Big Little Lies was remarkable television. Did you watch it? That series felt to me like a fucking Super Bowl that gloriously spanned seven blissful weeks. It had everything I long for in my entertainment – everything. Phenomenally layered performances by actresses at the tippy tops of their game? Check. Sweeping pans of treacherous bluffs that simultaneously read as luxurious and bitingly haunting? Check. Wardrobe that captured each character’s essence, from the floral fit and flare dresses on Madeline to the power suit dug from the depths of her closet and her soul on Celeste to the diaphanous dress probably made out of hemp that still couldn’t hide the sculpted and sinewy yoga body on Bonnie? Check. A soundtrack that had me whipping out my phone every ten minutes like someone had set an egg timer so I could Pandora the hell out of the show and add every single tune to my playlist causing me to later belt out the words you bloody motherfucking asshole as I planked on my living room floor and then hum the absolutely perfect and totally melodic theme song when I applied conditioner to my hair in the shower? Check. A mystery I couldn’t hold out on so I bought the book and read it in less than a day and knew who the killer was and still applauded when the actual crime finally went down that Sunday evening on HBO? Fucking check.
Having to remove Big Little Lies from my DVR almost caused me to bawl my eyes out, but at the same time I’m into the limited series trend that’s happening right now. Some of the finest writing is being done for television and many of our most gifted actors will appear on shows that are guaranteed to last for only a season so they can delve deep into a character, get nominated for an Emmy, and then move on to doing something else they’re passionate about. This is not to say that I don’t harbor hopes that the rumors about a second season of Big Little Lies are true. Had a forest been in the vicinity of my home, there’s a slight chance I would have been compelled to walk there and light a candle during one warm twilight in an effort to sway the powers that be to greenlight season two immediately. Then again, all those Smokey the Bear commercials that used to air on Saturday mornings when I was little and up watching The Smurfs have sunk in deep so no matter how badly I want to hear Madeline tell someone to go fuck himself on the head one more time, the truth is I’d never strike a match while standing in the depths of the wilderness.
And so I moved on from Big Little Lies. Notice, my friends, how I didn’t say I moved up from the show because down to the depths of hellish TV did I slide to get myself a new fix and that slide took me as far away from compelling twisty storylines set on the gorgeous Monterey coast as is humanly possible and instead to the boozy streets of Charleston where I landed with a thud in the land of Southern Charm. I’ve written about Southern Charm once before. During a brief bout with a miserable cold, I stayed in bed for a few days and watched every single episode from every single season and I got hooked and wrote about my reactions in a piece entitled Prince Charming is a Fucking Pig. (Speaking of which, heeeeey, T-Rav!) Anyhoo, my newest descent into the world of these monsters is not about being even more critical of a man who looks alarmingly like a deflated Shar Pei and longs for the days already gone by when a particular pair of magic khakis managed to get him instantly laid. No, this particular piece is about the ladies of Southern Charm who, in my eyes, will only fully redeem themselves when they band together and break into Thomas’ house in the dead of the blackest night to steal those khakis and then torch them under a full moon while Cameran twirls in gleeful circles around the fire because she’s finally fulfilled her destiny to be the whitest witch of all time.
And speaking of Cameran, we’ve learned all sorts of things about her recently:
She had purple hair in high school and still managed to nab the title of Homecoming Queen in an environment where such a thing probably matters.
During the hours when she wasn’t trying on her tiara and sash, she liked to creep into the woods with her book of spells to practice the ancient art of hoodoo.
She has returned to her interest in spirituality and is doing her very best on camera to conjure up a love interest for Shep. As for what she’s looking for in her matchmaking endeavors, Cameran is hoping to manifest the kind of woman Shep won’t shove out the door first thing in the morning after promising to call her one day never so they can go to some half-off wine night. Her Shep goal is fine, but a large part of me is praying to my own hoodoo goddesses that, off-camera, Cameran is conjuring up a pair of testicles for Craig because that dude is perhaps the least conventionally virile man I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
But other than attempting to compel Shep to pull out a sword and engage Hamlet-style in a duel with Austin for Chelsea’s heart and loins and her staggering ability to not laugh directly in Craig’s face for a full fifteen minutes when that weenie declares the house she shows him way too shitty to be a part of his imaginary portfolio, Cameran isn’t doing much on this show – and that’s probably why I like her. The girl shows up to every event right on time and manages to wear the perfect ensemble everywhere she goes and she becomes extra giggly when she gets extra drunk. We’re in season four now and Cameran has never once suggested a fellow cast member fall upon a knife. Not once has she sat across from a new mother whose baby needed brain surgery on the day it was born and attempted to steer the conversation to how unfair her own life is. Cameran has a job she actually goes to, a husband who stays away from any and all Bravo lenses, the ability to do pull-ups in a manner that would cause my own trainer to keel over in shock if I ever managed to master that kind of form, and hair that never frizzes, not even during a ridiculous second baptism held outside in August during the height of South Carolina’s humidity.
Cameran’s main role on this series appears to be Attractive Middlewoman, a conduit, if you will, to the conflicts the others will eventually engage in. She shows Craig real estate so he can later fight with Naomi about his never-ceasing delusions of grandeur. She announces that Chelsea is the one mystical unicorn tromping around this vast planet and only she can bring a definitive end to Shep’s practice of humping all the other humans who were born with fallopian tubes and a total lack of judgment. It doesn’t really matter that Chelsea and Austin seem to have something going on or that Chelsea was all but dropped into this show by producers who basically asked viewers to immediately buy – without any sort of evidence – that this woman is the walking manifestation of the Holy Grail. I guess it also doesn’t matter that Shep’s already scored himself a spinoff called Relationshep – motherfuck, I wish I was kidding – so whatever storyline revolves around Shep falling in real love this season is already kind of a moot point since Bravo’s already announced the guy is currently traveling the globe and pretending to look for his soulmate. You’d think all of these factors would basically render Cameran useless, but despite the legitimate narrative limitations she’s plagued by, she still manages to appear impeccably accessorized and authentically sane. A small piece of me really hopes that one day soon she will grab Naomi, whisper some sense into her ear in French, and the two of them will skip happily away from these cameras and towards a place where only normal women are invited to bask in the sunshine, a place where men who embroider cats on pillowcases for sport are forgotten like fever dreams.
I actually touched my hand to my forehead to make sure I hadn’t come down with some ravaging fever of my own during the scene a few episodes ago when Kathryn met up with Jennifer, the aforementioned mother of the baby who was lucky to survive just being born. At that point, I wasn’t sure anything could shock me more than the moment Kathryn wandered into a modeling agency wearing no makeup, her invisible eyebrows triggering some sort of Pavlovian response in me that caused me to quickly sprinkle holy water in every single corner of every single room in my home, but the redhead’s insistence that Jennifer had somehow betrayed her by accepting Thomas’ handkerchief while she sobbed during the reunion about not knowing if her pregnancy would result in a viable child was almost too much for a mere human like myself to take. Kathryn and her rampant selfishness and her stunted adolescence and her vigilant fight for a respect she’s never bothered to earn terrify me, but nothing scares me more than her flat dead eyes. The only time during this entire series I’ve ever seen a glimmer of light shining out of those fucking corneas was on the night she managed to trick Thomas into 1) believing he’d knocked her up after what was supposed to be a one-night stand and 2) when she listened as he said (while drunk off his ass) that, should she actually be pregnant, he’d throw his full financial support behind both her and the pretend fetus. Those were the times her eyes shined brightly, while she manipulated a drunken moron and then believed the lies he spewed about a financial windfall coming her way, which he breathed through a smelly haze of bourbon. Come to think of it, her eyes looked half-alive during one other moment. Remember when Thomas invited everyone over for dinner and, instead of handing out appetizers or regaling his guests with stories about his bridge-building ancestors who would probably come back to life just for the opportunity to deny the guy’s lineage, he chose to insult each person savagely while Kathryn beamed with pride? Her eyes looked sparkly that night also because the one thing she maybe believes more than anything else is that it’s so much nicer not to have to be an asshole on your own.
I think any mother who loses custody of her children is already in a rather tragic place, so I don’t want to say too much more about this particular dead-eyed strand of succubus; I don’t need to add to her misery. I also don’t want to pretend, not even for one second, that the parent who ended up with custody of those kids is a good person. While the children appear safe and cared for, they’re also residing in the guesthouse of a man who willfully selected the single most fertile and single least stable woman in all of America to birth his offspring. The guy’s a fool. He’s a man who guzzles alcohol and impregnates a twenty-year-old while they’re broken up – and he’s a man who did this twice. He unironically stood before a mirror and a camera both and saluted himself before heading out for another evening of fifty-year-old debauchery and I will not even entertain the idea of him being a feasible partner in any sort of romantic relationship, not when I see his existence as bad for both the female sex and humanity in general. But even in relation to such an tragic idiot, Kathryn still comes off like the crazy one and her brief televised moments of lucidity when she was on the phone with Craig or downward dogging with Shep do not erase the recent stories about her showing up at her baby’s recent baptism without shoes on her feet and without self-control anywhere in her body. Now, I don’t know if such things actually transpired; I wasn’t invited to that baptism (an omission for which I’d like to thank God and the Academy), but the stories that dribbled out include tales about the mother of this child standing up in a church and shrieking that Thomas slept with the baby’s nanny. I don’t know if this story is true or if this girl is back on drugs or if she’s currently mid-mental-breakdown or if she’s a shiny example of how someone totally normal can be fried from the inside out by an exposure to reality television, but what I do know is she is almost clinically preoccupied with who her ex maybe/might have/could one day sleep with and it long ago reached a place of unhealthiness. Part of me wants to say a few more things about the depths of real insanity I saw onscreen during Kathryn’s no-food lunch with Jennifer because that scene chilled me to the fucking cartilage, but I’m too scared. Last week I contributed to a Huffington Post article about the lessons we’ve learned from the Kardashians and let’s just say I was pretty sarcastic – as I believe one should be when speaking of that family. (See for yourself! I have no idea how to post a link, but feel free to copy and paste the following into your browser: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/deep-thoughts-on-keeping-up-with-the-kardashians_us_590d172ce4b046ea176aeb5d) Therefore, saying anything further about Kathryn strikes me as throwing dry birch and a gallon of gasoline onto an already piping hot garbage fire so I’ll stop here and just sweetly suggest that, should I disappear, perhaps someone can recommend to the police that they question any reality show participant whose name starts with a K.
You know whose name doesn’t start with a K? Landon! (“Craig” doesn’t start with a K either, but I don’t want to say too much more about Craig right now. I’d so much rather use embroidery to say that he’s the kind of idiot who complains that his far-too-good-for-him girlfriend is airing their dirty laundry to other people…while he’s speaking to a camera on a reality show he keeps signing up for. And I’m gonna need a California King pillowcase to embroider all I’ve got to say about that dipshit.) But Landon – sweet, squinty, stupid Landon – I don’t fear her in the least. I realize she could potentially trash me on her of-course-it’s-legit travel site, the one that does so exist, but I’m not too worried about that as my guess is nobody visits that site of hers. But while I do not fear her, a bit of me does pity her.
I’m not much in the habit of tossing pity towards reality show participants. Though some are mystifyingly naïve and cannot see beyond their generic visions of fame and fortune, the genre as a whole has been around for far too long for anyone to act shocked when they end up on one of these shows and then come off looking horribly. Landon comes off horribly. Still, she exhibits a different form of horrible than all the other horrible people peppering our airwaves. Landon is not traditionally evil. She’s not like that guy on Survivor who lied about his grandmother dying or that other guy who recently outed a fellow contestant as transgender in an effort to illustrate, as he put it, that his opponent must, at his core, be a total liar. She’s not twitchy and deranged like Ramona Singer on The Real Housewives of New York City, a woman who likes to begin each season with a brand new face and then uses that new face to illustrate shock when she’s not instantly forgiven for saying something cruel and incendiary, like how the entire Upper East Side is taking bets on whether or not someone will end up getting married or abandoned at the altar. Landon’s not that kind of reality star. She’s not intelligent enough to be a genuine threat and she’s not psychotic enough to be genuinely interesting. She’s just annoying. She’s a woman who dresses like Big Bird for a causal dinner party and giggles at every sentence as long as it’s said by a man with money and she inexplicably draws out every syllable of every single word so just hearing her say “hello” requires two and a half minutes of screen time.
I don’t think being annoying makes you a terrible person and I certainly don’t believe the vitriol Landon must continually be confronted with online is due to her extra-long greetings. I’m pretty sure the projected hatred she’s experiencing is because of her palpable desperation and her mildly delusionary nature. Landon clearly doesn’t want to be single and that’s okay. What’s not so okay is how she’s entertaining the notion (while wearing a microphone) that Thomas is a legitimate possibility for a mate. The man has two children with a fucking demon who hates Landon more than she hates herself for losing custody of those children and Thomas is a former convict who had a drug problem and perhaps currently suffers from some sort of alcohol-related affliction while choosing to appear on a reality show that covered the night he received less than 4% in a national election. At what point could Landon have possibly looked at any of those factors, shrugged, and then screamed, “Score!” Really – I want answers.
You know what else makes me pity this woman? She sat next to Thomas at Patricia’s fix-up dinner and clapped her hands with girlish excitement when Whitney asked Thomas if he would require Landon to sign a pre-nup should the two ever get married. First of all, unless you’re the one drafting it, a pre-nup is no reason for applause. Second of all, while playing Imaginary Divorce & Division of Assets is all sorts of fun – I’ve heard it’s a Roam-worthy parlor game – the fact that she didn’t turn to Thomas and grandly roll her eyes when he declared that no, he’d never require Landon to sign such a document, infuriated me. This is a man who, until he had full custody, allegedly barely supported his children. In what bizarre fucking universe can Landon even pretend to believe the bullshit he’s spewing out in an effort to eventually nail her because he’s just as desperate as she is?
I could very well be in the minority here, but I am of the belief that nothing sexual has happened between Thomas and Landon. Though Kathryn’s head spun in concentric circles during the reunion because she believes otherwise, my guess is T-Rav has never seen the girl naked – and maybe it’s because he refers to himself in the third person as T-Rav. I do not, however, believe that Landon’s high standards are why she’s thus far avoided this weasel and his perfect pair of khakis. I think it was her former longing for Shep that kept her at bay, even though nothing but embarrassment came from it. Not for a minute do I begrudge her sharing her feelings with a man she cares about – I think that sort of emotional transparency is a positive thing – but I was reminded of what a jerk she is when she sat down with Shep at the launch party of a website that barely exists. See, Shep heard some stories that Landon behaved like a witless snob in front of investors and he rather kindly approached her with the information in an attempt to stop her from embarrassing herself in the future. Landon’s response? To get immediately defensive and then stalk over to her sister and announce that Shep basically just told her she is a bitch. Okay – that never happened. What did happen was it was finally proven that Landon doesn’t much care for trucking with reality, not when it’s easier to listen to fantasy subtext so she never has to experience that sting of self-awareness. I know of that which I speak of here. I have a few family members who almost exclusively hear subtext that doesn’t actually exist and it’s fucking exhausting. And the subtext they think they hear is always negative and it’s impossible to convince them that the real message behind “Pass the salt” wasn’t “I’ve always hated you and you kind of look fat in that outfit.” I dream of a world where the only hidden messages some people hear are compliments. I’ve even tried to usher such a thing into existence by declaring Seinfeld-style “You’re so good-looking” whenever they sneeze, but my efforts have yet to make any real headway.
Maybe Landon is exactly the kind of person who should be on a reality show. Sure, she’s annoying as hell, but she’s illustrated time and time again that she’s perfectly willing to go back for more – more rumors about dalliances that may or may not have occurred, more questions about the legitimacy of her website – and my guess is she’ll stay with this series until she lands herself a wealthy man because not a single bit of me believes anything is more important to her. But for the sake of everyone in Charleston and on this hemisphere in general, I truly hope that man will not be Thomas because I’m quite sure Kathryn will react by not just telling Landon to go fuck herself on the head, but by knocking that head right off. No worries, though. That head will definitely be carted to the reunion – and it will giggle at the very first mention of a pre-nup.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter