Musings on the Arrival of Southern Charm

Local media is all abuzz about Southern Charm. I don’t have cable, but I’ve seen clips. If someone doesn’t have a merchandise or book deal coming out of this show, I will be very surprised. That’s just how these things work. Reality TV is just QVC* preceded by a predictable, stereotype-laden plot line. If a star didn’t start rich and famous, he or she will get there, for a little while at least. 

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I won’t deny it can be stupidly exciting to see your hometown’s sites on television. Back when I was at College of Charleston (CofC), I remember Scarlett: The Sequel to Gone With the Wind mini-series debuting on television. Joanna Whalley played Scarlett, Timothy Dalton played Rhett. More importantly (sorry Whalley and Dalton), Randolph Hall played a hospital. ‘Too cool–CofC on TV! Other locally filmed productions that decade included Prince of Tides and Rich in Love. But note all of these were books first, and the movies were made when the main reality show on television was COPS and The Real World:<<Insert City Here>>.

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A puzzling aspect of American culture is this television obsession with the wealthy behaving badly, whether they are real-life people or fictional characters. Soap operas go back to television’s earliest days and actually were on the radio first. Rich characters who have a career and/or a roof over their head no matter what. They mess with each other’s heads and ruin each other’s love lives, perhaps out of malice, perhaps out of sheer boredom. Evening soaps a la Aaron Spelling were big in the 1980s and 1990s. Hello catfights. Fast forward to today, reality shows feature real people playing a caricature of themselves in ridiculous scenarios. By episode two, somebody (or everybody) has a catchphrase that makes the show a drinking game.***

Yes, rich people have problems. Alcoholism, drug abuse, runaway heiresses, daughters in love with the wrong guy, inconvenient pregnancies, adultery, sons who don’t want the family business, sons who like the lifestyle but lack the instincts, mental illness, and dysfunctional relationships. I could mean Downton Abbey**, Brideshead Revisited, Dynasty just as easily the British Royal Family, the Kennedys, or the Bushes. If everyone has problems, what makes rich people’s more interesting? A lot to lose with each misstep? ‘Always pulling through like a cat with nine lives? What is the appeal?

Watching rich people on television may be funny, but it doesn’t make the rest of us rich, intellectually or otherwise. We might get entertained, but the stars get the last laugh. Rarely did they need the money–so who’s the joke really on here?

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Seeing someone come from out of town and make a “Southsploitation” reality show doesn’t warm my heart. What it does shows me is how some people want to see us, and how that will effect what viewers who hadn’t given Charleston a second thought will think about us after watching. West Virginia didn’t universally love Buck Wild, Louisiana doesn’t universally love Duck Dynasty. It’s funny how reality television is filmed in color, but its scenarios couldn’t be more black and white. And that’s not reality. 

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As a Lowcountry native and a writer, it’s my job to tell you what is worth checking out. Look for a blogpost list coming soon. I also have a sister blog at SeaIslandsdining.wordpress.com.

*= a home shopping network 

**=I do watch Downton Abbey. I also watched the class-clash films made in the last 30 years based on Forster’s, Austen’s, and Wharton’s books. 

***=to be fair, just about every TV show starts following a formula, and therefore, can be made into a drinking game. 

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Musings about Rises and Falls at Sochi

RISE:

“It was an advantage for me that [it] made me so mad to win the gold medal,” she said (from Adelina Sotnikova, Olympic figure skating champ: No apology necessary by Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports, click link to see the article)

Adelina Sotnikova leapt her way to a gold medal last week. It will go down as one of the biggest underdog stories of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Another golden moment for her that received little fanfare is how she moved on from a tough blow to her ego just a week before.

Sotnikova was not selected for the Russian team for the first-ever team figure skating event. This was her first Olympics, Russia’s first Olympics in 34 years, and its first since the fall of Communism. A skater two years younger than herself, Julia Lipnitskaia, did qualify for the team event and received lots of buzz for her performances. Sotnikova could have handled this situation like a broken hearted teenager, she is just seventeen after all. But she channeled that into performing with even more gusto, planned an ambitious routine, and pulled it off.

Before anyone succeeds, they have to win themselves over first.

FALL:

There was an awkward moment at the close of the Olympics. Cris Collingsworth thanks Vladimir Pozner for coming to explain the cultural references at the ceremony. Pozner says something to the effect of you still don’t know how to say my name? and Collingsworth says I probably never will (laugh). Did either of these reporters want to make the other look bad, or did both? Nevermind the resurrection of Kerrigan and Harding drama, was this a here and now spat brewing among TV personalities?

It might be hilarious when comic actors spoof an unprepared, fumbling journalist, but in real life, it’s anything but.

JUST OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

Isn’t it interesting–most of the youth competing in this year’s Olympics, Russian or otherwise, don’t personally remember the Cold War. Or a communist USSR.

End of January 2014 Followup

Well, one month down. So far one New Year goal has made strides, while another did not turn out.

SUCCESS: I have been writing for a bigger, well-known publication in my area. It’s been thrilling, and so far the feedback has been mostly good. I have interviewed several really interesting, creative people. I admire the focus and courage they had to pursue a career in arts; I had neither and tried to pursue a practical career. Hopefully in 10-20 years (hopefully much sooner, I’ll take sooner!) I will feel similar sense of success. Some of these folks are teaching classes; it would be really awesome to attend those. Sadly, I cannot afford all of them, cash-wise or time-wise.

Through writing this new series of pieces, I have noticed lots of ways to change my approach and strategy. I want to try writing and editing in “heats”. I am expecting this to make the process go faster with less over-mulling my words, and less staring at the screen re-reading a piece over and over. By learning to work faster, over time that means more can be written and finished in less time. There’s personal projects I have delayed because I took too much time on stories. I am a little mad at myself for that.

FAILURE: A few weeks ago, I attempted to lighten my own hair at home. Spoiler alert: If you don’t have a license, don’t try this at home. The ease of coloring at home versus the difficulty of removing color at home is night and day, and not in a good way. I went from having three color hair–ashy black, white, and reddish brown–to having five color hair. This was not the desired outcome. Mortified, I went to a chain for “hair rescue 911” walk-in convenience. And the hair stylist balanced my hair back to varying shades of brownish-red. And thankfully, she never gave me a guilt trip about it. Not once did she say how dumb this idea was on my part, or ‘you folks think my job is easy and then you need a bailout when you screw up’. Nope, she was strictly there to help. I will be back. Tiny flecks of silver have already started reappearing, but I am ignoring them for at least a month.

OTHER FEEL-GOOD MOMENTS: My car was overdue for having valves replaced. I am pleased to report that’s behind me. My service appointment was delayed by two surprise snow days, but it got done.

I am very glad we survived those two snow days. I had picked up water, bread, and other non-refrigerated food staples to last 2-3 days before it hit. We dripped our faucets (a must in the South). As boring and confining as it is to be cooped up inside, I do not drive on snow days. I also do not go Downtown if it’s been raining for days.

It’s not that I am afraid of snow, it’s the black ice and the bad driving habits I see on the roads every time I’m behind the wheel. These habits aren’t a good idea on dry days, never mind wet, icy ones. I am not risking getting in a wreck when I did not have to be out in the first place. In the event I do have to be out in bad weather, I leave ridiculously early, take my time and do not follow other cars too closely.

This was our first snow at our current house. It looked like giant creature spilled granulated sugar from above in random spots, like the edge of the lawn, in the bushes, on tables and outdoor furniture.

In other news, I have sinusitis. This past Saturday, I noticed my nose hurt like I had been punched in the face. Knowing I had not been punched in the face, and having no bruising to prove otherwise, I googled my diagnosis. Yep, sinusitis. Yuck.

I am cleaning up notes from a weekend interview and getting started on the next story. How are your goals coming along?