This week’s Friday Flashback, titled “Don’t get me started”, was originally published in March 2009.
Regardless of what you may have heard, I’m a pretty nice person. Tolerably humble, a ‘live and let live’ sort. True, I can be grouchy from time to time – particularly with young whippersnappers Pogo-ing across my metaphoric lawn – but that’s all bark (and as for its wit, hardly biting – zing! Saved you the trouble.) Now, when it comes to my inner snob, it’s a different story. I’ll be honest: my inner snob is kind of an asshole. Luckily, he’s a reclusive sort,1 and probably less motivated than Linda Evangelista on a random Wednesday in the early 90s. A few things make him raise an eyebrow, though. People named Cletus. Avid Twilight fans. Sarah Palin. And The Real Housewives of Orange County.
I know what you’re going to say: it’s a bit cheeky to raise a hue and cry about it, when you’re tuning in to watch (again and again) in the first place. I could respond with the usual justification reserved for things we’re too embarrassed to call ‘guilty pleasures’: it’s a train-wreck, and I’m milling in the vicinity like a paparazzo on a slow news day. I could say that, and it might even be marginally true – though this might be more appropriately described as a train-wreck that comes along and pokes you in the eye. But I’m not going to resort to justifications. Sometimes, a person does things without really knowing why – like picking at a particularly nasty scab, or reading poetry.
Admittedly, The Real Housewives2 is easy to pick on. It flaunts its own vapidity for one thing, perhaps understandably so considering that vapidity is by far its most endearing quality. This doesn’t really bother me; after all, I willingly watch shows like Gossip Girl. Here’s what bugs me though: these people are vulgar. No, wait – indiscriminately vulgar. Dress, language, manners, deportment, you name it. And yet, these are not people picked off the street by Maury’s minions for the 98347549th show exploring the age-old question of “who’s your daddy?” These are people who enjoy a certain status in their community and, more importantly, a certain amount of wealth. OK, maybe they didn’t come from privileged backgrounds, and didn’t have opportunities to absorb certain lessons at an early age. (Having said that, most people I know seem to have managed just fine, and it can hardly be said that I move in aristocratic circles). One would assume, or hope, however, that having ‘gone up’ in the world, they would make some effort in that direction. Or at least pretend for the cameras. Yet, an air of vulgarity clings to them persistently, much like stench on seventeenth century French aristos. They seem … oddly proud of it. I don’t get it. With oodles of money at their disposal, surely – surely – some might be spent on acquiring the slightest patina of class.3 The thought of that inevitably pisses me off. What’s the point of being nouveau riche when you can’t even be bothered to try to emulate the ‘old guard’? There are plenty of people who could put all that lucre to better use.4 But these people … these people don’t even care. Bah!!
Even though it may sound like it, I don’t begrudge anyone their wealth or their 15 minutes of fame. What my inner snob despises is the way in which some people choose to fritter the former. If this is the American Dream, then I want no part of it. There are many great and wonderful things in the world – and they’re not all gold-plated and diamond-encrusted, by the way – and, sadly, many of them cost more than my kidney on the black market. I’m not going to make you read a maudlin philosophical paean to Beauty here, save to say that there is such a thing (and it isn’t the same kettle of fish that the advertisers are trying to sell you), and there are worse ways to re-distribute your wealth than by chasing that ideal, if pure altruism doesn’t appeal to you. Heck, if you don’t want to chase Beauty, try Knowledge – I’ve heard she’s quite an accomplished lady. But whatever you do, by Jeeves, stay classy.
1. Yes, I did say “he”. Is that a problem? If Spike Jonze some day decides to make a film about my life and times, my inner snob would be played (voiced?) Stephen Fry.
2. A growing phenomenon soon to encompass New Jersey, of all places. I’m feeling more confident by the minute that my little middle-of-nowhere town can look forward to its own set of grandes dames by 2017.
3. And by “class”, I don’t mean anything to do with social rank. I mean taste and manners, and perhaps a certain modicum of style.
4. You could get the ‘goop’ on that from Gwyneth Paltrow, for example. I think it involves cashmere socks.
Editor’s comment (October 2012): Turns out that I was quite prescient about the expansion of the Real Housewives brand, given the most recent Canadian incarnation. After Vancouver, Toronto would surely be next (with Calgary to follow?), but there is still a possibility that Edmonton might finally “arrive” on the international entertainment scene at some point this decade. On the other hand, considering how heinous the West Coast specimens proved to be, do we really need a local gong show of that magnitude?
In other news, I’m still bothered about people with more money than taste. Not because I think there is something obscene or immoral about frittering away money, but because it offends my aesthetic sense. I know – so elitist of me. Blame my inner snob.
What does your inner snob – oh, you know you have one – get worked up about? And who would supply the voice of your inner snob?