Man-Child Reality Television: A Perverse Form of Entertainment

loser-brett.jpgThose of you that came across our humble blog hoping for (1) a creepy pro-NAMBLA tirade and/or (2) a review of Herbie Hancock’s excellent album Man-Child will be very disappointed. Readers, over the weekend I found myself hung over and in desperate need of mindless drivel on TV. Of course, anyone in search of mindless drivel should turn on cable television, so naturally I found myself watching several reality shows on VH1, all of which had, as a common denominator, two things: (1) fourth tier “celebrity” men acting like (2) man-children.

First, I witnessed Rock of Love with late 1980s tight leather pants, possible drag queen, hair themed band Poison, featuring Brett Michaels. Poor Brett, he just wants to find a woman who can “dig” him for who he is. Come on, he wants nothing but a good time. So, in order to find such a “score” he gets a bunch of women to live in a house together with him and humiliate themselves in a variety of ways, whether working as a team to put together a motorcycle for Brett or posing in various positions for Brett while he takes snapshots in an effort to satisfy his adolescent fantasies. To what ends, you may ask? Well, competing for different prizes, such as “one on one” time with Brett, either on a date, or on alone in his room for a conjugal visit it would seem. At the end of the show, Brett pathetically hands out “back stage passes” via his hulking bodyguard and asks, “Will you accept this backstage pass and continue to rock my world?” Ack.

Next was Chachi himself, Scott Baio, in 46 and pregnant or something like that. This gem chronicles Scott and his young buxom blond wife through pregnancy. Poor Scott faces trouble when he want to leave his pregnant wife behind and go to Las Vegas for a man-shower. Or, watch as Scott “freaks” out about being a dad. Yawn. Finally, and probably the most pathetic, is 49 year old Christopher Knight, Peter Brady himself, and his nymphomaniac, white trash, not so super model wife. I don’t recall what this was called, My Fair Brady and Maybe Baby, or some such. Watch as washed up and absolutely off his rocker jackass Peter Brady gets mad at his model wife for posing nude with another woman to give him what every man supposedly wants, some girl on girl action. Oh, readers, poor nympho model, for Peter Brady gets mad at her for cheating on him with another woman and threatens with divorce! The episode ends with some crying and both acknowledging, “Boo hoo, we both have baggage…we both need to work on ourselves.” Truly the understatement of the fucking year.

Now, we could certainly and easily psychologize all of this, but I neither have the time nor the interest (comments that do so are of course welcomed as long as they aren’t of the I’m going to pretend I’m Zizek and imitate him type). Rather, as someone who has been trying to think the connection, or re-think the very notion of performance art after reality tv or even the in-distinction between performance art and reality tv (here, here, and here) these three shows seem to me to be the exact place not to start. Once again, if performance art at its inception was to be “radical,” and reality tv hints at some of the same type of work, there may be a way in here, perhaps through the concept of shamelessness, as I had once thought. Sadly, though, these particular shows are nothing less than a reflection of our broader American trash culture: the infantilization of grown men living out their pathetic pornographic fantasies, in other words, man-children. Next time on Dr. Phil, Man Children and the women who put up with them by desperately seeking their approval. What did I do Brett, why don’t you like me anymore? Did I not wash your stupid bike with a toothbrush in a bikini while you watched, did I not succumb to all of your other humiliating contests?

Yet, I would like to see a performance artist go onto Rock of Love. Imagine, such an artist could simply say to people “if you want to know what my work is all about, watch the show, I was a contestant.” That would be interesting, and the question is of course, why might this be more interesting than the other contestants on the show who are doing it for you know, exposure, or am I being to cynical? Well, for one, I think we can all agree, Brett Michaels needs some good old fashioned irony in his life. But is that all? What about the recognition that one of the contestants was a performance artist would change the viewing of the show? Or does it change the viewer?

Stay tuned. Shit, I almost forgot, “kick it CC.”

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