Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Confessions of a Southern Charm newbie: Ep 4

A dust-up at the flamingo party

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 at 9:57 AM

click to enlarge The special day has arrived - SCREENSHOT
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  • The special day has arrived

Hey everybody, welcome back. I want to start out by saying thanks to all the readers who have stuck with this column over the past four weeks. As you may have noticed, “Confessions of a Southern Charm newbie” is as much about people’s feelings toward the show and Charleston as it is about the show itself. So before we get into all that, I need to fill you in on something strange that happened last week.

Shortly after I posted my column/recap/fever dream journal, a very special tweet from the Washington Post was brought to my attention. While trying to let the public know about how the MLB draft will affect Mormonism — a worthwhile effort — the good people at the Post accidentally tweeted out a link to my episode 3 recap to their 6.34 million followers. I kid you not.

click to enlarge Ryan Nelson was incredible enough to bring this to our attention - SCREENSHOT
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  • Ryan Nelson was incredible enough to bring this to our attention

That’s it, everybody. We have arrived. While I can in no way imagine what goes on in the Washington Post newsroom, I think we can all safely assume that the entire staff gathers around one computer every Tuesday afternoon anxiously refreshing the City Paper home page until finally — like manna from heaven — the newest installment of my silly, weird column is published for their consumption. At least that’s how I picture it in my head. All jokes aside, how awesome is this? I am having this tweet embroidered on a throw pillow. Let this also be a reminder that if something inexplicably good happens to you, it is likely because an important person messed up.

But with this tweet in mind, please allow me to tie it all back in with a common concern that I’ve noticed among those who hate Southern Charm. It seems that many of the show’s most vocal opponents feel that it misrepresents Charleston in some dangerous way, and by reporting on the show in any fashion, we are making the problem worse. First, I think it’s important to remember one thing — Southern Charm is not Freddy Krueger. It does not draw its power from our attention or fear. It draws its power from the sale of boxed wines and pregnancy tests. You can sleep soundly.

Second, and most importantly, is the issue of Southern Charm’s depiction of Charleston. This is actually a valid concern. Every day, more and more cities must contend with an invading reality show. I understand this all too well. I grew up very close to where they filmed Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and for years, I have dealt with the stereotype that I eat whole sticks of butter to get ready for beauty pageants. I do not. At least, not since I hung up my crown.

But say you are just some unassuming Mormon baseball aficionado who reads the Washington Post. You turn to your favorite news source to learn more about how America’s pastime is interfering with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and you end up getting redirected to an article about a reality show set in Charleston, S.C. You keep reading, thinking you’ll stumble across mention of legendary Mormon first baseman Wally Joyner, but instead you just come across a retelling of a custody dispute at polo match. Does this misrepresent Charleston?

My answer is no. I say this because even though Southern Charm may not represent my experience of living here, I understand that there are many facets to the city. I don’t think anyone who watches this show is using it to pick their kid’s preschool or plan a family trip. Southern Charm may depict Charleston in the same way that Gilligan’s Island depicts being stranded in the ocean, but neither show is really hurting anything. Now let’s see what Thomas Ravenel and the gang have in store for us this week.

click to enlarge Too many horses - SCREENSHOT
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  • Too many horses

The season’s fourth episode begins with T-Rav stopping by J.D.’s house to talk about last week’s polo debacle. It turns out that after she stormed off from the match, the very pregnant Kathryn had to go to the hospital. This is legitimately scary. In some Faustian bargain, Thomas thinks he needs to co-sign for Kathryn’s house to ensure the health of his unborn child. J.D. suspects that Thomas is being manipulated. All I can think of is that J.D. has a horse on both his hat and shirt. That is too many horses. Is this better or worse than the Polo shirts with the giant jockey logo across the entire front? I mean, it’s definitely not worse, but it is distracting. I’m trying to focus on Kathryn’s visit to the horsepital — I mean, hospital. Dammit! Moving on.

Thomas caps things off by saying if he can handle prison, he can handle the final months of Kathryn’s pregnancy. Damn. That is some real talk.

The episode then brings us to Shep, who is en route to make sure Craig submits his application for the Bar exam. During his drive to Craig’s office, Shep has a phone call with Cameran who tells him all about her diarrhea. This may seem like a weird thing for Cameran to mention, but bear in mind that Shep actually stands for Stool Health Emergency Professional — Don’t take a BM without sending a DM to your best friend. Shep!

click to enlarge Everyone on this show holds their phone like it is a hotdog they are about to eat - SCREENSHOT
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  • Everyone on this show holds their phone like it is a hotdog they are about to eat

Anyway, Shep meets up with Craig at his office. When asked about his new job, Craig says he is cool with the hotel stuff, but really thinks he can run with the bourbon side of the business. What?! The business involves both hotels and liquor? Is this Deadwood? Does Craig need to start figuring out Miss Kitty’s cut of the profits? I am lost with all this.

We then cut to Cameran as she joins two friends for a super-uncomfortable lunch. How uncomfortable? After being honest with her two female friends, Cameran gets shamed for not wanting to have a baby. Cameran even goes as far to say that she underwent genetic testing in hopes that she would find some terrible flaw that would serve as an excuse to not procreate. Is this seriously what it is like to be a woman? I tried to think of, like, a funny equivalent for men, but there’s nothing. Not grilling? Nope. Not the same. Quit trying to make Cameran have a baby, society!

Later we find Craig stepping away from his bourbon and hotel empire, to spend his lunch break with Landon at the spa. Craig jokingly asks if taking a trip to the spa is what “normal people” do during lunch, and I can definitively say that it is not. Unless a trip to the spa involves nervously eating yogurt at your desk while you wait for someone to yell at you, this is not what most people experience on a normal work day.

With all of that out of the way, it is now time to talk about something I’ve been awaiting for at least two weeks, at most a lifetime — Patricia’s flamingo party. I guess in terms of how far Southern Charm veers from my reality, the flamingo party is the pinnacle, which is probably what makes it so compelling to watch. The preparations for Patricia’s party have been interwoven throughout this episode, but I’ve chosen to save this topic for last because there is just so much to unpack.

click to enlarge Just another day at the office for a Charleston fortune-teller - SCREENSHOT
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  • Just another day at the office for a Charleston fortune-teller

First off, Patricia mentions the importance of mathematics when arranging a cocktail tower. Remember this clip next time we need more funding for STEM. Next, Patricia asks if the fortune-teller for the party looks like a fortune-teller. This is an incredible question to ask. I would not have been so bold as to question the legitimacy of the fortune-teller’s attire, but it is clear that Patricia has been burned before. Fortunately, the fortune-teller saw this coming and has dressed the part.

Fun fact: When I was a kid, a fortune-teller and friend of the family named Cookie told me that I would lose an eye in a terrible accident. She may have said more than this, but the eye stuff was all that really stuck with me. The lesson in all this: The future is a nightmare and fortune-tellers shouldn’t speak to children.

Back to the party. To give you an idea of what real power is, Patricia can say any random thing — such as flamingo party or hedgehog stroller — and it will become reality. It is this ability to bend the future to her will that makes Patricia so enchanting. I imagine when the fortune-teller tried to get a read on her, it was like staring into infinity — a drunk, pink infinity.

During the flamingo party, I realize that some women are referred to in the subtitles as Shep’s friend and some are designated Shep’s “friend.” What the hell, Bravo? That’s kind of a shitty thing to do to a person. I get that you’re trying to tell me that Shep has relations with numerous women, but to say some are friends and some are “friends” seems like a bridge too far.

Anyway, a man named Cooper, who looks like a sunburnt child dressed as Thomas Wolfe, pulls our hostess to the side to discuss Kathryn. Cooper seems to be attempting to hedge his bets in the whole Kathryn/Patricia schism, but the Lady of Flamingos is having none of it. She deems Cooper a “poor man’s Truman Capote,” which I’m sure you’ll recognize as the classiest of burns. Might want to put some butter on that, Coop.

The party then devolves into a fight between Thomas Ravenel and Kathryn’s pal Jennifer, who people keep referring to as “Snowden.” This is incredibly confusing, as the worlds of classified government information and Southern Charm are incongruous. Realizing that Edward Snowden and Shep exist in the same reality is a good way to shatter your mind.

Returning to the spat between Thomas and Jennifer, this plays out like the other episodes of Southern Charm that I’ve seen. Our cast of characters gather at a party thrown for no reason, yet is nicer than most weddings. Two people argue to the delight of others. Then everyone rides home in a golf cart. In this way, I can say yes, Southern Charm is an accurate depiction of Charleston. 

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