Before we can get to what happened in Paris last night, let us pour out a glass of champagne for Adrienne Queen of the Maloofs, the race of mole people that live under the mountain. It appears that they her subjects have finally risen up and torn the top off the mountain, raining down in a red, fiery rage like a flow of lava to come and attack their queen. She has been rendered asunder, limb from limb, her crown lost under a pile of bloody remains never to be retrieved again.
Yes, Adrienne will be leaving the show after this season. Well, it's not like she will really be missed. Even though she has been the lynchpin in the ridiculous Brandi fight this season, she has been mainly absent from the action. She will also be absent from the reunion show, which was filmed last week. She did not attend because she is dead. The mole people have finally put an end to her tyrannical regime with the oldest form of voter recall on the planet: revolution. It was not televised. That means she will not be at the reunion to attend the Kangaroo Court lorded over by the honorable Andrew Cohen. She will never have to answer for her crimes. She will never face the nation and tell us why she has lied about Brandi, why she bullied people with her wealth, or just what the secret is that she wanted to keep buried. But, most of all, she won't have to answer for her most heinous crime of all: thinking that it is OK to leave self-tanner stains on your friends' furniture and not even apologize or clean it up or do anything about it. For that alone her death was an adequate punishment.
There was no Adrienne last night on the Real Voulez-Vous Couchers of Avec Moi Ce Soir and we all survived. We all got through the whole thing. However, it was pretty boring. What happened? Yolanda Bananas Foster and Brandi went jogging and did cartwheels. YBF and Lisa Vanderpump went to Notre Dame. Kim got a sparkly purse for being sober from Kyle's husband who she insists on calling Maurice. (I think that is just the funniest freaking thing on the whole planet. I laugh harder at that than I do at fart jokes and photos of John Boehner crying.) Lisa's husband Ken Vanderpump and Kyle's husband MMMmmmm went on a (wretch), they went on a (gag), they went on a (dry heave). Oh my god, I'm sick with embarrassment. I can't even say the awful thing they did. Man, this was a seriously touristy trip to Paris. I can't believe they didn't go to the Mona Lisa at the Lou-vre and march down the Champs Alizzse. I can't believe they didn't go to the Eiffel Tower.
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Oh, wait, they did! They did go to the Eiffel Tower and Kyle and Lisa had a fight there and it was stupid. I don't even know what this fight is about. Kyle is mad at Lisa for saying that their friendship was over, but Lisa didn't say it was over, just that it had changed since Kyle will never stick up for her. Oh, who knows. We're not even fighting about incidents anymore, we're fighting about perception and those are arguments you never win. There are no facts, there is no right or wrong, there are no classes for it at law school so your lawyer can't even get involved and send a letter and shut the whole thing down. You either need to forget about it and move on or you just stop talking to each other. Since these two are thrust together in perpetuity for money and fame, I guess they should be getting over it, shouldn't they?
I can't get excited about this fight. I really can't get excited about anything at all on this trip. The only thing that was really of any interest to me at all was Kim Richards because, well, if I were to look inside myself, way deep through my eyeballs and into the white void that leads to your brain, I would see Kim there lurking like a lost bird and when you get close enough to her she would just say, "Voom voom, she bang," and then disappear and fly out your nostril hole and back out into the wild. That is why I love Kim Richards.
The thing about Kim Richards is that she will always be a drunk. Always! And I don't mean that in a mean way. There is a reason that, at AA meetings, people have to get up and say, "Hi, I'm Joe and I'm an alcholic," even if they've been sober for decades. Once it happens it never leaves. It never leaves the person, it never leaves their family, it never leaves anyone. It's sort of like doing porn or winning an Oscar, this will be the first thing that people always mention about you.
That is Kim's problem in Paris. When she is walking with Lisa and goes, "Oh, look! A bike! I want to ride a bike!" in the middle of a sentence about something else, everyone thinks it's because she is blitzed. Kim Richards is not blitzed, she is just, well...off. As Brandi says, "There is normal and then there is Kim." Her being a little incoherent, totally dodgy, and absolutely off-kilter is not a result of the drinking and/or drugs, it is a personality trait. Either that or it is a result of all the years of abusing substances and, well this is now just how Kim is. The problem is that everyone thinks when she behaves oddly she is messed up. She's not. That's just our Kim.
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Kim's other problem, the reason why she was crying in the bus to her sister Kyle, is how she deals with this perception of her. Everyone thinks she's a drunk and she knows she is, but she has been through rehab and has been sober for months and the first time she stumbles in the street or laughs manically on a balcony and everyone thinks, "Oh crap! Relapse!" Kim wants credit. She wants to be recognized for all the hard work she's doing. She is latched onto her sobriety with knuckles whiter than the audience at a Dave Matthews concert and she wants someone to recognize how good she's doing. She thinks she's earned some trust back, but she's not getting it. When Lisa says, "Oh, it's history repeating," Kim is irrationally frustrated because not only does she not get to drink, she doesn't get people to forgive her and trust her not to drink either. It's like when you start a diet and have been eating only carrots and GG Scandanavian Crackers for weeks and you are hungrier than a supermodel in an Arby's but you don't look all skinny yet so no one can see your effort and say, "Girl, you look skinny!" It's like that, but with booze.
But she will always be a drunk, our Kim. And I get it, I get it from both sides of the hotel room door. I get it from Kim's side where she just overslept and doesn't want everyone to think that means she's locked her lips on every bottle inside the minibar and is passed out in the bathroom with her nightgown around her face. She's just irresponsible! I also get it from Kyle's side of the door. Banging there with Yolanda, thinking about the worst. Always worrying. The worrying will never stop. She's been through such hell with her sister that the easy answer will never be what goes through her head when Kim is late. She'll bang on that door, with the nightmare scenarios piling up in her head: Kim is dead from choking on her own vomit, Kim is dead from an overdose of pills, or, even worse, Kim has relapsed and doesn't want to get sober ever again. It's terrifying, that door. It's the deepest mystery and the most terrifying thing that has been on this catalog of despair we call a show.
We will now conclude this recap with a rundown of the latest episode of At Home with Yolanda Bananas Foster. This week we learned that our hostess with the mostest, Miss Yolanda Bananas Foster, used to terrorize the children back in Holland with the parts of the chicken that had been cut off before the thing could be defeathered and butchered. She would take the legs and the head with its protruding beak and weak waddle, and chase the other children around the tulip yard and the windmill with it, their wooden heels clacking with frenzy as they screech away from her. That has always been Yolanda's favorite joke, scaring everyone with her superiority, her unsqueamishness.
When Yolanda took all the women for a cooking class at Cook N With Klass (even in Paris they can't find a place that doesn't sound like it belongs in a Sacramento strip mall) she was the only one who could watch as they cut the head off the duck. (For the record, Kim Richards said she was not worried either, "As long as he's not quacking when I'm doing the whacking, I'm OK." Sadly she thought they were talking about hand jobs and not water foul.) The rest of the women scurried out into the parking lot and jumped at the thud of the chop, trying to retain their blissful ignorance of where their food comes from. Back inside, once the duck had been cut into its individual pieces, Yolanda took the meat and played the old game again, chasing her new friends around the room as they ducked (ha!) for cover. "My hair, my hair!" Kyle yelled, as if a brush with some duck fat was going to damage her Demi Moore realness.
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But the real loser in this battle was Alex, the poor American cook. Alex, a student at La Sacre Cordon Blue, was just taking this gig at the cooking school to get his way through the culinary institute. He had dreams of James Beard Awards and Michelin Stars and Padma Lakshmi attending his restaurant in a bikini with her hand cocked on her hip and a hunger in her belly and her eyes. He thought it would be easy, showing these Americans to make a French dish or two, but he had the worst students ever. They cried in the car and ran around with the carcasses and decided to write "F U" on their plates, as if they were poisoned and addressed to LeAnn Rimes. Then he had to sit with them and choke down their overcooked, rubbery duck and smile like he doesn't want to put arsenic in all the foie gras, including his.
When the dinner was over, the ladies all waddled out to their bus limo and Alex was left to clean up the plates, put them all in the dish washer and put all the utensils back where they belong. He pulled out his phone and found his girlfriend, Severine in the contacts. "Hey, honey," he said into the phone. "I'm sorry, I'm so tired. Can we speak English tonight?" He was quiet for a moment as he crooked the phone into his shoulder and turned on the faucet, running it over the pans that had piled there. "Uh uh," he said, shutting it off. "No, no. I'm just really tired. It was a really long class. I had the worst women. Just horrible Americans. Do you think I'll ever have to move back?" He listened and then burst out in a little chuckle. "No, they didn't learn anything," he said. "These women never learn anything."
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Bravo]
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The single girl is by no means the new girl in town. In fact, as a culture, we’re kind of obsessed with her.
She’s been the subject of chatter throughout 2011 and 2012. Women’s magazines have catered to the single girl by creating lists of cities most likely to end her unaccompanied plight or techniques for keeping a boyfriend. When that didn’t stick and the collective started to realize “Single Girl” wasn’t an affliction to be cured, but rather a state of being to be acknowledged, we switched to praising her for her strength and for changing the makeup of the single man and traditional relationships, like in Kate Bolick’s 2011 Atlantic cover story. The U.S. Census bureau reported that a record 17.8 million women were living on their own in 2011, bringing some much needed numerical support to this supposed phenomenon. Plus, women's health issues were some of the most hotly debated topics in the 2012 presidential election. But throughout all of this, we’re often talking about the upper echelon of single-ladydom – the benefits of being on one’s own, kicking ass and taking names in what used to be a “man’s world,” so to speak. But in 2012, the topic of the single girl reached new levels of legitimacy, especially on television.
The exalted (and equally despised, as Fox News recently reminded us) Single Girl of cultural note gained layers and stages within her seemingly one-note solo path. The most notable layer being that of the Poor, Single Girl life stage.
Series like HBO’s Girls, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Fox’s New Girl, and even reality shows like Bravo’s Gallery Girls bring the plight of the broke girl into homes across the country. (In its heyday, Sex and the City may have been all about the single girl, but certainly never the financially strapped one.) It brings into relief the fact that women exist in this space where our hair isn’t always perfect. Our makeup doesn’t look like it does in the movies. Our socks don’t always match and sometimes we struggle to pay the gas bill. It’s not just a punchline and it doesn’t make us deadbeats or outliers, it’s simply a life stage. Bringing that fact into the stark light of television for the masses brings an air of legitimacy to what is very much a reality for many girls in the no-man’s land between college and middle age.
When it comes in the form of Zooey Deschanel’s doe-eyed New Girl, the pop culture advent isn’t universally embraced. The polka-dot-loving, grade-school-sing-a-long, Christmas-morning-pajama-loving girl becomes a beacon of infantilism. In fact, Deschanel’s on-screen and off-screen personas are to blame for the notion “that it's never been easier, more fun or more acceptable to remain locked in the warm, comfy embrace of childhood,” according to a Jezebel post by Girls writer Deborah Schoeneman.
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But in Season 2 of the Fox series, Deschanel’s Jess added another characteristic to her former Manic Pixie Dream girl: a lack of cash flow. Jess lost her job, and with it, her schoolgirl antics. She became a penniless weirdo struggling to find a sliver of happiness in a reality that just handed her a fresh dose of harsh reality. This manifested itself in Jess’ multi-episode quest to displace her unhappiness by finding an emotion-free sex-friend set-up with a Creed fan, which took over and let the foundation of the problem take a back seat until Episode 7, when Jess’ financial constraints finally caught up to her. Schmidt cut off the gas to the apartment and Jess finally had to face the music and get a job that probably wasn’t going to pay her big bucks so she could suffer along with the rest of us.
Of course Girls has been throwing down the broke lady gauntlet since day one. Lena Dunham’s Hannah is cut off by her parents, sending her on a journey through awful job interviews, thankless jobs, unpaid internships, and uncomfortable discussions about where she’s going to get money for her next rent payment. The series brings into focus a range of circumstances that might befall a single, broke girl living in Brooklyn, and the diverting and rarely blissful moments that help to distract from the truth of her precarious lifestyle. It’s cathartic for those living the awful (and sometimes awesome) truth, and comprehensive enough to allow for audiences at different life stages to embrace the reality they may not know themselves.
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But the broke girl isn’t a phenomenon pegged to the folks willing to shell out 15 bucks a month for HBO or risk the virus-ridden expanse of pirated Internet television. Even sweeping, broadcast audiences get a watered-down, broad stroke version of the broke girl thanks to Whitney Cummings' 2 Broke Girls sitcom. However, Max and Caroline get a punchline-chasing raw deal. It’s one thing to be broke and scraping by, allowing oneself to be tempted by the evil incarnate that is a pre-approved credit card, it’s quite another to dine out at a soup kitchen to save some dough. However, CBS’ broke girls have done both in Season 2 of the hit series. But broad strokes or not, the series is bringing the plight of the poor girl into the larger pop culture consuming consciousness.
Of course, the true mark of the poor girl as a trend is that she’s even infiltrated the realm of reality television. It’s a place that generally embraces personalities in three distinct categories: the rich and/or famous, the ridiculous and wacky, or the suckers competing for some overblown prize. Gallery Girls is admittedly a subject for hate-watching, but its content raised a question about this “poor girl” trend. Could it be a real movement in television?
Yes, it could. Not everyone in Bravo’s set of art-world ladies treads the broke girl line, but for the most part, finance as a struggle is a recurring theme for the series. Freelance photographer Angela Pham has to supplement her sporadic income with a waitressing job and modeling jobs here and there. Gallery owners Chantal Chadwick and Claudia Martinez Reardon struggle to pay the bills for their business and Reardon frets about making good on a business loan from her parents. Kerri Lisa works two full-time jobs in order to pursue her art world dreams… and keep her dream apartment in the West Village. By most stretches of the imagination, these reality starlets aren’t exactly the picture of the broke girl that we’ve come to expect (how many struggling ladies can drape themselves in such luxurious couture?), but the way in which their struggles are picked out and emphasized in the editing room before the episodes hit the television is an indication of the stories audiences are seeking.
It’s not enough for a post-graduate girl to be fun and fancy-free, wearing high-wasted pinstripe skirts and twirling her hair. That’s not what a “girl” is anymore. In 2012, the definition in popular culture evolved and diversified. Girls, in the non-pig-tail-appropriate sense of the word, became pre-adults, with all the faculties of a full-fledged grownup, but none of the practical experience. She’s a gawky fawn, learning to stand on her own two feet. Every once in a while, she won’t have enough dough for the electricity bill. She’ll hoof it home to mom and dad to get a short-term loan to stay afloat. She’ll accept a series of odd jobs to stay in the black. But all the while she’s growing; she’s working toward something other than a big, handsome man to hold her hand. Television series like Girls and New Girl have taken even the most adorable little lady off her pedestal, bringing her down to the level at which we feel free to explore, dissect, judge, and be entertained by her journey to full-on adulthood.
It’s a product of a changing environment – Pew Research reports that the number of nuptials has decreased by 29 percent since 1960, the average marrying age has risen from early 20s to 26.5 for women, and since the early ‘90s U.S. Census data has shown that there are more women than men attending college. That girl isn’t an anomaly and she isn’t hiding. She’s sitting next to you on the subway. She’s unavoidable. But the shift is also a product of acknowledgement. Every time audiences tune into one of these shows touting a broke girl heroine, they’re buying in. They’re accepting this financially-challenged, almost-adult. She’s not a stoned slacker or lost little lady. She’s a human, dealing with the struggles of early adulthood and she’s getting there.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FOX; Cliff Lipson/CBS]
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