Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Confessions of a Southern Charm newbie: Ep 5

The sweet promise of failure

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 12:34 PM

click to enlarge "I'm a nightmare!" - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • "I'm a nightmare!"
Welcome back, team. Thanks for joining me once again.

To give you all a little bit of insight into how this column comes together every week, apart from the Monday night ritual of watching each new episode, taking notes, and drinking to numb the pain, I do spend a pretty good amount of time thinking about other ways to approach writing about Southern Charm. This comes out in weird ways. Usually, I try to come up with a central thesis around which to examine each episode, but sometimes this translates into weird poetry I write while waiting in line at the grocery store.
What is it to write this column?
It is like tiptoeing into a garden of madness
Under the cover of dark
Plucking its most beautiful rose
And escaping unmarked
Now many might consider this a complete waste of time. There’s always that disdainful chorus of commenters who say Southern Charm, and reality TV in general, are a sign of the end times, but I guess my question is why? At what point will reality TV reach the point of acceptance that other genres enjoy?

Reality TV, as I consider it, has been around for about 50 years. In 1964, Seven Up! premiered in the U.K., which took a look at a bunch of seven-year-olds from different social classes and has followed up with them every seven years since that time. 56 and Up premiered in 2012. Think of it as Boyhood for those who are a little more patient.

Anyway, reality television has been going for a while — Cops, Real World, Survivor ­— a lot of people have specific memories attached to these shows. These are all big cultural touchstones, yet reality TV remains the Rodney Dangerfield of television genres — no respect and all that.

So far this season, I’ve talked a lot about how Southern Charm relates to Charleston and how everyone here relates to the show — be it good or bad — but we haven’t really focused on what the show says about existence in general. As we near the midpoint of this season of Southern Charm, I’ve begun to consider just that. This week I ask the bold question: What does Southern Charm say about modern life? And as I reach for that answer, all I can think is, “Heaven help us.”

Catching back up with the gang this week, we find Whitney receiving a call from a person named Larissa. This is apparently a woman who is romantically involved with Whitney and will be arriving in the coming weeks. That’s cool, I guess. The show does little to tell me how I should feel about this. Most programs would utilize music or editing to lead the viewer in how they should feel about certain things, but Southern Charm is above such tricks. Also, Whitney poses like he is all too aware that he is on a TV show.
click to enlarge Just hanging out, sittin' like a cool dude sits - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Just hanging out, sittin' like a cool dude sits
Then we find Kathryn meeting with Cooper for lunch. I have long suspected that Cooper is Bill Mumy from the Twilight Zone, but that is most likely wrong. It is much more likely that he was cobbled together out of discarded apple cores and given life. Either way, their waiter offers them “fresh water,” which I don’t understand the concept of. What qualifies water as “fresh”? What am I misunderstanding about water?

The meeting of Lady Kathryn and Granddaddy Applehead is juxtaposed with Whitney stopping by Patricia’s to discuss the fallout from the flamingo party. Regarding Cooper, Patricia utters the words, “I hope he enjoyed the flamingo party because I will never have him in the house again.”

This is brutally powerful. This is something that a person would say on Game of Thrones before an underling is cleaved in twain. Patricia’s comments just serve to illustrate the power that we grant those in society with access to flamingos.
click to enlarge Bill Mumy, 1965/Cooper, 2016 - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/SCREENSHOT
  • Wikimedia Commons/Screenshot
  • Bill Mumy, 1965/Cooper, 2016
Next we find Shep, the name of the active ingredient removed from Four Loko, joined by a female suitor/painter who has brought an easel to his home. She begins to paint him — like one of her French girls — but the true meaning of this scene escapes me, so let’s skip ahead.

Whitney, who is now dressed like a B-boy, meets with Landon to buy clothes for Shep’s birthday part, which will be roller disco themed. That’s right. Another party. Every episode, another party. Parties all the way down for Southern Charm, but at least Landon has rented a bus. Also Whitney looks like a back-up dancer. The mind reels.
Then we find Shep celebrating his neighborhood on his walk to work. What? Work? Yes! The mystery is finally revealed that Shep owns a business called the Palace Hotel, which is like a bar/eatery. This is a whole new side of Shep, whose name is also the medical term for a skin tag.

Cameran soon arrives to discuss the realtor business with Shep, but then we see some realness begin to shine through the old Southern Charm cover. Cameran has learned that Shep eventually wants to have kids and a family, despite his playboy lifestyle. Cameran has a difficult time accepting all this, but you’ll remember she has dealt with the pressures of starting a family in the past. The show may gloss over this, but I think the relationship between Cameran and Shep illustrates something important about how men and women are expected to behave in modern society. In previous episodes, Cameran has made it clear that she doesn’t want kids, yet she feels compelled to host dinner parties to prove she is ready for the domestic life. Meanwhile, Shep has been out tom-cating every night, and he can casually assert that he wants a wife and kids when he’s done having a good time. This doesn’t make Shep a bad person any more than it makes Cameran a martyr, but it does tell you something about how society pressures men and women differently — and it all happened on Southern Charm.

Anyway, Thomas and Kathryn are both moving into their respective homes. This is all very boring except for the fact that Kathryn has the ugliest piece of art I have ever seen. It is a gold glitter framed thing that contains three nonsense words. She is worried that she knows nothing about interior decorating. I believe the first step is to throw away that picture and spend the rest of your natural life cleaning specks of glitter from your home. Glitter is the herpes of decor — once it arrives, there is no getting rid of it.

In my favorite moment of the evening, Craig and Naomie have donned their sweats and are ready for a night in. Craig says he just wants to do “couch stuff” all evening, which is what I’ve been waiting to hear all my life. Naomie asks Craig if he wants to watch a “rom-com.” Of course he does. He’s great. Also, if your significant other asks you to watch a movie with them and you don’t have anything else going on, why would you say no? If you are turning offers like this down on the regular for no real reason, it may not be the movies you don’t like. We can’t all be Craig and Naomie, but we can ask them to adopt us, which is what I have my lawyers working on now.
click to enlarge Couch stuff, forever - SCREENSHOT
  • screenshot
  • Couch stuff, forever
Moving away from domestic bliss, we find Kathryn launching a cross-town tour of all the individuals she has deemed as “genuine.” How Kathryn became the arbiter of realness, I’ll never know. Anyway, this leads her to Danni’s door, and I must admit, I know Danni has appeared on this show before, but I have no idea who she is. This also mirrors real life, as sometimes you just can’t recall who the hell everyone is supposed to be. Also, Southern Charm is like Charleston’s version of Our Town. Everybody in the damn city makes an appearance, and I just can’t keep them all straight. Thanks for hanging around, Danni.

As Kathryn traces her swath across Charleston, Landon continues traveling door to door to tell everyone about the roller derby party she has planned for Shep. While visiting Thomas Ravenel to inform him of the celebration, Landon reveals that she will soon be meeting with some gentlemen from New York to discuss her travel-art-wine magazine/website. I cannot wait for this. Thomas tells her that once you have a vision, nothing can stop you, which is incorrect. Literally, anything can stop you. In fact, gravity does its best to stop us all the time. This is just one of the many invisible forces that fight us every day as we attempt to launch our own independent lifestyle publications.
click to enlarge Hello darkness, my old friend - SCREENSHOT
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  • Hello darkness, my old friend
Skipping ahead to the big roller disco party in celebration of Shep’s birthday, Shep explains how he was a skateboarder who used to kick the shit out of roller skaters. Faced with the prospect of a booze-less party at a skating rink, Shep says he has become what he despised. This is a fantastic moment. While Shep grapples with his own identity, Craig zips around the rink like joy incarnate. There may be no alcohol at this party, but we are all drunk off of Craig’s smile.

The episode ends with a big fight over Kathryn not being invited to the party and Landon’s deception regarding this matter. It’s difficult to take any of this seriously because the entire cast is dressed like Disco Stu. I keep waiting for the Harlem Globetrotters to arrive so that everyone can solve a mystery, but this never occurs. Instead, we are given a glimpse of next week’s episode which follows Landon to the Big Apple to pitch her wine-art-travel magazine to the people who fund such enterprises. I guess the true lesson of this week’s episode is that while we may be coerced into dressing like fools and not getting trashed at skating rinks, there is also the promise of hope in another person’s failure. And this is Landon’s true gift to us all.

See you next week.

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