And so we arrive at the final episode of Ex On the Beach. Three years ago or so, I would’ve claimed this program was the newest sign signaling the imminence of the End of Days, but since the world we’re existing in right now is so terrifyingly shitty, this show has somehow morphed, almost magically, into escapism. Allow me to be very clear here: I’m not saying this show is comforting escapism the way a quality program like The Good Place transports me all too briefly to My Happy Place. (Also: watch that show.) Ex On the Beach really only serves to remind us that a large segment of the population believes any sort of exposure is good exposure. The cast and their actions promote a quest for notoriety and an absolute refusal of growth. The women on this show allow the men to get away with total garbage and the men just shrug when the women act like total garbage and not for one solitary second do I believe — or do I care — if any of these couples have stayed together. I feel zero investment for any of them and I’m flat out confused by anyone who feels differently. Still, there have been some very nice wide shots of the ocean (the ones when desperate people haven’t come crawling out of the waves) and, at the very least, watching this show for an hour each week has meant it’s been an hour I’ve been away from the actual news that confirms each and every day that this country is becoming rapidly similar to Gilead, the dystopian America that is the setting of The Handmaid’s Tale. (Also: watch that show, too.) I guess what I’m saying is sometimes an MTV dating show starring people who have been treated like trash (yet will undoubtedly continue to appear on the very next show producers wave in their faces) can momentarily feel soothing to a viewer. Sure, one of the stars of this show is a spitter, but it’s not like her loogie can break through a TV screen, so we’re safe. Praise be.
There are certain actions so egregious that one cannot ever adequately atone for having participated in them. This assortment of garbage behavior runs the gamut, from eating the very last bakery cookie – the one I was saving to nibble while watching Southern Charm, though I swear this is a purely fictitious example and I didn’t recently go ape-shit on anyone – to locking children in cages, right here on U.S. soil. Yes, there is a wide range of misdeeds on the YOU ARE NOT MISTAKEN; I REALLY AM THIS DISGRACEFUL OF A HUMAN BEING list, and somewhere smack in the middle of said list is the choice to willfully hock a gigantic loogie onto someone’s head from a balcony.
It’s time to take stock, don’t you think? As the very willing participants of Ex On the Beach limp, crawl, or twerk their way towards the finish line, we should really see how things are shaping up before these people land with an unceremonious thud back in the Real World, a place where flags emblazoned with their faces will not rise in the distance and acting like an unrepentant asshole can have consequences like prison or the presidency.
I like to imagine the producers of Ex On the Beach sitting in a large conference room somewhere. I can see it like it’s blaring in Technicolor: leather chairs surround a mahogany table that’s so shiny, the producers can gaze upon their own reflections when they collectively – albeit briefly – glance down in utter shame for what they’re putting forth into the world. Perched around the room are monitors displaying rough footage the imbedded crew has already captured of the spray-tanned human rats scurrying around that maze of a Hawaiian villa. Swigging coffee or some sort of detox juice blended into a green froth by a team of assistants, our producers watch the proceedings unfold and then high-five one another with glee because the audible they called just last week – the one that allowed the exes to do the voting – worked out exactly as they’d intended. Sure, they could have edited 1,600 more hours of Tor’i and Angela breaking up and then redeclaring their undying devotion to one another into several bile-inducing montages, but what the wisest of producers know is that people tune into these shows for conflict. And viewers constantly want new conflict. They want hefty conflict, conflict that comes with stakes and maybe even a body count. Viewers of shows like this one crave more than a woman storming into rooms and slamming doors while wearing white leggings that highlight her ass crack. They require more than a heavily muscled man’s dawning understanding that he voluntarily cuddled up to a lunatic. Though that sort of footage has certainly driven the storyline up until now – seriously, did anyone even remember Paulie was in that house until he showed up on camera a few times during the last episode? – we now demand a bevy of brand spanking new conflicts so the producers of this show are delivering them unto us like they are storks carrying basketfuls of teething babies who will one day pop Adderall for sport. And the first words these babies will say? Well, I expect to hear some version of “Derrick is seriously fucked” stated in unison.
I recently read a story about a woman who was arrested after sending 65,000 text messages to a man with whom she’d gone on a single date. Wrapped in a noose-like psychosis, she would send around 500 texts a day to this guy. A few of the texts were probably sweet, you know, in a deranged sort of way, but others included lines about how she wanted to bathe in his blood. When she was finally tossed in jail for stalking, she happily gave interviews where she spoke of her deep love for a person she’d spent one evening with and then she widened her scope of conversation to blather about the Illuminati. Some reporters deigned to inquire about why she broke into that guy’s house and then proceeded to take a bubble bath, but those were questions she didn’t really care to answer.
As for my reactions to this horrifying urban-legend-come-true, they were as follows:
1. I once sent four texts to someone without receiving a response. In my defense, text number one was a regular text. Text number two was an “everything okay?” text because it was rare for him not to respond quickly. Text number three was sent because I thought maybe he died and I was hoping his corpse would respond so I could officially come to terms with his demise. And text number four? That one was sent because I’d started wishing him dead and such feelings briefly caused me to embrace the crazy. Sending four texts without getting a single response made me feel lightheaded, probably from the loss of all that dignity, and though my brief dance with hysteria pales in comparison to the loon now incarcerated, hearing her story helped settle in me a deep resolve that I will never again send someone another text if I haven’t heard back from him. Lesson fucking learned.
2. My second reaction was to stare hard at the picture of the woman who enjoys fantasizing about smoothing platelets of blood from a guy she dated once across her dewy skin to make sure I wasn’t looking at a picture of Angela from Ex On the Beach.
Should you ever find yourself stranded on a desert island with me, you’d be in luck. I was sent to sleepaway camp when I was only six years old and back then we learned real shit, like how to forage through the forest for sustenance and build fires. (Years later, I’d also learn at camp how to give a killer blowjob, but that’s really a tale for another day.) Anyway, I can collect you a leaf filled with berries that probably won’t kill you and then strip birch bark into kindling to keep us warm as we wait for either actual help or for the leader of The Others to arrive. And while we recline beside that roaring fire, I can take your mind off stressful things – you know, like forever solitude – by quoting entire movies. I am well aware that, in civilization, this quality of mine may not be deemed so adorable, but on a barren beach where there’s no Netflix? My friend, I will be like a God. Included in my personal repertoire is the full John Hughes collection. I can give you all of Caddyshack. I can Triple Lindy into Back to School, call you “Twin” after performing Overboard, and recite all of Pulp Fiction – and not just Ezekiel 25:17; I’m not some amateur. But should you find yourself still feeling blue due to concerns about imminent starvation, I will calm those nerves by launching into Clue. I will play all the characters. I’ll hold a petrified starfish by one of its spiked points and pretend it’s a knife to perform the part where Wadsworth explains how the cook was murdered. Clue is guaranteed to elicit at least a giggle while we huddle beneath palm fronds whispering comforting affirmations to one another about how it all could be worse because at least now we will never have to buy coconut water and, though we may never see electricity or good porn again, at least we are not stuck in that psychologically-haunted villa in Hawaii with anyone from Ex On the Beach.
I ran into an ex on the beach once. And I’d say I remember that day like it was yesterday, except yesterday was a pretty kickass day and the day I saw my ex on the beach was basically misery bathed in lemon yellow sunshine.
Welcome to MTV’s Ex On the Beach, a social experiment the founders of television could never have expected to transpire, not even on the days they drank straight scotch until they saw only static. This program brings reality stars and “social media stars” – and if you’re not already sighing heavily, we can never be friends – into a gorgeous villa in Hawaii so they can be manipulated while cameras film every second of their inebriated time. Join me from the comfort of your sofa (where, hopefully, there’s nary an ex in sight) as we witness fitness models, a DJ, and former contestants from shows like Big Brother, The Bachelor, and Are You the One as they head to what they pretended to believe would be paradise until the producers revealed the real plot: that their exes would eventually wash upon the shores like debris and subsequently scatter the senses of every single person present.