Careless People

The Real Housewives of Orange County arent different from you and meI have met them, and they are us

FALLING SAFES
It was one of those safes falling on you from a third-story window, a cartoon moment of consciousness-flattening, tweeting bluebirds and epiphany. And it happened as I watched the seven magnificent episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County, premiering on Bravo this Tuesday.

It happened as I sat glued to the merry adventures of Kim, Jo, Lauri, Vicki and Jeana in one seven-episode marathon.

“Perception is reality,” Bree said on Desperate Housewives—The Real Housewives ur-text—just this past Sunday, clearly providing her answer to the Kantian Question, “What are the powers and capacities constitutive of the human subject for apprehending the Real?”

Clockwise from left: Vicki, Jeana, Lauri, Kim and Jo. Photo courtesy Bravo
Clockwise from left: Vicki, Jeana, Lauri, Kim and Jo. Photo courtesy Bravo
Jo with her family. Photo courtesy Bravo
Jo with her family. Photo courtesy Bravo

Perception. Image. Get used to it: you may think the world’s view of Orange County depends only on that small segment pictured in the party pages of Riviera, but they are the ones who are real; the rest of us—we who live in Anaheim and Santa Ana instead of Newport and Laguna Beach, who are of color, or at least brunette, instead of entitled blond society misses with pillowy lips at play in the fields of South Coast Plaza, who are poor or middle-class and have as little to do with the charity dos and parties in jewelry stores as the rich have to do with day laboring at Home Depot or shopping at Target—we are Schrödinger’s cat, in a tertiary position between existing and not. Without the world’s eyeballs, the rest of us simply aren’t.

So now, three years into the nation’s love affair with greed and tanned young idiots—The O.C., Orange County (the movie), Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, even the parodic Arrested Development—who are our newest spokesmodels?

The Real Housewives introduce us.

There’s Kimberly, the outgoing transplant who—even while making sure we knew she was above all that silliness—dived right into the bleach and implants of her new home.

There’s Jo, the young party girl fiancée of Hummer-driving Slade—think DH’s Gabrielle sans the calculation and if she ever smiled or was kind.

There’s Lauri, the divorcée who no longer has the lifestyle of her friends.

There’s Vicki, for whom Lauri works selling insurance, and who is both self-made and a terrible control freak.

There is Jeana, a plump former Playmate who sells real estate and gives homespun advice in a flat, affectless voice.

There are various husbands. There are misbegotten spawn. And there is the hive, its own organism, where they all (except Lauri) live: the rarefied hills of Coto de Caza.

Coto de Caza is the ne plus ultra Orange County—an actual gated town. But unlike the swarming developments spreading across the rest of South County, the manses of Coto were actually developed gracefully, nestled into folds in the hills so nothing mars the ridgelines or the sky. Most of the mansions actually have breathing room—an acre here, an acre there—instead of million-dollar homes built within inches of their lot lines. These are proper mansions, nothing Mc- or chintzy about them. And behind its gates, Coto even still has an orange grove. Coto’s a pretty sweet place to live, if you like marble, and beige, and children driving brand-new Mercedes.

And if you, like I, like to watch rich people behaving badly—and is there any other explanation for the popularity of Donald Trump?—you’ll like Coto just as much.

And you, like I, will realize that these people are the true Orange County, just as J.R. was the soul of Dallas, and Kurt Cobain really was Seattle.

DO NOT READ THIS PART OF THE STORY
The following will be one long, giant spoiler of everything of interest that happens on this season of The Real Housewives of Orange County—and everything that happens is of interest. Every one of you should stop reading immediately.

Episode One: Jeana’s children are monsters! Jeana’s husband is a monster! Jeana (our plump real-estate agent) is no great shakes herself! Jeana’s daughter Kara whines soulfully when her older brother Shane gets a new car and she has to drive his hand-me-down convertible Mercedes. Shane grunts angrily when Kara gets cold hard cash for making the volleyball team. Kara demands a new car. Kara gets a new car. Meanwhile, Shane gets drafted by the Oakland A’s in, like, the 1,000th round, and dad Matt Keough, who used to play for the A’s and still works in the organization, calls home to find out how the draft went. Father and son share a monosyllabic conversation. “I think he’s proud of you,” Jeana says, noncommittally, flatly and without affect, after the phone call. “He thought you were going to do a lot worse.”

Kimberly (our outgoing transplant) makes fun of how everyone in OC has breast implants. But Kimberly likes her own breast implants. We call this “cognitive dissonance.”

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