotypes about people.

UnREAL is the first scripted show that I have watched that honestly deals with the types of people who would choose to produce and work on reality TV shows. For example, the show’s protagonist, Rachel, is a producer. She is willing to use any information and any angle she can think of (and she can think of many since she is a highly intelligent and perceptive person) to get something exciting for the cameras.

One of the characters on “Enchanted” is Mary, who is a single mother, and she recently got out of an abusive relationship. For “good TV” Rachel finds Mary’s abusive ex-partner and brings him on the show to confront Mary and the “Bachelor” character, Adam, without Mary or Adam’s awareness that the ex was going to suddenly appear. A fight ensues, and Mary’s situation becomes incredible tragic (likely due to this and because of another factor that a different drama-hungry producer on the show stoops to an all-time low to create) as the series progresses.

This situation reminds me that drama is exciting, and it is a great distraction from my own life, but the lengths reality TV shows creators and producers will go to to provide me with “entertainment” can irreparably harm real people’s lives. Since I consume those shows, I am also contributing to the destruction of people’s lives.

Even though it would be easy to shrug it off and say these reality TV show characters/people/performers are asking for it by going on these shows instead of getting “normal” day jobs, UnREAL highlights how many of these shows are using desperate people, who may have pre-existing mental health problems, and exploiting them. I think that part of the stigma surrounding mental health is that people are blamed for their sickness, and the ridicule that is heaped on people who act “crazy” is somehow viewed as completely acceptable. I still see a variety of examples that lead me to believe that most of mainstream society still thinks that “insane” people are not sick people; instead, they’re bad people. When people who have “freak-outs” on these shows are discussed on social media, in real-life, and in the media the dialogue surrounding them must only make it that much harder for these people to move on from having a mental breakdown on national TV and build a life away from reality TV.

Most people want to claim that they are sensitive to people who are mentally ill, but based on what I have heard people say in real-life when talking about people who have been depressed, acted bizarrely, or erratically there usually seems to be a complete lack of compassion. On the one hand, people who exhibit a lack of self-control and bad behaviour should not be rewarded or given a pat on the back, but on the other hand, if a person is clearly not well or of a sound mind, does it really help to gossip about them and treat them like there’s something wrong with them?

During the summer, I biked to UBC to go to Wreck Beach. While I was locking up my bike at the tops of the stairs there was a man about 15 feet away who was screaming and shouting about “Pigs” (the police, I assume). I would characterize him as mentally-ill. He later walked around the beach area screaming at someone/something that was not there, and I am not a mental health professional, but he seemed delusional. There were a few young men across the street from the bike rack area who were taunting the man and making fun of him. When I see people, who would likely describe themselves as sane, do this sort of cruel thing it reminds me of how ignorant we all are about mental health and what it means to be mentally ill.

The biggest problem is not the man who was ranting and raving, instead it is the “sane” people who pick-on sick people, thereby increasing people’s paranoia and fear. Yet, my own choice to obsessively watch reality TV shows that do the same sort of thing, and much worse, to people who are already in a weak position in terms of their state-of-mind, makes me wonder if I am any different from those young guys who were yelling at the man who seemed mentally ill? I will keep on watching reality TV, but UnREAL provides a lot of food for thought about what I am actually taking part in when I watch these kinds of exploitative shows.

Up until now this article has been a downer, but UnREAL is not only dark and thought-provoking, it’s also hilarious. The characters are complex, lovable, imperfect, believable, and so brutally honest that a lot of the dialogue made me laugh. Shiri Appleby plays Rachel to superb perfection. Rachel does so many things wrong to other people, but we get to see that she is also seriously struggling with her mental health and her own personal life is just as negative as her work life. Rachel is always trying to figure out what she can use other people for, instead of focusing on what she can do to truly help them. I think that if people are being honest we all have the same thing in ourselves. Sometimes, I am more concerned with what I am getting out of an interaction than what I’m giving, but that is something I want to work on minimizing.

Rachel’s boss is Quinn. Quinn is played by Constance Zimmer, and she is everything you’d imagine a ruthless boss bitch would be. But, of course, Quinn also has a heart, and I felt compassion for her, even though I think her behaviour is appalling. Quinn has been having a long-term affair with the show’s executive producer/owner, Chet, played by Craig Bierko. Quinn is not as strong as she seems, and UnREAL illustrates through these characters’ personal lives that there is no on-and-off switch for using and manipulating people.

If you think it is okay to capitalize on people’s weaknesses for a reality show at any cost, then it is likely that you will do the same to people you are dating and friends with. And, they will do the same to you. Since I don’t want to give away any of the important plot points about the show, I will end my review here. If you love or hate reality TV, it doesn’t really matter, because I think this show appeals to both of those categories of people. UnREAL is a genius show in my opinion. Life is complicated, and UnREAL doesn’t shy away from looking at the darkest undercurrents of reality TV. I totally related to all of the main characters, though I’d like to believe I wouldn’t be willing to do what they do, though I’ve done some terrible things in my time. Just like Rachel, Quinn, and Chet, I’m not perfect. I am constantly trying to balance my own selfish desires with what I think will make the world a better place. UnREAL helped me feel better about myself while simultaneously encouraging me to think more deeply about the choices I make in life. Bravo to the show’s creators Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro!

 

Catch-Up on THE COMEBACK Before Season 2 Starts

I had seen about half of an episode of LISA KUDROW‘s and MICHAEL PATRICK KING‘s HBO series from 2005 called THE COMEBACK a while back, but I never really gave it a chance. I remember hearing one of the Olsen twins saying that it was one of their favourite series, and that stuck out to me for some reason. I kept hearing about the show despite its cancellation after one season.

Poster for the TV series The Comeback

The Comeback poster: source.

Well, after a 9 year hiatus, the show returns for its second season next Sunday November 9th on HBO, and I am very excited to watch it! Yesterday I downloaded season 1 of THE COMEBACK, and I watched all 13 episodes over the last 2 days.

Since I consider myself to be reality TV addict, the show’s premise is perfect in my mind: KUDROW plays VALERIE CHERISH, a washed-up sitcom actress who agrees to film a reality show about her life while working on a new sitcom.

The Comeback

The cast of the fictional sitcom ROOM AND BORED on THE COMEBACK: source.

The new sitcom has 4 young, “hot” stars living together and Valerie Cherish is playing the supposedly unattractive, old aunt named AUNT SASSY. The sitcom is called ROOM AND BORED and it’s super cheesy and insulting to women, and lots of groups of people for that matter. For example, Cherish stands up to the writers when she is expected to say a line about a batch of puppies potentially turning into Korean BBQ. Cherish previously starred in a popular courtroom sitcom called I’M IN IT. When Valerie is complaining to the white, male writers she cites an example from the last season of I’M IN IT when there was a Rodney King joke too soon after the riot. She thinks it led the show to be cancelled.

Lisa Kudrow aka Valerie Cherish as Aunt Sassy: source.

Being racist towards Korean people and making fun of Rodney King’s death is not funny in any way, shape, or form. What makes the show smart and funny is the way it identifies how so many popular sitcoms on supposedly “politically correct” stations regularly air material that I find to be totally unfunny. There are shows I’ve seen where it seems like every joke is based on stereotypes of others. The humour on THE COMEBACK is self-reflective. Valerie is learning how to be a better human being, not just hate on others. This is the type of humour I relate to and feel good watching.

Therefore, I did not find the show to be racist or sexist. Instead it was refreshing and hilarious to see the challenges Valerie Cherish faces while trying to ensure the sitcom isn’t offensive to viewers. Yet, Valerie is not perfect. She assumes her Asian make-up artist is Korean, and apologizes to her for the offensive joke. The make-up artist points out she is Japanese. Valerie tries to cover her own ass by saying that she wouldn’t want to offend the make-up artists’ Korean friends then. The make-up artist asks why Valerie assumes she has Korean friends. There’s lots of awkward social situations like this one on THE COMEBACK that are funny and realistic. I think we’ve all either observed these scenarios or been a part of them (on both ends) where you, or someone else, is trying to be sensitive but end up creating the opposite effect.

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Valerie Cherish taking a bath (wearing a swimsuit of course, since she doesn’t do nudity): source.

The reality TV film crew is led by LAURA SILVERMAN (SARAH SILVERMAN‘S sister) as the character JANE. You often see that the lines between Valerie’s own personal life and her connection to the crew are blurred. For example, one of her fellow co-stars shows up incredibly late for lunch. While Valerie is waiting, she unsuccessfully tries to coerce Jane to join her at the table, so she doesn’t feel like a loser being filmed eating alone.

VALERIE CHERISH is an inspiring character because she always tries to put on a brave face. Valerie tries to pretend she is A-OK at all times, even though the film crew captures all of the degrading and embarrassing things that happen to Valerie during her pursuit of a successful acting career. LISA KUDROW puts her dramatic acting chops on display also. There are painful and tender moments where Valerie has tears in her eyes, even though she is smiling. I could feel her pain, and I connected to how much it hurts to be rejected. The series has so many funny situations that happens. It was comforting me and making me laugh like crazy. Valerie’s step-daughter is like 10-12 years old and yet she refuses to eat carbs, smokes, and says “Bananas” (one of celebrity stylist RACHEL ZOE‘s trademark lines).

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Valerie on the set of her sitcom Room and Bored: source.

It is an outstanding and intelligent show. Even though the first season aired in 2005, it is especially relevant today. I think it accurately represents why audience’s have become increasingly attracted to seeing people play themselves on reality television. “Being yourself” on reality TV creates a kind of pressure about authenticity that leads to a lot of fakeness. But, at the same time, since these reality shows are capturing people at home, or in semi-natural situations (or with their families like on KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS), the viewer gets exposed to honest and vulnerable moments in reality stars lives. These moments are almost always quite unflattering and reveal the person’s ego. But for me, these moments usually lead me to love my favourite reality stars even more, because I realize they are human. Even though they look perfect in still-life images or on Instagram, nobody is perfect and confident at all times. Reality TV makes that abundantly clear, and THE COMEBACK brings that message home and then some!