Beverly Hills.

October 22, 2011

Someone who knows I enjoy the study of human behavior suggested I watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. And I did this week. The entire first season.

The “Housewives” franchise has gotten very old these days. And really, it’s not as much a “housewives” franchise but a “women behaving badly” franchise. It’s an embarrassing depiciton of women, and truly, how many nasty catfights can you really watch?

But, surprisingly enough, watching the RHOBH was illuminating and gave me some specific insight into things going on in my life and family. If you don’t like the franchise and wouldn’t be caught dead watching it, I get it. Stop reading this now. But as a dropout from a PhD program in social psych, I find it fascinating. So let’s start.

When a camera’s aimed in a direction of these particular woman, they regress to mean girls. In every way possible. Watching these shows gave me an aha! moment about someone in my family, who’s always acted out in similar ways–but sans camera.

Take each individual woman:

Camille Grammar. Despite a butterface, she has a knockout body. No question. Definition of butterface here. And she wears clothes beautifully. I thought she’d been a porn actress, but she claims to have been a dancer and is rumored to have been an escort. She sure doesn’t move like a dancer in the opening segment for the show–she’s not graceful at all. She doesn’t move like a dancer. So perhaps her best partner has been a pole. And an Arab prince.

Curiously, throughout Season 1 she often hung inappropriately and disturbingly all over a younger, handsome, married friend of hers and Kelsey’s on the show, while his wife just looked on. It seems that celebrities or their wives get away with stuff other people wouldn’t get away with because people fear losing that celebrity connection.

Camille’s devious, that’s for sure, and in the first season, she stirred bad stuff up constantly, smirking unpleasantly as she ignited firestorms like a pyromaniac.

Even with editing (and especially with editing), the camera is unyielding. It couldn’t hide her insecurity–it was glaring in her constant talk about her generosity, what she’s done for her friends, the kind person she is, her producing with the company she and her husband owned, etc. I know listening to her talk about the “treatments” she and Kelsey write must make professional Hollywood writers cringe.

She came off as a monster and the season finale news that Kelsey had dumped her likely made many viewers say it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. I read that her strategy this season is to come off nicer, but given her limited skill set, I’m not sure she can act that well.

Lessons: When someone talks constantly about their own generosity and accomplishments, it’s deep-rooted insecurity at work. When a woman acts out inappropriately with men, she’s getting validation the only way she knows how.

And how about on her friend, Alison Dubois, the medium on whom the show Medium is based. After a dinner table battle with one of the women, she said this, as she sucked evilly (and bizarrely) on an electronic cigarette: “But you know what? I know when she’s going to die and how and what will happen to her family. I love that about me!” (You can’t write this stuff.) I completely believe in gifted mediums and have been privileged to have met the top medium in the world. But this mean and nasty drunk is not one of them.

Kyle and Kim Richards. They’re Paris Hilton’s aunts and they are two of the craziest women on the face of the earth. Both were child stars, and if ever you want an example of how Hollywood screws up children here’s your case in point. Kim is just a sad case. Apparently, her childhood earnings supported her family and she feels unappreciated for it. That may be the root of what looks like a substance problem.

Kyle is just the quintessential mean girl. Someone in my family reacts exactly like Kyle. But in watching Kyle lash out, I realized that this kind of mean front end comes from deep seated feelings of powerlessness.

Lesson: When someone lashes out, they feel impotent and that nastiness is the only way they can compete.

Russell Armstrong. He committed suicide a few months ago and supposedly abused his wife, Taylor. He seemed like a fish out of water and appeared socially awkward, without any of the bonhomme the other husbands had. I felt sorry for him.

Taylor Armstrong. She seemed the smartest of all the women. Her social skills are impeccable, she walks like a model and she certainly appeared to be the most aspirational. I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was a shrewd strategist with a purpose to everything she did. If she lived in fear of her husband killing her, there was no evidence on the Bravo show. She deferred to him a lot of the time, but also pushed back. The issue is credibility. Is she an opportunist using the death of her husband to get headlines?

Adrienne Maloof. She seems the most reasonable and real of the bunch, but she is such a victim of plastic surgery that it’s hard to take my eyes off her. Between a bad nose job, disfiguring cheek implants and cat eyes–it’s proof that even a plastic surgeon husband is no guarantee of good work. The camera tells us that this is a relationship without any affection or spark. They bicker, and that’s it. I wonder what’s holding them together. It’s not money, since they keep their finances separate.

Lisa Vanderpump. Lisa has figured out what kind of dress looks good on her and has had it made in at least 100 different variations all in different jewel tones. She’s clearly the oldest on the show, but she’s in great shape and I kind of like her. I am madly in love with her toy Pomeranian, Jiggy, and I love her indulgent relationship with Jiggy, despite his alopecia. Yes, Jiggy has alopecia. I think she and Ken have a real relationship.

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