I should probably start with the exorcism.
Yes, last night on True Tori, the finest television program of our time – the show that might very well be cited by future social anthropologists as the first clear evidence of when human beings officially lost all normal personal boundaries – Tori’s husband rid himself of one of his zillion demons.
The scene must be set: Dean, who looks more like a bipolar grizzly bear every time his pasty and scruffy face floats across my high definition television, (there are really some times when high-def is a very bad idea. This is a thought I first had when I saw a commercial once for The Real Housewives of Miami and I saw the mother of one of the women in close-up, an individual named Elsa who has had so much plastic surgery that she looked like a cross between a zombie who has finally been killed and then left outside to melt in the rain and a screaming antelope) spent the episode desperately trying to improve the shit show that is his life. He met with his management team to tell them he was ready to be sent out for acting auditions. Wearing a rumpled white tee over an open flannel shirt to show off his polished style, he allowed himself to vocalize having the very accurate concern that he was viewed as a total joke, as an actor and as a person, and that perhaps his omnipresence on reality television – where he has been presented by others and then presented himself as an alcoholic who is allergic to AA meetings who suffers from depression, bouts of anger, constant migraines, and has a penchant for slicking his hair back with what I am hoping is gel, but I fear it is really his former soul and self-esteem, combined in a cauldron and then stirred and melted into a substance that he then combs through his hair.
Dean is, of course, absolutely correct in thinking that his reality career has played a huge role in tanking whatever existed in his actual career. When you have made a career playing yourself – and yourself is presented as a desperate man on a downward spiral – how can any casting director, any network, any viewer be expected to buy you as a random character? And that question, that accurate pondering, led to my second favorite moment of the episode (the first is the shaman-assisted emotional exorcism, but we’ll get there) wherein Tori and Dean sat in their therapist’s office, continuing to air their darkest fears and thoughts to anybody with a cable box and a desire to watch a grotesque form of theater.
I don’t know of any reality star who also successfully acts in television and movies, Dean said to both his therapist and his wife, making an excellent point that there are really no successful crossovers from one branch of the entertainment tree to the other, especially since one is really a big, strong, leafy branch and the other one is just a stump. And that’s when TORI SPELLING, the most accomplished actress in the whole wide world – the only woman who might one day finally knock Meryl Streep and her Yale Drama School training off her high horse – silently raised her hand because yes, Tori, a reality queen who needs her own tiny throne built to accommodate her anorexic frame, has appeared in movies and on television. You know, there was that game-changing television movie called The Mistle Tones that aired on ABC Family, a movie that is only surpassed by Citizen Kane in terms of artistry. And, of course, her few-episode arc on the revamped version of 90210, a show her father initially created. And we mustn’t forget Mystery Girls, a sitcom cancelled after a single season that got reviews that included the lines, “Spelling is at her most hyperactive,” and “It is only trumped in stupidity by how stupid it thinks you are.” So I laughed – a real, bold, genuine guffaw – that this woman truly holds herself up to both herself and to society as an accomplished actress. And she also had the audacity to look shocked – shocked! – when Dean plainly said that the cameras that followed them through their kitchen and to their bedroom and into the closed doors of therapy were harming his career and his brain.
Now, I do understand how two people who have four children and no income might get seduced by the easy paycheck provided by engaging in a reality show where they don’t even have to leave their house, but this show and its premise are sick and invasive in a manner that takes reality television to a level so low that it probably needs geologists and seismologists to measure its long-term effects. But there are other ways to earn money. I remember hearing a story years ago about Drew Barrymore. She was very young and she chose to emancipate herself from her mother, a woman with whom she had what she has described as a damaged and damaging relationship with. Needing to support herself, the most recognizable child actress of the time got herself a job in a video store and in a coffee shop. She did what she had to do to get a paycheck. I think we can all agree that Tori’s twig-like arms could not possibly hoist a tray of pumpkin lattes into the air, but Dean’s arms, one of which is tattooed with a picture of his wife in pigtails, sure could. I can certainly understand that getting a service job would feel somewhat ego-crushing to people who view themselves as stars, but really: could it possibly be more ego-crushing than having emotional breakdown after emotional breakdown filmed in your foyer?
The entire first part of the episode was centered around Tori meeting with Dean’s ex-wife, a woman so articulate and calm that I couldn’t help thinking that maybe my dog had stepped on the remote and I was all of a sudden watching a different show. But alas, that normal-seeming woman was the person Dean ran fleeing from nine years ago when he sought true love in the bony embrace of a woman who would one day pimp him out on a show called True Tori in the name of monetarily-compensated personal growth.
Tori and Mary-Jo discussed how fucked up Dean is and always was, and Mary-Jo presented a love letter her former husband wrote to her just before he ditched her for Tori. She wanted Tori to know that theirs had not been a marriage that was teetering on the brink of total collapse like Dean claimed; there had been real love there once. And Tori stared dumbfounded at the letter, having a hard time imagining her husband could have ever loved someone before he loved her, including the wife he was once married to.
Arriving home to a house where I think maybe the children are currently being tied up in the basement because they haven’t been seen on camera – and I’d like to officially and publically support caging them to keep them out of the view of the camera and away from their parents’ constant marital spats – Tori told Dean what Mary-Jo had said and about the letter. And he lost it, asking why she would even bring that letter to their meeting in the first place.
Are we supposed to pretend that a producer and a story editor didn’t ask her to bring that letter or agree with her idea that she should? Are we supposed to accept that the entire televised meeting was fully organic and totally unplanned?
Who cares, I guess, what we’re supposed to believe because off we then go with Tori as she discusses her wife/ex-wife sit-down with at least four different people in three separate conversations. As a viewer, I watched the exact same scenario repeated three times. If the show had been an essay I was editing for a student, I would have circled the entire thing and scrawled redundant across the margin, and I would have been so annoyed that I would have sought out a red pen just to make my point clear. But all of Tori’s friends questioned why Mary-Jo would show her that note, except for one who said that Mary-Jo has way more integrity at the moment than Dean does. At that, Tori stared at her honest friend blankly, her very painted lips flapping open, her very pale eyebrows making her look more and more like that dummy Madame who was always on television in the early eighties, haunting my psyche.
One of the reasons I once liked Tori Spelling in the first place when I watched her former, happy reality shows is because I thought she had nice, smart, funny friends. There were a few who made constant appearances, and my favorite was always Tori’s best friend, a handsome, candid guy. Last night I almost broke into applause when he told her he had less respect for her because she continued to film and televise the portions of her life that should be inherently and undeniably private. And he told her to her face that her inability to confront her serious issues – issues that include marital infidelity; a complicated mother-daughter dynamic; severe health issues that lead to prolonged and frequent hospital sojourns that are probably exacerbated due to her clear malnutrition; the fact that she’s a hoarder; and the almost-impressive way she manages to make every single scenario about herself – without two cameras aimed at her face was rather sick.
The cameras create a safe place, Tori told her friend.
I used to think Spelling was just silly and a wee bit odd.
I now fully believe she is clinically nuts.
But at least that powwow with her best bud led to the idea that she and Dean should visit a shaman. The suggestion to go this route didn’t shock me because I know enough about this woman by now to know she visits psychics, has a Reiki practitioner on her payroll, and asked a real estate agent but one question when she bought a house: Is the house haunted? And fine, I’m all for asking any question, but it also might have been a good idea to inquire about whether the foundation of house was stuffed with mold and asbestos instead of just the spirits of the departed.
To the shaman they go!
The shaman had a long, pointed white beard and wore a turban-style thing on his head and flowing robes and I almost fell over when he opened his mouth and he sounded like any other American man. I’d expected an exotic accent, but it’s more than possible that the guy was born on Long Island.
He sat across from them, and you know they all meant business because none of them were wearing shoes. And it started relatively calmly, with the shaman asking the other who each person was, and then, kind of out of nowhere, Dean broke down.
Now, I’ve revealed that I had a bizarre experience of my own with a mystic who came at me with torn up napkins and had me repeat things that she said and told me that she had identified my soulmate, and all of that was odd and questionable and yet I sat there and I went with it. So I can understand the seeking of answers in unorthodox ways. I do not begrudge them a visit to a guru. But I will say that I would have had to have been both drugged and lobotomized to have had my own mystical experience filmed and then aired.
Some things just strike me as stuff to keep private – but I guess the privacy ship has sailed with these two a very long time ago.
Anyhoo, back to the bearded guru who I loved so much, I think I’m going as him for Halloween next year. But since I like to embrace my inner whore on Halloween, my costume will not include robes. Instead, I will wrap the flowing beard around my body so as to conceal the top half of my nipples because, even when I seek to look whorish, it’s also nice to maintain an aura of mystery.
The shaman watched calmly as Dean fell over in the kind of heaving and wracking sobs I have only seen in old footage of women losing their children to genocide. He was wailing and his face was an alarming shade of beet red and he was rolling forwards and backwards and experiencing a catharsis that might have expelled a bad memory or two – and definitely a few ounces of water weight through all those tears – and I could hear through his groaning and his gulping of air the sound of his manager removing Dean’s name from his contact list because if he thought he looked questionable before, the man looks insane now.
And his certain insanity was made clear even before the hallucinations started, when Dean finally sat up and wiped his eyes and then stared at the guru like one would an intruder during a home invasion and told him, “Your face just morphed.” He saw a man with black skin and a dark beard for a moment when he gazed up at the white face and beard of his new guru BFF, and said guru simply responded, “I know.”
Interesting fun fact: I have a few friends and some friends of friends who have done these peyote-style trips, searching for truth or simply the experience of eating some peyote by the light of a bonfire. And several actually claim to have seen a man with black skin and a beard during their hallucinations, so perhaps this guy is at the root of all of our psyches. Who knows? What I do know is that in the week before this episode aired, Dean loudly and publically declared he would never do this show again – that even if his wife wants to sign on for another season, he will not – and I cannot help wondering if he saw the footage that shows him unraveling and finally decided he’d had enough.
Tori, who held him in her arms as he clawed the floor and cried buckets of tears, has not had enough. She continues to claim that the show is helpful to her and to her family and that she will happily do another round, should Lifetime greenlight the thing. She has had friends and her husband question the validity of how helpful this experience could possibly really be and she surely has seen the written criticism out there because if I can claim to know one thing about Tori Spelling definitively, it’s that girlfriend has a Google Alert on herself.
But critics and friends and family, be damned! Tori is sticking with the show.
She has to support a family, you guys.
She has to keep her face in the public eye so she can win an Oscar one day.
She has to be recorded while she claims to find her voice.
She has to go to her safe place.