Liar

Look at me, up and awake before seven in the morning on a Sunday! Who would have ever thought that would happen? I feel surprisingly awake and alert and rested this morning, given the early hour and all, but that’s okay. When you’re awake, you’re awake–so I figured I might as well get up and get a jump on the day. I will be going deep into the edits of A Streetcar Named Murder today. I ran the errands I needed to run yesterday, got some organizing and cleaning done around the house, and started the deep dive into the edits yesterday–most of the day was spent planning and figuring out things in the book that I didn’t have time to figure out when I was actually writing it (mistake mistake mistake; how do pantsers do this all the time?) and with my lesson firmly learned, am ready to get cracking on fixing the errors here and clearing up and tightening up the story. I want to be finished with it all before I leave on Thursday, because it will be very hard for me to finish it while I am in Kentucky. (And I’d rather spend whatever time I have free while I’m up there reading, frankly.) I’m getting a bit excited about the trip, if I may be so bold as to say so, which is a good thing; right now I am not even dreading all those hours in the car–I have Carol Goodman and Ruth Ware novels to listen to in the car–and while I do have to go into the office tomorrow, I work at home on Tuesday this week and can packed and ready to go that day so Thursday morning I can get up, have some coffee, and head out on the highway early.

There’s also some straightening and organizing I need to get done this morning–looking around the workspace is making me shudder right now–but it’s nice to feel rested and ready to go, honestly. I wonder what was so different about last night that I slept so much better? I’m not even going to check the Fitbit because I don’t necessarily trust its judgement and evaluation of my sleep, to be honest. I mean, it’s interesting to see how I feel vs. how it thinks I slept–but there are times when I wake up and feel rested and great but I supposedly slept poorly; and then mornings when I get up and feel groggy and tired and exhausted, it claims that I slept very well. I don’t know if I can trust it, and frankly, if it wasn’t part of the complicated system of trying to get cheaper health insurance through my job, I sure as hell wouldn’t wear it. Paul often buys me really nice watches as gifts and I never wear them–mainly because I am clumsy as fuck and inevitably break things that are nice–but the Fitbit…like I said, there’s this really complicated system of scoring points through a program that helps reduce the cost of my health insurance. I’m not entirely sure I understand it–I never really grasped it when it was explained eight or nine years ago–but I know I score points, earn a medal status (bronze, silver, gold) and if I get to silver, I don’t have any “out of paycheck” contributions to my health insurance, and registering my daily steps and how well I slept through the Fitbit scores fifty points per day. (The points also can be cashed in for gift cards; I always get Amazon to buy books, of course. Don’t @ me; the other options don’t really work for me.)

It looks to be a nice day outside my windows this morning, although it’s undoubtedly already incredibly hot outside. I’m hoping to manage to not go out into it much today–maybe taking out the trash or something–and I may be meeting a friend who’s in town for drinks later this evening (not too late, since I have to get up early in the morning), but other than that, I mostly plan to sit here at this desk and edit and revise and rewrite today. I also don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get this finished; I am hoping by focusing and working really hard and not allowing myself to get distracted I can power through and get this back to my publisher before I leave on Thursday.

One can always hope and dream at any rate.

We watched Hacks last night, and the most recent episode of The Offer, although I’m not really sure why we continue to watch the latter. I noticed last night that there are any number of shows we’re in the middle of (Severance, Pieces of Her, Slow Horses) that we forgot we were watching and thus will need to pick up again–it wasn’t that we weren’t enjoying them, but rather that we inevitably ended up having our viewing disrupted by something for several days and when we had time to go back and get caught up on things, we forgot we were watching them (we also never finished Physical either). It is interesting–I thought about this while watching The Offer last night–how many shows we’ve seen lately that were set in the 1970’s (Minx, Candy, The Offer) as well as what a great job they are doing depicting the era. I remember saying during one episode of Candy, “living this kind of life was my biggest nightmare when I was a kid, and they are doing a great job of showing how bleak and ugly and dull suburban life was back then.”

I also have started up again with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’d stopped watching last season because I quickly grew tired of the Erika Jayne/Erica Girardi mess–I’d never particularly liked her very much, but at least she was somewhat entertaining–but given that the great wealth she has flaunted ever since she joined the cast was essentially stolen from settlements for victims of great and horrific tragedies and she was completely unrepentant and tried to play like she was the real victim, I no longer felt any desire to watch a sociopathic narcissist who has knowingly or unknowingly participated in embezzlement, fraud and God knows what else. I’d reached a point where I kept thinking someone just needs to slap the shit out of that fucking crooked bitch and felt that giving them eyeballs and a rating point on Hulu was endorsing the fact that Bravo was enabling her and giving her a platform to try to redeem herself in the public eye, which was shitty. Sure, innocent before proven guilty and all that–but The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills isn’t a court of law; and the fact they milked her potential criminality for ratings was disgusting and craven. I don’t love to hate her, I just fucking hate her. And the rest of the cast–outside the newer ones–are equally garbage. I stopped watching The Real Housewives of New York during its most recent season because I couldn’t watch the blatant racism being offered up as “entertainment.” Fuck you, Bravo, and fuck you, Andy Cohen. The Real Housewives shows have become a microcosm of everything that is wrong with American society and culture: there’s no accountability for anything. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: people are rewarded for being horrible.

It also makes me feel like I’ve always been incredibly na├»ve about the world, believing that being a good person means you’ll be rewarded and bad people will be punished for their wrong-doing, when the harsh reality is quite the opposite. I feel like I’ve been gaslit most of my life, frankly.

Which, of course, always comes back to me being a crime writer. I want to see justice being done. I want to see evil-doers punished and good people rewarded for their goodness. I want to write about a world where murderers and criminals are caught and punished, their victims avenged; not the real world where the wealthy can hire great lawyers and outspend the prosecution to get off, while so many innocent people who cannot afford great lawyers are convicted or talked into taking plea bargains every day and doing time while having committed no crime other than not being able to afford a great lawyer. (I’ve always wanted to write about a public defender–but who wants to read a book where the public defender loses every case?)

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Keep on Loving You

My friend Laura often says there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; that we should embrace anything and everything that provides us with entertainment because life is so damned fucking hard that we such take our joys and pleasures wherever we can find them and to hell with feeling guilt about any of it. It’s a wonderful theory that I’ve tried to adapt, but yet….somehow my reading and viewing choices inevitably make me feel guilty about some of them. I mean, when most writers-to-be were reading Faulkner and Hemingway and Barry Hannah and that other one–ah, yes, Raymond Carver–with an eye to Writing The Great American Novel, I was reading Harold Robbins and James Michener and Sidney Sheldon and any number of “trashy” novels.

My tastes have always skewed low, I’m afraid.

Take, for example, the Real Housewives shows.

Yet…something has changed.

I used to watch all the shows religiously, but finally I hated Teresa Guidice so much–and the fact that she kept her job after going to jail–pushed me away from watching New Jersey. I tired of Nene Leakes and her antics, so put Atlanta on the back burner; never watched Dallas or started Salt Lake City, and while I enjoyed Potomac, never could seem to remind myself to watch. I had eventually gotten to the point where I was only watching two: New York and Beverly Hills, but these current seasons of each have me wondering why do I still bother?

I bailed on the previous season of Beverly Hills before it finished–I had little to no interest in watching Brandi Glanville’s desperate attempt to gain relevance and get back on the show by slandering Denise Richards, and watching the rest of the cast gleefully torturing Ms. Richards over something that could have actually affected her custody struggle with her insane ex, Charlie Sheen was really not the kind of trash television I enjoy watching. I also really started hating Lisa Rinna, whom I’d always enjoyed before, to the point where all I want to do when I see her face is change the channel–let alone how grating the sound of her voice has become.

And while I did watch New York all the way to its bitter end last season, I found myself not really caring about their return this season, and yes, it took me awhile to get interested in even giving them another shot. I was actually of the mindset that, with all the things going on in the world and the pandemic and all, giving these women any more of my time was a waste, and have begun to think that the entire idea of these shows has run its course. In a time where a pandemic is killing people, anti-vaxxer ignorance is making things worse, and the country is being ripped apart over a significant part of the nation’s inability to look beyond themselves and have empathy for people being systemically oppressed…it’s hard to shut that reality off and enjoy the “reality” of spoiled, privileged women wasting their lives arguing over petty bullshit–particularly ones that are so self-absorbed to such a high level of narcissism that it really begs, if not for them to be institutionalized, but at the very least kept away from other human beings for the protection of society as a whole.

And that bothers me. Why has my opinion about these shows changed so dramatically? Is it the pandemic and all the racial reckoning we’ve been dealing with as a country and as a society? Or have I simply outgrown them?

It’s also occurred to me since I wrote about them in a (very thinly) veiled way in my last Scotty book–renaming the series The Grande Dames–that I can really no longer justify watching anymore. I definitely try to subscribe to Laura’s mentality about guilty pleasures, but as I have watched this season’s episodes of both shows, I find myself bored and not enjoying them so much. All shows tend to have a natural tendency to become less interesting the longer they run, and reality shows are no different from their scripted brothers and sisters. These shows are rather like soaps–that comparison has been made before by a lot of television and cultural critics (including the horrible Camille Paglia, which proves the old adage about stopped clocks)–which is why soaps regularly wrote characters out and brought in new ones to try to stay relevant and fresh. The night time soaps eventually ran out of steam–popular characters couldn’t be let go, and how do you keep the villains and heroes fresh when they continually have to make the same mistakes, over and over again, as the stories eventually end up repeating themselves?

I do think that’s what is happening, in my mind, with the Real Housewives…they’ve run their course, the long-running characters’ awful behavior and mistakes get repeated, over and over again, with every new cast member, and it’s hard to watch people behaving the same way for decades and never really learning and growing from the experiences. I guess that isn’t why people watch these shows–for character growth and development–the key to their popularity is how awful the women actually are, and how lacking in self-awareness…but having spent most of my adulthood shedding toxic people from my life as soon they make their toxicity known, it’s weird to watch shows for years about people who are primarily toxic at their core, with few, if any, redeeming qualities. But a show about a bunch of lovely women with money who are decent and do good things with their money wouldn’t be interesting to watch, either. It’s the conflict we watch for, I suppose, and the bad behavior, and deciding who’s right and who’s wrong and being entertained. And sometimes these shows are painful to watch as they go to really dark places occasionally–as I was watching New York yesterday, I found myself thinking about one character–who is clearly in a very bad place and when she drinks too much she blacks out and her behavior is horrifying–and wondering why no one in production, or no one else in the cast, is stepping up and trying to get her the help she so obviously needs?

But this out-of-control behavior drives ratings, I suppose, and that leads to the next question, is it okay to watch these women, who hunger for fame and attention, debase themselves and allow themselves to be debased for our entertainment?

I think that is what is driving my current discomfort with watching–and also driving why I am questioning having ever started watching them in the first place.

I also suppose as long as I continue to watch I can’t really criticize the shows, but I suppose I can critique them as well as the reasons why I watch them.

I also have a real problem with this season’s Beverly Hills primary story; the Erica Girardi/Erika Jayne “was she complicit in her husband’s fraud” story, playing out in real life as we watch how it played out when the story first broke…doesn’t sit well with me. Her decision to continue being the cold-hearted snake she plays on the show on social media–with not a bit of concern for the victims of her husband’s fraud; instead claiming martyrdom/victimhood for herself–will inevitably turn up in court when it comes to that; I cannot imagine what the fuck her lawyers are thinking letting her still have access to her own social media or not advising her to keep her fucking mouth shut while in front of the cameras is, at the very least, legal malpractice. If she even showed the least, smallest bit of concern for her husband’s victims…as opposed to making it all about her and what she’s “lost” (sorry your Sugar Daddy can’t steal more money to buy you jewels with)…I could be sympathetic….but yeah, go fuck yourself, grifter.

But given the state of our society and culture, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the grifting Girardis get away with their crimes. But if there’s no reckoning of any kind for her, and she remains on the show…I won’t be watching in the future.

At least the Giudices on New Jersey were white collar criminals who just didn’t pay their taxes. The Girardis–and Jen Shah on Salt Lake City–belong behind bars.

And maybe–maybe it’s time we stopped celebrated bad people behaving badly on television. I don’t know. But I am terribly disappointed with the producers for seeing ratings, instead of suffering. IMAGINE being one of Tom Girardi’s victims and watching her play victim? It turns MY stomach, and I am not one of their victims.

I don’t know. Maybe I can find joy in these shows again. But for now…I really don’t see how I can justify watching another season of either.