REAL HOUSEWIVES OF VANCOUVER: SEASON 2, EPISODE 5: HIGH NOTES & LOW BLOWS
It is said, contrary to a commonly held belief, that popular culture reflects society more than it influences society. Moreover, this mirrored image of ourselves is not always a pretty one, which is probably why we bemoan the influence of television, for example, on our impressionable minds rather than face the unsavory truth it is us who directs popular culture, not the other way around. The bullying we witnessed on this week’s episode of the Real Housewives of Vancouver is a prime example of this – of how reality TV echoes, well, reality.
Isn’t it interesting then that at a time when there is a strong anti-bullying campaign going on, what with anti-bully week, the well-known 2011 documentary film Bully, and the recent release of a new documentary, TheBully Effect, that we are exposed to adult women openly bullying, on public TV no less, Mary Zilba?
|The bullies: Jody Claman and Ronnie Negus|
We have all the elements of the “bully effect” here. We of course have the victim, Mary, the bully herself, Jody Claman, and the bully’s lackeys: Mia, Amanda and Ronnie. We also have the bystanders, Robin and Ioulia, who are uncomfortable with the bullying but do nothing to intervene.
|The bystanders: Robin and Ioulia.|
There was no justifiable reason, regardless of the attempts to make some up, for the way Mary was treated in High Notes & Low Blows. It was disgraceful and illustrates that despite the campaign against it, bullying is still alive and well and even encouraged in our culture.
And by the way, this isn’t “high school” and this isn’t “cat-fighting” – what we’ve seen on the Real Housewives of Vancouver between Mary Zilba and all the rest of them is the seedy underbelly of human nature. It refers more to our animalistic roots in evolution than it does to the maturity level of a few fatuous “housewives”.
I personally believe this kind of pure nastiness or urge to inflict pain on other living things should fast become a vestigial feature of our collective humanity. It is not good. We no longer need this particular form of aggression. Yet it continues to live in us like an inflamed appendix, festering away - an unnecessary organ that nonetheless if not removed, has the potential to kill us.
Does it not seem outrageous this bullying behavior still goes on in spite of, and maybe ironically propelled by, some of the most notable and horrific examples of bullying we have, such as the tragedies of Amanda Todd and Reena Virk? Innocent lives are tormented and innocent lives are lost, whether it is the victim of bullying who dies or whether in a blitz of homicidal rage the victim turns on the society that rejects him or her.
We should not be entertained by this behavior and yet here we are celebrating it, whether we mean to or not, by giving it our viewership and therefore ratings. Jody the bully is rewarded with a stint on Top Chef Canada as a guest judge, while Mary is punitively made to look like some sort of pariah.
They go to great lengths to make it seem like Mary somehow deserves to be victimized by making a much bigger deal out of her trying to tactfully remove herself from a volatile situation before it turned really ugly.
None of them would let her leave, though, when she tried to do it honestly. They badgered her to stay, even her so-called friend, Robin, who made some meaningless comparison between herself and Mary as if it was the same thing, as if anyone was picking on Robin the way they were on Mary.
|Here Robin downplays Mary's understandable discomfort and desire to leave.|
Nobody was picking on Robin. If anything, the bullies were seducing her to their side. If Robin was not so self-consumed and truly cared about Mary, rather than pressure her to stay, she would have helped her escape.
Even some RHOV fans/haters, bloggers and entertainment writers are throwing their jabs at Mary like a sick mob thirsty to get in on the blood sport initiated by reality TV Neanderthals.
Dana Gee from The Province comes right out with this: “And sadly most of the drama directed towards Mary was of her own doing.” Oh really? People were writing the same terrible things about Amanda Todd, saying she got what she deserved, that she was weak, that if she was strong enough or had the “right morals” she wouldn’t have been harassed and threatened to the point where she believed her only out was to end her own life. I think I cried more reading those unconscionable comments, made mostly by people under a cloak of anonymity, than I did watching Amanda Todd act out her suicide note on YouTube.
Evidently there are a significant number of people in this historically Christian nation who are repulsed by pacifists emulating the teachings of that great moralizer, Jesus, such as love your enemies, forgive them without retaliation and pray for their well-being.
We want to see the underdog fight back and when he doesn’t, when he just lies there and takes it, rather than give him a hand or fend off his tormentors, we join in on the massacre to destroy him.
Jesse Ferreras from The Huffington Post, BC, whose smart, snarky RHOV commentary I usually enjoy and agree with, jumps into the fray with this condemnation:
Mary, I hereby christen thee "Mairhead." You're a vacuous, compulsive liar who doesn't know how to defend yourself. I'd pity you if your defeat at the hands of a gremlin (Jody), an Amazon (Ronnie) and a dunce (Amanda) weren't so inevitable.
According to him, if you don’t happen to be born with the biting wit of Dorothy Parker, you don’t deserve compassion. No, you deserve to have MORE insults thrown at you! There goes at least half the population. I am disappointed. I thought he was cleverer than that. Every day it seems there’s another asshole to loathe.
The world is bad enough – imagine how much worse it would be if there were no Marys and every person you encountered was ready with a character assassination at the slightest misinterpreted provocation.
Speaking of which, let’s move on to Ronnie Negus: We all know her “insidious” (a word she loves to hypocritically use) agenda with regards to her “best friend” Mary. Ronnie has a particular cruel streak and bias when it comes to Mary. We saw it pretty much immediately in the first season where Ronnie DID SO get into Jody’s ear about Mary and “add fuel to the fire”, thereby negatively influencing Jody’s erroneous opinion of Mary before even meeting her.
|A follower, a lackey, a bully's best side kick.|
So after Mary makes her escape in this episode and the scheming Amanda decides now is a convenient time to tell Ronnie that Mary said Ronnie was the reason Jody and Mary didn’t get along (which isn’t exactly what Mary said), it is in fact TRUE. Ronnie of course waxes indignant that such a thing could be said of HER, the epitome of integrity – a lie – and as usual takes the opportunity to call Mary the liar. I think they call this projection.
|Ronnie: I came between you guys?? Are you KIDDING me?? Lala: Are YOU kidding US??|
Ronnie likes to set Mary up to make her look bad, although it often backfires and Ronnie is the one who ends up looking bad. We’ve seen it time and again. At Amanda’s birthday party, Ronnie initially minimizes Mary’s concerns about Jody and Mia already on the attack, waving her off outside of the restaurant. She basically rolls her eyes, “here we go again”, as if Mary is making much ado about nothing.
|Ronnie, who apparently can't stand herself: "There's one thing I can't stand and that's a liar".|
But then once comfortably seated at the table with an eager audience, an audience hungry for Mary’s blood, Ronnie calls Mary out in a similar fashion to the way Amanda called Ioulia out a week or two before. Remember that? When Ronnie reprimanded Amanda for stirring up trouble and being a petty, “phony little bitch” at a nearly identical table setting? That was the fleeting moment when I thought I could like Ronnie. The moment has now officially passed.
Mary, to her credit, handled the situation like the classy lady she is and refused to be roped into the mud. She declined to answer Ronnie’s leading question and Jody’s subsequent challenge to cause trouble, opting instead for a cease fire, reminding them that it was Amanda’s birthday. Jody agreed but could not stop herself from one last infantile criticism about Mary talking with food in her mouth. Good one Jody.
|Mary: I just wanted to get out of there. Lala: Rightfully so.|
Still, the damage had already been done and as we saw in the first season, Jody like Ronnie is not a woman of her word. She or Ronnie certainly would have started back up on Mary at some point later in the evening had Mary stuck around much longer.
It was an awkward, pressure-cooker situation and Mary understandably wanted out of it. Her attempts, however, to be up front about why she wanted to leave were met with such resistance that Mary was forced to come up with a new strategy to get out of there without causing much of a scene. The strategy she chose is as old as the class system these "housewives" maneuver and exploit their way around. It is nothing any of the other women have not done themselves.
Yet when it becomes fairly clear Mary wasn’t being completely honest with her excuses to leave Amanda’s birthday party, instead of letting it go, it was like watching hyenas let loose on an unprotected baby wildebeest. They ripped Mary apart from limb to limb as if they themselves were morally inculpable and had never in their lives made up an excuse to get out of a sticky social engagement.
These socialites (although can we really call Amanda a socialite?) are absurd hypocrites whose own lies are easy enough to reproduce. I am not going to list them all now because this post is too long as it is, but all you have to do is watch re-runs of the first season. Their fibs and fabrications are all there, recorded for posterity.
Besides that, who doesn’t tell a lie to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid a huge unwinnable fight? Ricky Gervais in The Invention of Lying, not a great movie but an intriguing concept, imagined for us what the world would be like if everyone went around telling the brutal truth. It would be soul crushing.
THIS is soul crushing.
Wouldn’t it be inspiring, though – wouldn’t it give such hope for our evolving humanity if we did not see the likes of Jody and her unentertaining cruelty back for season three? It would mean this anti-bullying campaign is working. It would mean we as a culture are improving.
And if that is possible then imagine how gratifying it would one day be to peer into our reflection and the popular culture that glared back at us did not include bullies and misogynists, bigots and hypocrites, psychopaths and sociopaths.
But for now, the bullying will continue into next week’s episode…
MARY ZILBA DO NOT BACK DOWN TO THE BULLIES
MARY ZILBA DO NOT BACK DOWN TO THE BULLIES
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