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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TV: Party Mamas Episode Made Me a Self-Loathing Jew

Party mama Lisa

My beautiful and intelligent wife Tracy lived for years without cable television, subsisting solely on the 13 or so channels a shiny metal antenna could pluck from the ether. The introduction of full blown digital cable (with DVR) into our home was akin to European colonizers giving blankets to Native Americans. Where I possessed years of immunity to the depths of VH-1 and E!, my wife's neurological system was flooded with reality TV stimulus. The next step down the ladder here is a hardcore reality TV addiction -- and WE's (the women's entertainment network apparently) show Party Mamas is like the crystal meth of this particular genre.

Here is WE's own description of what they hath wrought every week:
" Gone are the days of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and pizza parties - it’s time to supersize! Spoiled and excess meet their match when these moms pull out all the stops to throw the best party ever for their little darlings. "

This is reality TV distilled down to it's purest form. Most reality TV falls into two categories predicated on two of the basest human emotions: pity and greed. Sometimes, as on The Apprentice there is a complex intermingling of the two. We either feel superior to the subjects and pity them, or feel inferior and want what they have.

The twisted harridans of Party Mama's fall squarely into the pity category (as do their helpless offspring) though for some people they could just as easily fall into the envy category which is where the show hit an especially tricky nerve for me.

The episode we were watching, titled "Lisa" after the nutso mom-du-jour concerned, centered on the Bar Mitzvah of her spawn Mitchell, a child with the bloated self satisfaction that comes from a steady diet of breast milk and moolah.

The sheer spectacular prodigality of the affair in question coupled with the oxygen depleting neediness of party mama Lisa unearthed a feeling in me as a rare as an a ACLU member at a Tom Tancredo fundraiser: Shame. Pure unbridled shame. I'm not a religious person. I don't wear my ethnic identity on my sleeve. But this episode of WE TV's Party Mamas made me ashamed to be a Jew.

I can't pinpoint exactly when it happened. Was it when Lisa browbeat her husband into a trip to the Jaguar dealership where they purchased a new Jag for her to offset the hefty sum they were laying out for their son's entry into manhood? Was it the son's lesson in hip-hop dancing, which he would put to use on a stage in front of 300-odd guests and backed by a group of professional dancers? Was it Lisa's counterstrike of hiring a voice coach and writing a godawful song about Mitchell growing up and learning about "Internet porn"? Could it have been Lisa's eager rumormongering that "Barbara" (Streisand, natch) was in town and just might make an appearance? Or was it the "money booths" filled with eager kids trying to snatch "money" swirling around them in a vortex -- the same fake money that would later come down from the ceiling of the cavernous space in which the celebration was held?

If I had never met a Jew and only knew what I saw on TV, I would imagine a money grubbing people who welcome their hand raised veal-like children into a privileged world with an orgy of currency porn and vapid self-gratification. I felt like Alan Keyes watching Pimps up, Ho's Down, or Mitt Romney after being subjected to a Big Love marathon. Well maybe not exactly like Romney.

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