Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: Boxcutter on a Silver Platter

Season 4, Episode 12

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 2:00 PM

‘I am become Death. Destroyer of dinner parties.’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘I am become Death. Destroyer of dinner parties.’

Hey everybody. I want to start off this week’s column by discussing an interesting email exchange I had last week. At the start of what turned out to be a 14-hour bus trip back to Charleston, I received an email with the subject line “Your column is awful.” This, as you can probably guess, was not a good start.

This reader had happened upon my Southern Charm recaps and was less than pleased with the convoluted and unfunny nature of my writing. Since I was prepared to spend the rest of the evening trying to reconcile sleep with the permeating smell of a bus chemical toilet, I decided to respond to this critic, asking what she would have preferred from a column that outlines the adventures of the Southern Charm cast, which usually center on ornate dinner parties and arrested development. Should there be fewer references to ’80s Southern rock bands and French deconstructionists?

Anyway, after changing buses three times and washing myself in a bus station men’s room where the hand soap was stored in a Powerade bottle resting on the sink, I eventually received a response from this particular reader. She apologized for her somewhat harsh statements. She had a bad day, like we all experience all too often, and acknowledged that maybe my Southern Charm recaps just aren’t her cup of tea. She said she wanted things a little more straightforward, possibly with fewer fictional renditions of Thomas Ravenel’s magical khakis or Whitney’s alien birth. It was a rewarding exchange, and although I don’t think that reader will be returning, I want to thank her for her candor. She reminded me of one of the main reasons I decided to write this column.

I know not everyone who reads this column watches Southern Charm. That’s always seemed pretty cool to me because it means you are either here for the schadenfreude or the writing — either of which I fully endorse. But some of you watch the show and probably even enjoy it, and choose to check in to see what I have to say about each episode, even though a very vocal group of people exist who call Southern Charm and most reality television the bane of existence, fall of Western civilization, or other such hyperbolic threat.

This is perhaps the most absurd thing about Southern Charm. All too often the people who have never seen the show take it far more seriously than its actual fans.

And not only do you watch the show, but you also apparently have specific tastes when it comes to the style of each episode recap. This is great. In this world of uncertainty, the fact that at least one person knows exactly what they want in terms of weekly columns on a Charleston-based reality TV show is reassuring. As always, you do you — which is the theme of this week’s episode.

It’s peanut butter time - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • It’s peanut butter time

Starting things off, Shep arrives at Chelsea’s house with a mysterious oblong box, which proves to be a repeated thing in this week’s episode — mystery boxes. Chelsea answers the door and admits that she is eating jar of peanut butter, which is the culinary equivalent of a cry for help. Being the George Washington Carver of awkward late-night visits, Shep enters Chelsea’s home and immediately gets in on this peanut butter thing, even though Chelsea lacks crunchy peanut butter. Amen. There is perhaps no clearer sign that we have strayed too far from a caring god than creamy peanut butter. It is a monument to man’s hubris, and Shep understands this.

Shep tells Chelsea that he is there to apologize for making a move on her in last week’s episode. He partially excuses his actions by saying he was “blind drunk” and compares himself to a fish who spotted a shiny lure and decided to eat it. There is no better way to persuade a woman in your favor than to compare her to a hooked worm or chum bucket.

Shep clarifies that he doesn’t think Chelsea is “that kind of girl,” by which I guess he means the kind of girl who would be easily seduced by Shep in the back alley of a bar.

Meanwhile, Kathryn stops by Cameran’s house to discuss the big upcoming birthday trip to Key West, which Cameran sees as a last hurrah before she becomes a mother. There is no clearer sign that you are ready for motherhood than the compelling urge to leave the state. Maybe this will lead to Cameran checking more things off her pre-maternity bucket list, like pulling off one last bank heist or getting back into witchcraft.

The face of someone who is thrilled to become a parent - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • The face of someone who is thrilled to become a parent

Cameran then informs Kathryn that Landon will also be going on the big trip. Kathryn tells Cameran that her misgivings with Landon stem from a moment after she and Thomas broke up. According to Kathryn, she and Thomas had planned a trip together, but after Kathryn was out of the picture, Thomas took Landon on the trip instead. Cameran is shocked. Looking back on the trip, both women refuse to believe that Thomas and Landon slept in separate beds for the duration of the three-day vacation. Of course, we all know that Thomas sleeps standing up like a horse because it makes him feel closer to his prized polo steeds.

Also, every shot of Thomas sitting alone in his giant house makes me wonder what he actually does with his free time. I imagine him just hiding in grandfather clocks, waiting to jump out and scare the maids. Thomas is like the kid from Blank Check, if that kid had just used all his money to refinish the hardwood floors. If Pixar were to make a version of Inside Out featuring Thomas Ravenel, his sense of Joy would just be wearing a barrel with suspenders and be prone to crying fits.

Back at Craig and Naomie’s House of Silent Resentment, Craig is toiling away on a onesie for Cameran’s hypothetical baby. Naomie arrives home and is justifiably curious why her boyfriend is crafting children’s clothes in the middle of their living room. Craig is playing a dangerous game here. If you impose upon OshKosh B’Gosh’s territory, you run the risk of waking up in a romper.

In debating if their strained relationship can handle the pressure of a trip together, Craig argues that Naomie is much nicer when they aren’t at home. Naomie clarifies that she is only terse with Craig when she gets home from a long day of work because she doesn’t think he does anything while she is away. She calls this a phase, saying he’s in between activities.

Craig tells Naomie that he should never feel he has to do things to make her happy, which is the opposite of being in a relationship.

“Do I have to live the rest of my life with you questioning everything I do?” asks Craig.

Yes, Craig. That’s what relationships are: You each try to slowly grind the other person down into something you can begrudgingly tolerate for the rest of your lives. That’s why romantic relationships begin with a “crush” and end with your partner trying to back over you in the driveway.

Over at Patricia’s house, Whitney is disguised as Rivers Cuomo for some reason. He is summoned by his mother just as her butler Michael brings her champagne and a boxcutter.

“How chic,” Patricia says. “I just love a boxcutter on a silver tray.” “

Everyone does,” replies Michael, who has surely killed a man.

‘Pinkerton is underrated.’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘Pinkerton is underrated.’

We are given very little explanation as to why Patricia needs a boxcutter, but maybe it is some innovative power move she’s trying out. Invite someone into the room to speak with you. As they take their seat, have someone hand you alcohol and a killing tool. Ask them about their day.

As with most things this episode, conversation quickly turns to the trip to Key West, which Whitney declares to be a “shithole.” He and Patricia then take a break from disparaging popular travel destinations to finally address the boxcutter in the room, which will most likely be used to open the massive package sitting on the floor next to Patricia. She explains that she purchased something at an auction.

We are then treated to a flashback of Patricia bidding on an item over the phone. She wins with a grand total of $32,500, which may as well be all the money in the world. Patricia tells Whitney that a lot of people may think that she paid a lot of money for the mystery item, but it is actually worth twice as much. I don’t think this is how money works, but what do I know? My biggest investment will likely be the Sam’s Card that I’m saving up for.

Patricia finally opens her mystery box, which contains a golden elephant clock thing, which are only known to appreciate in value.

Pictured: Someone’s annual salary - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Pictured: Someone’s annual salary

Catching up with Chelsea and Austen, they are going to meet Austen’s parents for dinner. Recounting the incident between Chelsea and Shep, she begins to walk back her comments about exactly how aggressive he was with her in the bar. This proves to perturb Austen, who called Shep out on his behavior last week, endangering their friendship. Grilled on when she last spoke to Shep, Chelsea neglects to mention the peanut butter.

Arriving at the home of Austen’s parents, everyone sits down to dinner and Chelsea immediately starts mining for embarrassing stories from Austen’s childhood. First his mother says he liked to “push the envelope” which I have no idea what that could even mean. Was he a junior aviator? Did a prepubescent Austen break the sound barrier? Did he spend the family fortune trying to get the Spruce Goose off the ground?

We then hear the adorable story of how Austen tickled people’s feet in church on Palm Sunday, and how he once upset his sister to such an extent that she ripped out a chunk of his hair. These are two very different stories. One is an adorable anecdote about childhood antics. The other is assault.

Finally, the cast sets off for Key West. All the women folk gather on a small stretch of private beach and begin to have a conversation which will immediately lead to a fight. Listening to this conversation is like watching a group of people dare each other to stare into an eclipse. Cameran recounts Kathryn’s description of the fateful trip between Thomas and Landon that led to such great strife. Landon calls it all lies. Chelsea decides to take Kathryn’s side in this whole debate, while Cameran says they should treat Kathryn like a “wounded bird.” Nothing is gained from this heated chat, but we do eventually see everyone get into full vacation mode.

Landon declares herself queen of the beach. Shep finally arrives and immediately attacks the ocean like an eager cocker spaniel. It’s great.

‘Have at ye, Poseidon’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘Have at ye, Poseidon’

Shep then shows up at Austen’s room with two beers he probably found in the ocean. He offers Austen a mea culpa following their last fallout. They settle their grievances, which Shep symbolizes by showing Austen the matching shirts he purchased for them. The shirts have huge fish on the back and they agree to wear them. It’s adorable.

Everyone then gets ready for the big dinner. It is very telling that the greatest challenge facing our cast is a large group dinner in Key West.

As everyone goes to catch the bus to dinner, we are introduced to Danni’s fiance, Todd. Apparently, we are all surprised that Todd was able to make it to the beach even though we don’t really know anything about Todd. He seems like a nice, normal guy, which means I want to send in Seal Team Six to rescue him from the shitshow that is about to ensue. Seriously, Todd probably has some interesting things to say about insulation and mortgage rates. Todd probably owns two movies: Mel Gibson’s The Patriot and Cannonball Run. Todd is the man you call when you need to fry a turkey. Please don’t include Todd among the casualties of this weird, passive aggressive dinner.

Todd represents the best in all of us - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Todd represents the best in all of us

Arriving at the restaurant, everyone orders drinks. Fresh out of rehab, Kathryn decides she’ll order a margarita because she is “on vacation.” JD asks the waitress if they have his brand of bourbon because he manages to mention his bourbon brand in every single scene in which he appears. If you look closely at scenes in which JD doesn’t speak, you can see “Gentry Bourbon” written on his forehead.

To top it all off, Craig orders a beer glass of white wine. Get ready everybody. This is about to get bad.

Cameran kicks things off by turning down a shot from Thomas, informing him that she has to “prepare her body to get pregnant.” Sensing an opportunity to be disgusting, Thomas says Cameran should figure out when she is ovulating and have her husband “shoot it in ya at least three times.” Thomas is the posterboy for abstinence and locking yourself in a room away from all men.

Not to be outdone, Whitney asks what the odds are of Thomas and Kathryn hooking up again. Continuing his parade of assholery, Whitney explains that he’s been doing a lot of transcendental meditation, which has led him to the understanding that Landon and Kathryn should settle their differences. Tonight. During dinner.

She’s right. It is weird. - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • She’s right. It is weird.

Whitney grabs Landon by the arm, drags her across the restaurant, and deposits her next to Kathryn. Landon and Kathryn attempt to be civil and avoid a knock-down, drag-out, but Craig decides this moderate behavior isn’t real enough for a 33rd birthday party dinner in Key West.

Craig demands that these two grown women say what they hate most about each other because he believes this will settle things. Meanwhile, he rejects the notion that he can be in a relationship with someone who critiques him for sleeping past noon.

Danni tells Craig to remove himself from the situation because he’s not a woman, and everyone tells him that he’s ruining everything. Craig calls the rest of the group children for not fighting and returns to his seat. He has clearly won the day. Naomie asks that Craig chill out with trying to facilitate everyone’s personal growth, and he says if she continues to correct him they will need to separate for the evening.

Unfortunately, the bell cannot be unrung with this whole Landon and Kathryn thing. Landon begins to open up to Kathryn, saying that she believes that Thomas uses her as a weapon against Kathryn. Thomas is super hurt about this. His face registers betrayal. Either that or someone is shining a flashlight in his eyes. It’s difficult to tell with him sometimes.

Tears begin to well up in Landon’s eyes as she tells Kathryn she wants the best for her and that as women, “They are all they really have.” She punctuates this with the best hug ever.

As the cast assembles to set out for the rest of their evening, the camera quickly pans over to Todd. Good ol’ Todd’s been pretty quiet this evening. He’s probably just been thinking about which hammers are best and pontoon boats. Bless Todd and everything he stands for.

Jumping to the next morning, we find the gang gathered for breakfast. Everyone is beautifully hungover. They look like mannequins that someone rescued from a fire. We soon learn that Todd left for home first thing in the morning because Todd has never taken a day off work. And he’s had a full-time job since he was seven.

So I was mistaken in last week’s column when I wrote that this would be the final episode. We’ve got one more ahead of us, so join me next week as we see the thrilling conclusion to The Worst People to Go On Vacation With: The Series.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: Ain’t that Tuff Enuff

Season 4, Episode 11

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 2:35 PM

Your face when you realize you hate everyone you know - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Your face when you realize you hate everyone you know

Like the last gasp of a gutshot fawn, the penultimate episode of this season of Southern Charm begins weakly with Shep cleaning his room, Austen loading the dishwasher, and Landon walking her dog. It feels as if everyone has forgotten that they are on a TV show. Pulling away from the miserable chore hour, we find Thomas meeting up with JD at an empty restaurant for a chat.

Dressed in what could best be described as a Prince-ton of purple, JD looks like the villain from a live-action Candy Land movie. He invites Thomas to enjoy some lunch as they catch up. Thomas replies that he just ate but will join him for a bite because — as you should know — Thomas’ life is one big lunch. This is why he so often wears the sleepy, yet uncomfortable expression of a man who ate too big a hoagie before succumbing to heat stroke.

‘Stick with me and we’ll make it through Molasses Swamp’ - SCREENSHOT
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  • ‘Stick with me and we’ll make it through Molasses Swamp’

Thomas says that he has decided to let Kathryn borrow their child for a modeling session. A lot of people may turn their nose at this parenting decision, but I say the earlier you introduce your child to the world of modeling the better. Some less-fortunate children have to wait until adolescence before they start questioning their appearance. Luckily for me, my parents would circle all my “unsightly areas” with red lipstick on the first day of school each year. I was given two options: I could finish my teacher’s reading list and win a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut or wear a trash bag during recess to sweat off all that so-called baby fat in time for swimsuit season.

Back to Thomas and JD’s lunch, we are soon treated to the greatest revelation in the show’s history. After Thomas tells JD that he and Landon are dating, we are treated to a flashback that show’s Landon discovering Thomas’ book of poetry. Thomas quickly grabs the book from Landon and refuses to speak on it anymore, but I think we all know what’s inside the book.

Thomas’ poems are most definitely handwritten pages containing every lyrics from The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ breakthrough 1986 album Tuff Enuff. Breaking out his finest calligraphy set, Thomas painstakingly rewrote Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson’s original lyrics: “I’d lay in a pile of burning money that I’ve earned and not even worry about getting burned. I’d climb the Empire State Building, fight Muhammad Ali. Just to have you baby close to me. Ain’t that tuff enuff?”

Hinting at an inner insecurity, Thomas will forever wonder if he is in fact “tuff enuff.”

‘Well I'm gonna treat you like the queen you are. Bring you sweet things from my candy jar’ - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • ‘Well I'm gonna treat you like the queen you are. Bring you sweet things from my candy jar’

From there, we join Landon and her father as they meet to drive to an undisclosed location. Landon explains that ROAM — her travel website — was dealt a setback because she is legally prohibited from calling it ROAM. Yes, this is quite the dilemma. Fortunately, Landon has a backup plan that involves her opening a restaurant called Landon’s McDonald’s and they’ll screen unlicensed Disney movies in the back. Their slogan will be “It’s not your fault if it’s in the vault,” and their logo will be Iron Man telling you the McFlurry machine is being cleaned.

Arriving at an empty lot that closely resembles someone’s last-known whereabouts, Landon’s dad offers her the deal of a lifetime. He is planning to develop the land and asks Landon to oversee the project. The commission would be around $200,000, which is a fraction of what she would make if she sold Thomas’ book of poems.

Landon is reluctant at first, saying she had hoped to make a living off her website. Her father replies by saying that hope doesn’t pay bills before asking Landon to walk down a secluded dock with him.

On a totally unrelated note, has anyone else been in a situation when they thought their dad was about to murder them over a real estate deal? That seems like the worst. I mean, your parents have your entire life to learn your weaknesses and study your fighting style, while you only have a few brief father-son days at the fighting pits.

Four lots will hold a lot of bodies - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Four lots will hold a lot of bodies

Anyway, Landon echoes the theme of last week’s column, saying that accepting her father’s deal and marrying Thomas would be the easy way out, but it just feels like giving up. Like a young Daniel Plainview, Landon says she wants to bet on herself, and she wants everyone else to bet on her as well. That’s not exactly how gambling works, but I applaud the spirit.

Over at Shep’s, we find him reading and eating lunch. Cameran is shocked and slightly disturbed by this scene. Shep says he needs to move to the beach to create a buffer between himself and downtown life, which he feels is leading him down the wrong path.

Cameran then compares her and Shep’s situations in an effort to persuade him to pursue Chelsea, while simultaneously reaffirming her own decision to have a child. She says they both have a problem with being vulnerable. They are happy now, Cameran says, which completely undermines her life-changing decision to become a parent.

But Shep responds by saying that he isn’t happy. He wants to change.

Instead of sticking with this interesting personal struggle, we then skip over to watch Kathryn pick out clothes for the photoshoot. Chelsea and Cameran join and it is just an incredible nightmare.

As Kathryn is in the changing room, Chelsea tells Cameran that she should do a “sexy photoshoot” for her husband before she gets pregnant and her “body goes to shit.” This continues the trend in this week’s episode of people pointing out horrible things that we are all aware of. Everyone knows that hope doesn’t pay the bills and that the human body is subject to change over the course of a life. You don’t have to go around pointing out reality to people like you are imparting some great wisdom upon them. It doesn’t make you look intelligent. It just makes you look like a genius at being an asshole.

Despite all that, Cameran decides to invite Kathryn and Chelsea on her birthday trip to Key West — on a week’s notice. Everyone they know is coming along. That sounds horrible.

Moving along, we find Austen stopping by Chelsea’s salon to invite her to meet his parents over the weekend. She agrees but then confesses to an interaction she had with Shep the previous evening. As she and Austen were hanging out at a bar, Chelsea says Shep pulled her aside and tried multiple times to kiss her or something to that effect. Apparently Shep claimed they had plenty of chemistry — but let me tell you, chemistry is just a class between foreign language and math, so pardon my French, but that shit just doesn’t add up.

Austen is justifiably angry, totally unaware of the sick burn that I just wrote. It appears no turn of phrase can unturn the frayed ends of their friendship. Good thing Austen isn’t meeting Shep and the guys later for drinks. Oh, wait. That’s exactly what is happening.

Austen, Craig, Shep, and Whitney meet up, and the group almost immediately begins debating who is in the wrong in this love triangle. They seem like the type of table that would insist on shouting their server’s first name during every interaction.

‘I think our waitress is totally sweet on us. I should illegibly scribble my number on the bill.’
‘I think our waitress is totally sweet on us. I should illegibly scribble my number on the bill.’ - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • ‘I think our waitress is totally sweet on us. I should illegibly scribble my number on the bill.’

Confronted with his actions, Shep first says his move on Chelsea was simply “a test” to prove her loyalty to Austen or something because Shep is apparently the self-elected arbiter of faithfulness.

Craig then says that Shep attempted to canoodle Naomie when they were first introduced. Finally, Whitney interjects to say that Austen should have been more up front with the true nature of his and Chelsea’s relationship. It is at this moment that Shep recalls the events of earlier in the season, when he and Chelsea were socializing and Austen began to court Chelsea while he was out of town.

During this moment in the evening when most people would say, “Let’s all go away from each other,” our group of dudes decides the solution to the rift in the evening is finding a new bar. Not surprisingly, they walk through the doors of another bar and the argument continues. Austen reveals that Shep said he was too much of a poor to date Chelsea. Shep denies these claims before deciding to leave. Good thing all these guys aren’t going on a big trip together to Key West in a week.

Of course, there is no better way to follow this night of drunken in-fighting than a mother-daughter photoshoot. Thomas and Kathryn meet up along with their daughter for a nice modeling session. This all goes very well, and there is not really much to say about it, until it becomes time to leave. At this point, Kathryn’s daughter begins to cry when faced with the reality that she can’t spend any more time with her mother due to custody issues. I’m surprised that Chelsea or Landon’s dad don’t pop up at this moment to tell the sobbing child that tears won’t fix her family and childbirth could have ruined her mother’s body. Where’s that patented real talk when we need it the most?

Skipping ahead, it’s time for another horrible couples therapy session with Craig and Naomie. Craig opens things up by informing the therapist about a recent party where he was embarrassed by Naomie’s announcing to the other guests that he mistook “pescatarian” for “Episcopalian.” The flashback to this moment looks like some sort of cheesy murder mystery dinner party, but everyone is the killer. And the victim? Human decency.

It’s like Clue, but you all compete to be the victim - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • It’s like Clue, but you all compete to be the victim

Another point of disagreement is Craig sleeping the day away while Naomie is busy at work or studying. She calls this “loser behavior,” but Craig says he stays up late because he is “trading offshore markets.” This should serve as the perfect excuse for the next time you’re late to work or miss your child’s recital. A master overseas trader, Craig violently rips off his shirt in the middle of their therapy session to reveal a tattoo that reads, “There’s no time to sleep when the yen is weak.”

After an earlier meeting with Chelsea, Cameran decides it’s time to set Shep straight about his recent behavior. Joining each other on a dock, Shep confesses to Cameran that he did try to kiss Chelsea, which leads Cameran to ask if he can calm “that primal urge” in any way — this coming from the woman who commissioned a love doll fueled by the most ancient magics to secure Shep a woman.

Cameran then explains male entitlement to Shep. This concept proves so novel and confounding that the planets cease to spin. A tired sun hangs low in the sky, casting shadows that stretch far across the land. The flowers fortunate enough to have escaped the neverending shade whither before disintegrating and returning to bloom. Unstuck from time, Death looks to find who has escaped its exquisite trap. There, seated at the end of a lone dock remain Cameran and Shep, unmoored from the rest of reality and debating Derrida’s politics of sexual difference.

Will the natural order be restored before next week’s episode? Tune in to find out.

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Terrace Theater presents screening, panel of All Eyez on Me this Thurs. June 15

Going deeper

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 10:09 AM

The Terrace screens All Eyez on Me, the true story of the late (or, so they say) rapper Tupac Shakur, this Thurs. at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. After the film, viewers will hear from a panel, presented by The Terrace, Black Collective (a Charleston-based news/entertainment platform), Monster Music, and local radio station, Star 99.7. You can buy tickets online.

The panel discussion following All Eyez on Me explores "artistry in the era of activism." In addition to his music career, Shakur was an activist, born to parents Afeni Shakur Davis (born Alice Williams) and Billy Garland, members of the Black Panthers. His social consciousness often came through in his songs, at least according to Billboard, which lists 10 times Shakur was "at his most woke."

This Thursday's panelists include Star 99.7's Sheila "Savannah" Johnson; hip-hop artist, Port Baby; rapper, singer-songwriter Dkay the Artist; and hip-hop and rap artist Mossy B 4 Prez.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Orange is the New Black evokes the Charleston shooting, but fails to follow its own message

‘Doing a Charleston, South Carolina’

Posted by Dustin Waters on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 3:48 PM

After a lengthy list of references to other mass shootings, Charleston is mentioned in the season five premiere of Netflix's Orange is the New Black - SCREENSHOT/NETFLIX
  • screenshot/Netflix
  • After a lengthy list of references to other mass shootings, Charleston is mentioned in the season five premiere of Netflix's Orange is the New Black
There is a running gag in the season five premiere of Orange is the New Black wherein several guards and inmates in the midst of a prison riot casually allude to the nation’s most high-profile mass shootings. With confusion swirling over whether a sadistic armed guard has set out on a rampage through Litchfield Penitentiary, various members of the cast reference the massacres at Columbine, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech. The episode is about 22 minutes in by the time they finally make it to Charleston.

Of course, the audience already knows that the rumors aren’t true. The prison uprising is set off when a guard (Humps) responsible for an inmate’s death is disarmed after sneaking a handgun into the prison. An inmate stops short of executing the guard, instead opting to fire a round into his leg.

From the safety of a secured office, a guard looks out at the chaos of the riot and radios his fellow guards to ask if the rumors of the shooter are true. Is one of their fellow guards “out there really doing a Charleston, South Carolina?”

Despite the clumsy nature of the phrasing, it’s difficult to not be struck by the line. While it’s easy to argue that the reference is in poor taste, it’s also clear to see what the writers of the show intended. Dropped into the middle of an active-shooter situation, the references to mass shootings pile up. Whether spoken by a guard or an inmate, each mention is intentionally informal. A guard says someone has “gone all Virginia Tech.” An inmate smears menstrual blood on her face in an effort to trick a guard into allowing her into a locked room.

“It’s Aurora, Colorado, out here, and we’re all in the movie theater,” she shouts in a fake panic.

Then there is the aforementioned line, which questions if the guard is “doing a Charleston, South Carolina.”

On the eve of the anniversary of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church that claimed the lives of nine parishioners, it’s difficult to dismiss the true effect the tragedy had on the Charleston community when watching this episode of Orange is the New Black. But with that in mind, it’s also important to consider what exactly the show’s writers are trying to say and how effective they are at communicating that point.

Clearly, the show is offering up some form of commentary on the prevalence of high-profile mass shootings in America and in some way asserting that we have become somewhat callous to these acts of violence. This can be seen by the fact that none of these lines of dialogue are given much weight, with the episode relying on the accumulation of references to tragedies to drive the point home.

This train of thought runs through an episode that focuses on the fallout of the death of a female inmate at the hands of the very same guard who is incorrectly suspected to be carrying out the mass shooting and spends most of the episode bleeding out from a gunshot wound. Orange is the New Black has always deftly maneuvered between comedy and drama, and this episode makes it clear that there are repercussions to death and violence.

While inmates comically scramble across the prison to round up supplies, drugs, and, in one case, carved soaps, one group focuses on getting some form of justice for their murdered friend, Poussey Washington. They want her name to be remembered, her story to be told. Meanwhile, another inmate rushes to save the life of the wounded guard — if only to prevent the addition of a murder charge for the young woman she’s chosen to protect. With that in mind, it’s difficult to say that Orange is the New Black fails to recognize the pain of losing a loved one or handles violence carelessly. What does become apparent over the course of this episode is that the heavy-handed commentary on mass shootings is left as merely a side note rather than permeating the story.

With many of the characters believing there is an active gunman on the loose, no one ever looks truly afraid for their life. What pleas for help we do hear serve as just further opportunities for the characters to namedrop the scene of another attack. By choosing not to show the fear associated with an active-shooter scenario, the episode undercuts the point that it tries so hard to make. It points out that there is something wrong with how the nation acknowledges mass shootings, but becomes guilty of this very crime. This becomes apparent in one short scene.

As a group of guards fight to round up a few escaped inmates, two women find themselves face to face on the ground after being seized. One woman, clearly belonging to a gang of skinheads, looks up at the other woman who was just pulled down to the ground by her long hair. She tells the woman that she probably wishes she would have shaved her head to show where her loyalties lie. The other woman snipes back, “I’m not a fucking Nazi skinhead. I’m a white nationalist.” With the prisoners subdued, two guards high-five overhead.

Played for comedic effect, this scene comes just seconds before a guard evokes the Charleston mass shooting where nine black parishioners were murdered by a white nationalist bent on starting a race war. Had these two scenes been set further apart, this off connection may have gone unnoticed, but occurring right next to each other, it’s hard to ignore. And with that, the episode loses whatever leverage it may have had in trying to expose the way people respond to mass shootings.

It’s easy to say that people often fail to really acknowledge the true roots of these shootings. But it’s even easier to make that point without having a white nationalist deliver punchlines in the same breath.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: The Nadir of Beer Dong

Season 4, Episode 10

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Just lean into the turmoil - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Just lean into the turmoil

Hey everybody. Usually, when I try to decide on a theme for these recaps, I randomly decide on a topic I feel like discussing and clumsily try to reshape that week’s episode to fit. This is because most episodes of Southern Charm fail to conform to any unified idea. They are all just a series of random glances into the lives of the cast, all leading up to a party that collects everyone in the same place so they can yell at each other. Up to this point, I thought I knew better than whatever the show was trying to say. But not this week. This week the show was as clear as it has ever been — because this week is about giving up.

Ya see, throughout this season, I’ve viewed each episode through the advanced screeners sent to reviewers by the nice people at Bravo and NBC Universal. But last night, as time began to run out on writing my recap, I opened my laptop and realized my viewing window had expired. This forced me to go back to the old ways.

Since I don’t have cable, in the past I’ve used a friends online account to stream episodes of Southern Charm through a TV at another friend’s house across the state. This elaborate network of favors and technology got me through the first season and it saved me this week, but it also places me at the mercy of Bravo’s late-night schedule. This means that I got to see what plays on television right before the 11:31 p.m. replay of Southern Charm. This is what I saw.

Beer Dong, not to be confused with Penis Pong or Table Wang - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Beer Dong, not to be confused with Penis Pong or Table Wang

That’s it guys. We’ve reached the mountaintop. No need to keep pushing. With that image in mind, let’s dive into this week’s episode of Southern Charm, with a strong reminder that maybe we could all just go to sleep — just lie down in our beds and watch Netflix until the heat death of the universe.

We start out this week as everyone gathers to celebrate the first birthday of Thomas and Kathryn’s son. Everyone is gearing up for the party. Naomie is putting a nice clear coat on Craig’s toenails. She snaps at him a bit after he criticizes the job she is doing, which brings me to this: There is nothing wrong with a man painting his toenails. But maybe learn to do it yourself? I believe this is one of the main points that Thoreau tried to argue for during his time at Walden Pond, wondering if he should go with matte or shimmer finish.

Anyway, Landon calls Thomas to say she can’t make it to the party, which sounds like a great decision. While en route to the birthday celebration, Patricia asks Cameran if they can expect anything other than a petting zoo, her question dripping with disdain. Petting zoos make no sense to Patricia. For her, animals are either for eating or wearing. There is no need to comfort the meat.

Kathryn arrives at the party, and she and Thomas suffer through a bit of strained small talk, while Thomas crushes a LaCroix like some sparkling water He-Man. Somewhere at LaCroix headquarters, a marketing exec begins pitching a commercial idea where a shirtless Thomas Ravenel dismounts a horse after a heated polo match and a young child offers him an ice-cold LaCroix. Thomas downs the can, looks at the wide-eyed young boy, and says, “Hey kid, catch” before whipping the empty can back into the kid’s face and calling security.

“LaCroix. It’s French. For Something” flashes across the screen as the sounds of a small child being beaten play in the background.

‘You got the right one, baby’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘You got the right one, baby’

Skipping ahead to something that actually happened, Landon joins Jennifer(?) on a rooftop bar to catch up. I know I have seen this woman before many times, but I’m still going to qualify her name with a question mark because she feels like some half-remembered dream. She has all the familiarity of an aunt you only see at funerals. Someone could tell me that this is her first appearance on the show, and I would be afraid to correct them.

Before fading away, the shared hallucination that is Jennifer(?) shares a glass of champagne with Landon before telling her to enter into a relationship with Thomas. She couches this advice in the tired cliché that you “regret the things you don’t do.” That doesn’t really make a lot of sense because while you may regret the missed opportunities in your life, you will live with your mistakes. These mistakes will go on to burp LaCroix in your face on a daily basis and ask you to shave their back before every polo match.

Meanwhile, we find Thomas paying a visit to Patricia. Patricia continues her efforts to push Thomas and Landon together, and Thomas confesses that the two recently went to dinner together. Thomas says there was a time when he could see Landon as a future “Mrs. Thomas Ravenel” because when you marry Thomas, your identity is subsumed completely. Patricia then recounts the time when men “really knew how to court women,” and would call on young damsels and bring flowers. Yep, women used to have it much better back in the days when men were welcome to randomly appear and demand that they leave the safety of their homes.

Following this, we meet up with Cameran as she visits her therapist. She asks Cameran what has been going on in her life lately, and Cameran responds with the phrase that every mental health professions fears: “A psychic told me...”

It turns out that Cameran, a fan of the mystic arts, has taken the psychic’s comments about her having a child to heart. Also, she followed her husband out to the dock one day, and he was apparently just staring at the water, looking sad, and saying he wished he had a child with which to enjoy the view. After all her struggles against deciding to be a parent, Cameran finally gives in. She says she is going to have a baby. I mean, her husband needs a dock buddy. That complete stranger who claimed to predict the future said it was going to happen. Why not just resign yourself to becoming a parent?

The face your therapist makes when you mention the psychic - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • The face your therapist makes when you mention the psychic

Skipping ahead to someone else who is ready to give up, Landon gets a call from her business partner, who says she’s been up since 2 a.m. It turns out they still haven’t settled upon a new name for ROAM, their travel website, after it was revealed that at least one other business in the world has decided to call itself Roam. Landon tells her business partner that she’s been up for days as well. It’s probably been hours since she drank any champagne on a rooftop, but Landon has a short list of replacement names for the business. Possible replacement names include Starbound, Gallivant, and Hitchhiker, because there is no better branding idea than to name your business after the preferred method of travel for escaped mental patients in the 1960s. Helpful articles on the website can include “Top 10 Ways to Not Leave Your Hook Hand on a Young Lover’s Car” and “Take this Quiz to Learn If You Are the Zodiac Killer.”

The face of sympathy - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • The face of sympathy

Seriously though, if they don’t nail down a brand for this website soon, the only available domain names left will be www.ingrownhairfacts.net and ru.wenis.gov.

Anyway, Landon decides to ignore the cries for help from her business partner because Thomas arrives unannounced with a rose. The two go on a short walk, after which Landon finally gives in and agrees to pursue a relationship with Thomas. Like a weary triceratops struggling in vain as it sinks into a tar pit, Landon stops fighting against her better sense. This is the romantic equivalent of drinking a beer in the shower. You haven’t completely given up on solving all your problems, but you have acknowledged that you won’t be fixing anything today.

Leaving behind these two love birds, we join Naomie as Craig drives her toward a surprise. While the two chat about the inevitability of death, their cat Gizmo roams around the interior of the vehicle. They hit up the drive-thru at McDonald’s and receive all of the ketchup packets, before ultimately arriving at the surprise Craig promised — his new rental house.

‘We’ve inherited a tragedy with these catsups’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘We’ve inherited a tragedy with these catsups’

Proud of his new property that Cameran sold him, Craig immediately lets his cat rub itself against every surface in the home, ensuring that future renters always wonder why their eyes won’t stop itching.

Later that evening, Shep continues the theme of men showing up on women’s doorsteps as he arrives at Chelsea’s. Saying he was just “in the neighborhood,” Shep helps himself to a beer and some wine and the entire contents of Chelsea’s refrigerator. Asked about her relationship with Austen, Chelsea says they are just keeping things casual, which stokes a fire under Shep.

The following morning, Cameran arrives at the beach house Shep is supposed to buy, but he never arrives. Quick question: Does Cameran only sell homes to her friends? I mean, it would make sense. They buy a lot of homes.

Anyway, Cameran enters detective mode to track down Shep. She calls Chelsea, who informs her that Shep left her house last night after a few glasses of wine and took an Uber downtown to meet his cousins. If ever there were a shorthand for making a series of bad decisions, it is “He took an Uber downtown to meet his cousins.”

Hey, what ever happened to Kirk Cameron? He sure was great on Growing Pains.”

“Oh, he took an Uber downtown to meet his cousins, if you know what I mean.”

We soon find Cameran arriving at Shep’s home. After a series of unanswered knocks, she pushes open the door. As I wrote during the preview for this season, Shep’s kitchen counter looks like the contents of a shark’s stomach. There are beer cans and ashtrays and probably a license plate or two scattered around.

For some reason, as I watch Cameran slowly creep through Shep’s darkened apartment, I imagine that when Shep gets drunk he places elaborate networks of Home Alone-style booby traps around his home. Like, Cameran has to dodge paint cans as she climbs the stairs to check on her friend.

Cameran finally reaches Shep’s bedroom door. You know how if someone calls and wakes you up, you’ll pretend you weren’t sleeping. They can tell from the sound of your voice that they woke you up, but you insist that they are wrong. Shep goes in the opposite direction as Cameran enters his room and adopts the posture of someone who has just been born.

‘I have melded with the bed. We are now one.’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘I have melded with the bed. We are now one.’

Freshly ripped from the Matrix, Shep asks Cameran how she made her way into his apartment. The door was unlocked, Cameran tells him, concerned about his lifestyle choices and the state of his home.

As the two talk, a stray coyote wanders across the bottom of the frame, chewing on a rotten jack-o’-lantern. Two raccoons can be seen fighting over the remains of a rotisserie chicken suspended from the ceiling fan. The camera pulls back and it is revealed that Shep’s apartment is an elaborate, thriving ecosystem of garbage animals subsisting on discarded wedding cakes and off-brand energy drinks. Outside the home, a buzzard perches atop Shep’s mailbox, awaiting the inevitable.

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