Last night, I watched an episode of Wife Swap. While I usually abhor reality TV of any sort, this damn writer’s strike has left me with little else to watch on TV. I know I could just turn it off, but I was all alone, had grading to do and I just don’t like the silence of an empty house, especially when the wind is roaring outside. I knew it was going to be a bad show. What I didn’t realize is just how horrible some of the people on the show could be.
For those who don’t know, the premiss is simple: two families from vastly differing backgrounds agree to swap wives for two weeks. For the first week, the new moms try to live by the house rules. During the second week all bets are off as the new female heads of the house get to impose any rules they want. The idea is to see how the other half lives. Well, at least that’s what the show claims the focus is. From what I witnessed last night, the obvious intent is to get people to bare the absolute worst sides of themselves and create as much drama as possible.
Last night’s show featured an upscale family obsessed with beauty pagents in upstate New York switching moms with a rather rural home schooled family from Indiana. At first it might not sound like the stuff tension is made of, but the Indiana mos is portrayed as a fairly militantly feminist, thus drama ensued.
I have to say that while I am not onboard with the extreme overuse of the word feminism nor the rather preachy way the Indiana family portrayed it, I thought they at least had the right idea. Their whole philosophy seemed to be about teaching their three daughters to be smart, capable, independant women. Not man-hating or anything, just able to think for themselves. They were shown as being very anti-makeup and not at all fashion conscious, but their girls were 12, 6 and 2. I thougth they may have taken the not teaching their girls to be “uber girly” a bit far, but for the most part, I thought they were fairly well-adjusted.
Personally I find the practice of tarting up six year olds in make-up and hair taller than their parents disturbing, especially when coupled with a high cut bathing suit and Vaseline on their teeth to make their smiles even brighter. Pagent queens are often vapid and think the answer to every question is “world peace.”
The daughter from the other family was the perfect example of this. To say I found her nauseating is an understatement. She is, quite possible, the most spoiled child in existance. And I was a fairly spoiled child, so this is really saying something. At fifteen, she has no chores. Her parents do them all for her because chores are physical labor and the daughter finds them “yucky.” Her parents also do all of her homework for her. Her mother stood by and proudly showed off a project she’d done for her daughter. She got a 100% on it. The daughter is rude to wait staff. They have a Christmas tree up in their house every day of the year and every day of the year there is a present under it for their daughter because she is such a wonderful child and deserves to have whatever she wants. The mother actually said something to the effect of, “our philosophy is whatever Alicia wants, Alicia gets. Why make her unhappy?”
As much of a brat as the daughter was, and as truly distasteful as I found her, I can’t really blame her for her actions. She is, after all, a fifteen year old girl who has been taught that the world revolves around her. She was markedly upset when the new mom called her a liar for turning in work as her own which someone else did. It was obvious that no one had ever told her this was not acceptable.
What’s worse is that the poor girl actually believes when the pagents have taken her as far as she can go, she’s going to settle in to a life as a dentist. At fifteen she couldn’t spell America or write a complete sentence. Even if her parents continued to do her homework for her all the way through high school and even in college, there are board exams to become a dentist. How in the world could they possibly get her through those? These parents kept talking about how confident their daughter was and how they do everything in their power to make her happy. What in the world is going to happen when she actually fails in life? It is going to destroy her to realize that all she has is a pretty face, and that while she may be lucky enough to land a rich husband who only wants a vapid shell of a wife to take out and display at parties, there’s also a good chance she won’t be able to find that and instead she’ll be a washed up ex-beauty queen with no marketable skills and no idea of how to cook herself a meal, much less fill out a job application.
Sadly I see these kinds of parents every day. Rather than upset their children, they do everything in their power to become their child’s friend. They think by convincing their children they are perfect and can do no wrong that their child will never be hurt or unhappy. I’ve listened as parents refuse to believe their children have started fights, despite testimony from teachers who saw the fight break out. I’ve heard parents deny their kids are involved in drugs even when drugs are pulled from their lockers. I’ve had parents absolute convinced their kid wasn’t cheating, even when I’ve caught them looking at a cheat sheet they had hidden under their leg. I just don’t understand why they want to set their children up for such horrible disappointment in life. I really wonder what will happen to some of these kids when they go to college or out into the real world and their parents can’t be there to do the work for them.
As a funny side note, at the end of the show they visited each family for an update on how they were doing several months after the taping. The pagent mother said her daughter is now doing most of her homework on her own. Yeah, I bet she is. After announcing to the TV watching world that she doesn’t do her homework, I bet her teachers are going to scruitinize every assignment she turns in. I have a feeling more than a few of her ninth grade teachers are boiling mad too. She better home she doesn’t ever have those teachers in class again. Fool us once, shame on you, try to fool us twice and you fail.