I Predict An Earthling Will Win: Miss Universe 2013

It’s that time of year again, and this time, on Saturday night, the eyes of the world will be on Moscow, Russia, for the biggest beauty pageant of the year, where one woman will reign victorious as the most beautiful woman in the universe and the rest will just be a bunch of losers with a lot more frequent flier miles. And this year, cold losers. What was Donald Trump thinking when he planned an event in December in Russia? Granted, it’s a lot more interesting than Las Vegas, but couldn’t they have chosen, like, Tahiti? Or Australia? Or even Italy, which is just as cultural and probably a lot warmer this time of year?

The hosts this year are Thomas Roberts (?) and former Spice Girl Mel B. Andy Cohen, who’s pretty annoying anyway, boycotted the pageant due to Russia’s stance on homosexuality. This year, 86 ladies will participate, and for the first time in over fifty years, Myanmar, and for the first time ever, Azerbaijan, a small country bordering Russia. Though there are a lot of beautiful girls this year (an unusual amount, I think), it’s still all about politics. Kosovo had to bow out due to it not being recognized by Russia as an independent country, and Albania withdrew in solidarity. Uruguay couldn’t even get a visa, for some odd reason. I have a feeling we’ll see a lot of Europeans in the finals this year.

They give out awards for congeniality and photogenic-ness, so I thought I’d give out my own awards.

The “Aren’t You In My History Class?” Award: Girls Who Study in the USA

  • Angola (Vaumara Rebelo) is studying business at Miami-Dade College in Miami, FL.
  • Bahamas (Lexi Wilson) has a degree in biology from Langston University in Langston, OK.
  • British Virgin Islands (Sharie De Castro) graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX.
  • Chile (Maria-Jesus Matthei) graduated from college in Miami, FL.
  • Ghana (Hanniel Jamin) is studying at Radford University in Radford, VA.
  • Guyana (Katherina Roshana) is a college student in Long Island, NY.
  • Haiti (Mondiana Pierre) is a college student in Miami, FL.
  • Myanmar (Moe Set Wine) has a degree from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • Nicaragua (Nastassja Bolivar) studied at Miami International University in Miami, FL.
  • Trinidad and Tobago (Catherine Miller) graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA.
  • Turks and Caicos (Snwazna Adams) graduated from St. Thomas University in Miami, FL.

Maybe Angola and Haiti can carpool once neither of them wins. (Sorry, girls, but I don’t think it’ll be you this year.)

And, for good measure:

The “You’re Not From Around Here, or Are You?” Award: Girls Born in a Different Country From the One They Represent:

  • Guyana (Katherina Roshana) was born in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
  • Israel (Yityish Titi Aynaw) was born in Chahawit, Gondar, Ethiopia.
  • Italy (Luna Voce) was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • Nicaragua (Nastassja Bolivar) was born in Miami, Florida, USA.
  • Russia (Elmira Abdrazakova) was born in Zhelezin District, Kazakhstan.
  • Turkey (Berrin Kekliker) was born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

So, not that many this year.

Traditionally they have a top 15, and this year, 1 more from the Internet viewers to make it a top 16. I’ve picked my favorites, which probably means that they will be clapping come Saturday night.

In alphabetical order:

  1. Brazil (Jakelyne Oliveira) – she’s pretty, if not a little plastic-looking.
  2. Curacao (Eline de Pool) – kind of looks like Jeannie Mai, and very pretty for a country that’s barely placed in the past.
  3. Czech Republic (Gabriela Kratochvilova) – hilarious in her YouTube video and looks like she’d actually be fun to hang out with.
  4. Guatemala (Paulette Samayoa) – she seems funny from her interview, and she’s kinda cute.
  5. Honduras (Diana Mendoza) – Her name is Diana Mendoza. There’s already BEEN a Miss Universe named Diana (Dayana) Mendoza. IMAGINE THE CONFUSION.
  6. Hungary (Rebeka Karpati) – I don’t know why, but I think she’s kind of adorable. No real other reason.
  7. Israel (Yityish “Titi” Aynaw) – Obvious reasons, and she’s also drop dead gorgeous. Also, she’s gotten a lot of buzz already for being the first black Miss Israel, meeting and dining with Obama in Jerusalem, and visiting the USA. Also, she looks great even in candid shots.
  8. Japan (Yukimi Matsuo) – she’s a comic book artist, and a really talented one at that. I like people who are multi-faceted and she seems like one of them.
  9. Myanmar (Moe Set Wine) – it would be hilarious if Myanmar made a huge comeback. She seems plain and there’s absolutely no chance she’s going to actually win, but she might get the Internet spot.
  10. Namibia (Paulina Malulu) – her name is funny, and she has a lot of experience as a beauty queen, so she’s one of the more qualified, if we’re going by that.
  11. Poland (Paulina Krupinska) – already tapped as a potential winner, I really like all of the pictures I’ve seen of Miss Poland. Much like Israel, she can’t take a bad picture.
  12. Puerto Rico (Monic Perez) – she seems rather intelligent, and speaks Russian in addition to English and Spanish. I know Puerto Rico usually wins and I root for the underdog, but I wouldn’t be mad if this girl wins, as it’s been almost a decade since a Miss Puerto Rico won.
  13. Switzerland (Dominique Rinderknecht) – Miley Cyrus totally copied her haircut, and in her YouTube video, she keeps a balloon in the air for a really long time using just her breath. Either she’s really good at following directions, or full of hot air. Either way, a fun girl.
  14. Thailand (Chalita Yaemwannang) – I’d love to see how many ways the press will mispronounce and misprint her name.
  15. Ukraine (Olga Storozhenko) – another girl from a nearby country with good relations with Russia. She looks very dainty and ladylike, in contrast to the current Miss Universe, who’s pretty and relatable but wasn’t my choice last year.
  16. Venezuela (Maria Gabriela Isler) – another girl, like Puerto Rico, from a country that’s had more than its share of winners, but just look at this chick, she’s gorgeous, and if she wins based on her beauty alone…well then, that’s not the worst thing to win based on, since she’s competing in, you know, a beauty pageant.

I have a few more pageant-related posts in the works (it’s not an obsession, I swear, just a fascination), but I’m really hoping for some history to be made, or at least an awkward final question answer.



I Like Bad Puns And I Cannot Lie…

…and pop culture references as well.

I know that just about every has some level of tolerance for bad puns, but mine is particularly high. When other people make them and they work, sometimes I can’t even think of that person without associating them with the pun they made. When I make a bad pun, usually I roll my eyes along with the rest of the world but inside, I’m cheering like I just scored a goal at the World Cup…of life. After all, what is language but a system of communication that is inherent fun to poke fun at and play around with?

As someone who’s been in school for the last, um…all of the years of my life, my usual form of writing is that of the essay/paper variety. I once read somewhere that even in the most serious of papers, the title is where the author gets to have fun; it’s the only gray area in the whole paper. It’s a shame that the one time that I actually was praying for a bad pun title was for my master’s thesis, nothing came to me and therefore the title is terribly boring. But, then again, it is an accurate reflection of my mental state at the time: just string the words together like so many popcorn kernels on a Christmas tree decoration.

So with that said, I’d like to share a list of my favorite bad pun titles I’ve produced as a writer.

  • She Works Hard For the Funny: Examining the Role of the Lady’s Maid in the Works of Moliere. UMass Amherst, 2009. Pretty self-explanatory. I guess I was feeling Donna Summer that day.
  • Tennessee, Anyone? The Life and Literature of Tennessee Wiliams. Program notes for a production of A Streetcar Named Desire that I dramaturged at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters’ Theatre in Baltimore in 2010. Many thanks to Fuzz and Sherri for controlling their rolling eyes. Or at least while I was around.
  • The Edge of Glory: Love, Loss, and What We Hear in A Little Night Music. Program notes for a production of A Little Night Music that I dramaturged at Spots in ’11. Based on Love, Loss, and What I Wore – something that exists, but have no idea of what it is. A book? A play? An article? Someone’s to-do list?
  • Looney Toons: Art, Media, and the Dreyfus Affair. University of Houston, 2011. This was about political cartoons and their role in influencing the outcome of the Dreyfus Affair in France. Reference is obvious, but I can’t remember if I was watching anything when I did my writing or not.

I’ve got another one that I can’t share right now that’s so good that it hurts, but it will appear in a future post.

To all the Bad Pun Lovers of the World: Don’t be shy – spread your wings and squawk on with your bad selves.


There She Is?: Miss America 2014, The Day After

Usually, Miss America comes and goes without much fuss, but this year brought the controversy to a whole new level, and it’s a nasty one.

The show itself provided its usual “Miss America” moments:

  • No tripping, but several missed cues by contestants, most notably Miss New York (Nina Davuluri) – when she was called for talent, Miss Georgia (Carly Mathis) accidentally got up and walked toward the stage to sing and was told to turn back. In Davuluri’s defense, she was probably too spellbound by the lights, the adrenaline, and the moment to react, and earlier in the night as she made the top fifteen she had a similar moment, in complete disbelief that her state was called. Mathis, fortunately, got a chance to sing a few girls later. (Spoiler Alert: She was not good.)
  • Miss Kansas (Theresa Vail) in all her tattooed glory, which I found kind of distracting instead of AMERICAN. She did look great though and seemed like a tough but fun chick.
  • Some beautiful gowns, particularly Miss Maryland (Christina Denny) and Miss Minnesota (Rebecca Yeh).
  • Some fantastic talent performances, the highlight of which was Miss New York (explained further below). Other standouts were Maryland (she sounded good, but she didn’t pick a particularly challenging song to sing), Minnesota (great on the violin), Miss Oklahoma (Kelsey Griswold) who did an interesting musical theatre number, and poor Miss Florida (Myrrhanda Jones), made to twirl her batons with one leg in a brace (which she did, impressively)
  • Some pretty wretched talent performances, mostly Georgia‘s country-western interpretation of “On My Own,” and Miss Texas (Ivana Hall)’s off-key, totally un-sultry rendition of “Fever,”
  • For once, everyone tackled their final question well (except, obviously, Florida)
  • Since Brooke Burke-Charvet skipped her hosting gig this year in favor of Dancing With the Stars, Lara Spencer stepped in and was utterly inept at the job. (Even Gretchen Carlson did better than her!)

Although ALL THREE of my hometown girls (MD, TX, WI) made it, the ultimate winner was Miss New York, 24-year-old Nina Davuluri of Fayetteville, NY, a University of Michigan graduate of Indian descent. She is the second consecutive winner from New York, the second ever Miss America of Asian descent (the first was Angela Perez Baraquio of Hawaii back in 2000), and most notably, the first Miss America of South Asian descent. Although her evening gown was kind of meh in my opinion, she looked great in a swimsuit, answered the final question fairly well, and put on a show during the talent portion with a Bollywood number that brought both the wow factor and a healthy expression of culture. It also fit well with Davuluri’s platform, one of diversity, which is becoming more and more pivotal in the changing nature of American society. What we today deem “minorities” – Latina/o, South Asian, East Asian – will soon be the majority, and in certain parts of the country, they are already prevalent.

Within hours – actually, minutes – Twitter and Facebook were all in a tizzy over Davuluri due to her race. She was being called “Miss 7-11,” “Miss Al Qaeda,” and even “Miss Terrorist” by mean people on the Internet hiding behind screen names. She was facing intense scrutiny by the micro-media which was dangerously tilting its way towards the mainstream media. To top it off, she’s a) American-born, raised, and educated, b) Indian-American (not Arab), c) a very talented Bollywood dancer, d) Indian-American (not Arab), e) a great public speaker, and finally, f) Indian-American! NOT ARAB! There’s a difference, people. Yes, her skin is dark, but she’s lighter than a Kardashian on any given day. Middle Eastern does not = South Asian. Get a map, Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 probably has some. Also…did you even watch the show? Did you not see WHY she won Miss America? Not because of her skin color, but because of her fitness, her talent, and her poise. Her skin color was probably the last thing on any judge’s mind.

My thoughts were pretty much the complete opposite of everyone else’s. I thought that Davuluri’s win might actually be a boost to the image of the South Asian in America (although I have heard that the Indian-American community and India itself is quite pleased and appropriately celebrating her win). I thought that maybe people would become more curious about Indian culture and want to learn more about issues in the Indian-American community. I thought that people of other minorities would embrace the new Miss America and see her as not only a champion for Indian-Americans, but for minorities (and minority women) everywhere. Most importantly, I thought that people would think that this isn’t such a huge deal after all – a pretty girl won Miss America, she’s Indian, so what? Is there a rule somewhere stating that Miss America can only be white, with blonde hair and blue eyes? I can only imagine the uproar when a Native American, a Native Hawaiian, an Inuit, or (the horror!) a Latina wins Miss America.

I thought we were beyond that, America. This was a disappointing and shameful reaction. I wish Nina Davuluri the best of luck as Miss America 2014 – she’s beautiful, she’s talented, she seems nice, and overall, she won the competition fair and square.


There She Is?: Miss America 2014

Since 1921, one of our great American traditions has been that of the Miss America pageant. It was started as a business plan in order to keep tourists longer in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and has now evolved to become one of America’s most treasured traditions – but in recent years, one of America’s most forgotten about traditions. At one point, there was a parade with floats, featuring the ladies in period swimwear, something that should make a comeback – and could, based on today’s fashions (Side Note: they had a “parade of shoes,” but it just looked like a bunch of girls elevating broken legs in convertibles in random dresses instead of vintage swimsuits). Miss America used to be a representative for the country, and a symbol for fashion, service, and talent, almost like a female version of the President. For the last few years, however, due to financial reasons, it’s had to relocate to Las Vegas, taking with it some of the kitsch and charm and making it more like the Donald’s Miss USA pageant. One year it almost lost television coverage, until it was saved by, of all channels, CMT. This year, even in light of Hurricane Sandy, it has moved back to Atlantic City, where it all started, so expect that to be mentioned more than a few times tonight.

So, this year’s contestants are, as usual, a fun bunch. Miss America gives out several awards each year, so here are mine:

The “Small Town Girl” AwardMiss Nebraska, JaCee Pilkington. Coming from tiny Minatare, Nebraska (pop. 816), if she wins, she will be, without a doubt, the most famous person to come from there. Heck, if she makes the semifinals, they’ll probably erect a statue of her in the town square. And given that it’s Nebraska, it’ll probably be made out of corn.

The “Sentimental Favorite” AwardMiss Iowa, Nicole Kelley. She was born with one arm, so that’s something.

The “Your Parents Named You What?” Award – Miss Florida, Myrrhanda Jones. Seriously, Myrrhanda? I get the biblical reference, but did you really think about how many times your daughter would have to spell out her name?

And of course, the best bit of trivia from this years competition.

The “You Thought You Could Get Away With Sending The Same Girl To Represent Two States Award” – Miss California and Miss Hawaii. Both are sending a girl named Crystal Lee. I can only imagine the hilarity and/or utter annoyance and confusion that ensued in Atlantic City. To top it off, they look pretty similar. In my mind, they’re pulling switches and pranking all the other contestants, and confusing the heck out of all the handlers. If they become the final two, I will laugh for days.

And now, my picks:

Of course, my hometown girl, Christina Denny, Miss Maryland, from Owings Mills. She’s super cute, so I think she’s got a shot. Next up is Ivana Hall, Miss Texas – though she’s not from Houston, I won’t hold it against her. This year’s Miss Wisconsin is Paula Kuiper, who is from Madison, where I currently live, so that’ll be fun to see if she wins. I’m not one of those pageant-crazies, but I did watch some of the videos, and Miss Vermont (Jeanelle Achee) seems like a pretty cool chick, if not derpy. Vermont has never even placed, so here’s hoping.

Here’s also hoping that someone makes history, trips over her evening gown, or at least has an amusing answer to the final question. Good luck, ladies.


Mamma Mia

So much for posting every day this month – but 20 consecutive days are pretty good. I leave for Florida in 12 hours and I just had a 3 hour burst of creativity rather than industriousness in packing. I got the idea for this post on the 22nd but only got around to writing it on the 30th and publishing it today. So here’s a bit of pop culture theory for you.

A lot of people have given reality television a bad rap over the last few decades and they’re mostly right.

There are two categories of reality shows: competitive and non-competitive. Today’s focus is on the noncompetitive shows. It all started with American Family, where America pretty much followed around the Loud family of California. It had a cultural impact, but today, the family mostly lives in obscurity. In the 1990s, MTV started “getting real” with The Real World, putting seven typical 20-something strangers in an apartment together to live, work, and cooperate with new people in a new city. I was too young for the full Real World experience, but earlier seasons seemed to have more substance, with the cast focusing on starting their lives, talking about hopes and dreams for the future, and coming to terms with stereotypes and cultural divides. The first season was set in New York, but later seasons in places like Hawaii or Vegas or Miami made the show a joke, about seven usually quite-good-looking strangers living in a luxury apartment, getting drunk, fighting, and basically having a several month-long vacation on MTV’s credit card.

Other non-competitive shows have joined the market in more recent years, from those based around occupation (Cake Boss, Say Yes to the Dress), to activity-based (Dance Moms, Hoarders), but the ones that have had the most impact continue to be the shows centering on families, from the Osbournes to the Duggars to the Kardashians. Generally, most reality TV families are not your average family. Ozzy Osbourne is famous in his own right in a different field. The Duggars live an unconventional religious lifestyle and have nineteen kids. I don’t know anything about the Kardashians but they’re famous for something and they have a large family.

Coming full circle, reality TV shows are now tending to focus back on a single family unit, like what happened on American Family. Two of these seemingly normal families, both with powerful matriarch figures, are (were?) the Gosselins of Jon and Kate Plus 8 and the Shannon/Thompsons of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. In a brief comparative analysis, let’s compare the two and see what these “average moms” tell us about motherhood in the 21st century.

We first met Kate Gosselin of southern Pennsylvania through a Discovery Health special on having sextuplets. Their show, Jon and Kate Plus 8, focused on this newly large family with 8 young children (including the couple’s twin girls, age four at the season’s start). People oohed and aahed over the cute mixed-race babies in matching outfits (Jon Gosselin, the childrens’ father, is half Korean) and sympathized with this couple who were just normal people – she, a nurse who put her job on hold to raise the children, and he, an engineer, struggled to make ends meet while taking care of a larger-than-normal family.

Though initially it was mostly centered on the kids and their milestones in babyhood, as the kids got older the show became less about them and more about the parents themselves. After you’ve watched fifty or so episodes featuring the same kids who do pretty much the same things, it’s not as interesting as it was because the “firsts” (word, crawl, walk) are just that – they only happen once. The older daughters played less of a role as they were in school most of the day, and though they were part of the 8, they didn’t really have much of a role in raising their sisters/brothers since they were only 4 years older than them. Episodes such as visits to the dentist, going grocery shopping, and having birthday/holiday parties with Jon and Kate’s circle of friends, sometimes proved to be insightful, or educational, or at least something to think about.

One of the oddest things about the show was that neither Jon nor Kate’s parents ever appeared. When asked, the couple said that their parents didn’t have much of a role in the daily lives of the kids. Maybe this had some validity. Some possible reasons include: the parents didn’t want to risk losing their jobs, they lived too far away to become a fixture in the show, there were health reasons (maybe one had Alzheimer’s or something), or maybe they had no interest in being on television. Or maybe they disliked their kids and grandkids and decided to cut off contact from them, show or no show.  Then, one by one, the other adults in Jon and Kate’s life started to disappear. One of Kate’s brothers even went public on how the Gosselins acted in real life and the fact that they were not being paid for their regular participation in the show or for watching the kids when the couple were doing solo interviews/appearances elsewhere. In the latter cases, if I was in that situation and felt strongly about the people in my life, and didn’t want to lose them, I would petition the producers to help out someone who’s basically a cast member without the same surname. Families generally take care of one another without being paid, whether it’s sending the kids to grandma’s house, having your adult sibling or sibling-in-law watch the kids one afternoon so you can get errands done, or watching out for an elderly person’s welfare, but from the way Kate’s actual family members were approaching the media, it was easy to tell that they were good-hearted people trying to help their sister and her family who got turned into a free babysitting service on a show which is supposed to be about parents and children. It’s even in the title.

With fewer friends and family members to rely on, the show shifted more towards the kids having new experiences. In the beginning, it was fun, seeing them spend the day at an amusement park or go to the beach. At some point, it got out of hand. Every week was a trip to a new city or state. Every week became an advertisement, whether it was for Hershey Park or Disney World or that creationist museum where Adam and Eve walk with the dinosaurs. To make things worse, every week Kate yelled a lot more, Jon slacked a lot more, and the kids did what kids do, getting into trouble, looking at things, either enjoying it and laughing or not enjoying it and crying, which was usually the case. Before long, these kids became more traveled than I was at their age, with trips to the Outer Banks, Utah, Alaska, and Hawaii, among other places. This also brought about my least favorite episode, where Jon took the boys and one of the older daughters to a baseball game, and instead of enjoying it like a normal family, they got meet the players before and after the game, they got pictures with the mascot, they were given tons of freebies from stuffed animals to pictures with the players, and whatever they didn’t get, Jon bought for them in the stadium’s souvenir shop, as well as souvenirs for himself and for the other four kids back home. I don’t know how they managed to fit all that stuff into the car on the ride home.

Fifth season rolls around, and guess what? Jon and Kate get a divorce, with one of the main reasons being that Jon doesn’t want to do the show anymore, either for the kids’ sake or his own. The divorce is finalized, Jon moves out and disappears from the show altogether, and it gets renamed KATE PLUS 8 (with KATE in all capitals) and is now mostly about Kate and her shenanigans in her personal life, as the kids are in school and therefore have less time to do the show. After the seventh season, the show gets canceled. That was already years ago, and Kate is still in the news and trying to make a name for herself in the media. So much for being a mother.

Then, two years ago, along came Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. One episode of TLC’s show about child beauty pageants (Toddlers & Tiaras) featured a sassy little girl who was too smart for her age with a very odd-looking, odd-acting, obese, and clearly uneducated mother. Apparently, TLC thought that these two were a gold mine for a spin-off, so Alana Thompson and her mother June became the stars of their own show, which also featured Alana’s father and sisters (none related to the father – each the daughter of June and a different man), who all live together in a little house on the Redneck Prairie, AKA MacIntyre, Georgia.

From the very start of the show, people had much stronger reaction than to Jon and Kate. Critics, bloggers, the media – they all had their own take on things but most agreed that June, AKA “Mama June,” was disgustingly fat and a horrible parent just in it for the money, and that the whole family were the armpit hairs of America. The family had CPS called on them even before the show started airing! When it did air, however, people usually reacted in one of two ways, a) these people are disgusting and awful and not attractive to look at and smell bad and are what’s ruining the entire TV industry, or b) these people are indeed real people, and since we had low expectations of them from the beginning, the only way they can go is up.

For some things on the show, as Mama June says, “it is what it is.” Yes, they have disgusting habits like sneezing, burping, farting, scratching themselves, and leading generally unhealthy lifestyles with lots of candy and sitting around being lazy. What shocked people the most about this show what not about their redneck attributes, but about how they acted towards themselves and one another. Nobody hits anyone. Nobody hurts anyone. Nobody really yells or gets yelled at. Mama June and her daughters do try to lose weight in an episode arc, but they don’t hate themselves before, during, or after the process. In general, they seem to enjoy each others’ company and do activities that emphasize being together, not just doing things that are flashy or “make good TV.”

In an interesting pattern, the perceptions of Kate Gosselin and Mama June by the public  developed in a completely, diametrically, opposite fashion. One plummeted, and one had no place to go but up.

Kate Gosselin was shown to us as a pretty, young mother of eight adorable children, a nurse who quit her job to be a full-time mom. Everyone was rooting for her to become supermom. Over time, she became demanding, controlling, and bitchy to a point where even her most ardent fans turned on her. Her marriage fell apart, she was seen partying and dating other men, she had a stint on Dancing with the Stars, and now her third book (I think it’s her third, I’ve seen two different books with her name on them at the dollar store but haven’t picked them up), and has now become a self-promoting reality TV celebrity, the exact opposite of a self-sacrificing mother. We met Mama June and saw the rolls of fat, grotesque face, and crooked teeth, and heard her pig-squeal laugh and her horribly stained and crooked teeth. We judged her as a disgusting lump of lard at first, but then we realized that even though she’s probably not one of the brightest and prettiest people on television, she at least knows how to behave – if the producers saw her being a raging bitch, we’d probably have seen it much more by now, instead of seeing her play with her younger daughters and joke around with the older ones and her husband.

One thing about reality television that puts the emphasis on “reality” is that it can’t edit what a person does in real life, either when the cameras stop rolling or when they go away entirely. It’s been two years since there’s been a new episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8, yet we hear reports of the Gosselin kids having behavior problems at school and both Jon and Kate being negligent as parents, spending lots of money on things like travel, appearances, and material goods. With “the economy” being as it is, people who work less/have fewer things to offer who earn and spend large amounts of money are becoming more and more hated by the average American, who can’t do those things. A recent “shocking story” uncovered that instead of Mama June and her family acting like uneducated hicks and blowing through their new-found wealth on material things – a better house, expensive clothes, technology, travel, plastic surgery – that the most expensive thing they’ve purchased with the money is a car. And it’s not even a new one, it’s a used Jeep for the actual purposes of having a car (using it to get from place to place) rather than for show. The money, according to Mama June, is all going into trust funds for the kids, with Mama June sticking it to the media by saying “I want my kids to remember, ‘Mama played it smart.'”

And this is shocking?

It’s shocking in the fact that it’s probably (well, actually, definitely) a good decision. Mama June also announced that the show would end at some point and the family would go back to focusing on things like school and work and living their lives relatively normally. Mama June and Sugar Bear, Honey Boo Boo’s father, recently made it official and started their marriage, (rather than ending it) by having a wedding that ended up being fairly normal, other than the outfits. Mama June, who is also known on the show for saving money with coupons, announced that most of the wedding budget went to feeding the guests home-cooked barbecue, with a cake made by June’s sister – though on the informal side, it really boils down to what a wedding is, having a ceremony uniting 2 people in marriage, with your family and friends while you wear different clothes than you normally do and eat a meal together. And another thing, even though Mama June doesn’t have the prettiest face and body, she dresses in clothes that are appropriate for her size and shape and always looks well-put-together in public (lounging around at home is, of course, fair game for baggy T-shirts and old sweatpants) and she encourages her daughters to do the same. Even though the older daughters make fun of her all the time, you can tell that they don’t mean it, and June usually laughs at herself very easily anyway. If Mama June can keep calm and manage her behavior as she’s doing, she and her family are going to be just fine – you can point and glare at her and judge her all you want for being ugly and fat, but you can’t say that she should have her children taken away or she should be ashamed of how she acts. Finally, she also announced her daughter’s retirement from pageants – an activity that sucks up both the bank account and time that could be spent doing constructive or educational things.

And what has this taught us about motherhood in the 21st century? Really…not that much. The family values that we like are still the family values that we like. We cheer for the underdog mom trying to rise above (as seen in initial Kate and current June), and we like families that love themselves and each other. We like families that play jokes, laugh, and have fun. Having a happy life with the bare minimum rather than living a tortured life while hurting the lives of others with your actions was and is most people’s idea of family. It’s all about moving forward rather than clinging to the past. In real-life situations, a mom who is high-strung, strung-out, or out-of-focus probably ends up being the one whose kids never get invited to other kids’ birthday parties – not because of the kids, because the other parents who want to have as little to do with the  mom as possibly, and a down-to-earth mom whose life is her family and children is probably someone you’d want to go to for help planning the party, if she hasn’t already volunteered.


Five People Who I’m Glad I Wasn’t When I Woke Up This Morning.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a celebrity. I thought it would be awesome to have money, fame, and a bunch of screwball comedies to my name. Now…um, no thank you. The very concept of “celebrity” has transformed from “iconic role model” to “public screwer-upper.” I remember all the controversy around Oprah Winfrey, when she opened that school in South Africa that advertised nice linens and dishes and a yoga studio, and how people were all, “what a jerk, that Oprah, funding a few people instead of spreading the wealth around a little more and making a less-fancy school for more children.” Now, Oprah’s not a perfect person, but she’s pretty darn close compared to 95% of celebrities. First of all, who else is building a school in Africa? Are YOU building a school in Africa? Second, isn’t that why public education is failing here in the United States, because even though we spend too little on education, the money we do spend gives our children substandard education, and even then we complain about taxes. Third, so what if some African girls sleep on Egyptian cotton sheets? There are plenty of boarding schools in the USA and the UK where white girls have it just as good, if not better. Fourth, why are we caring about this when Paris Hilton is doing the nasty on 1000-thread count sheets and The Bachelor probably goes through way more sets of sheets than this school ever does? Fifth, why are we even discussing this? People kind of wanted an excuse to put down the O, because yeah, she’s rich and famous but she doesn’t screw up in public because she has manners and a brain, so apparently she needs a scandal to make her a “celebrity.”

I used to wake up in the morning wishing that I was someone else, preferably a celebrity, but I don’t anymore and haven’t for a while. I’ve lost faith in Hollywood for the most part, not because it has so much traffic but because what kind of image are we giving to the world? Then I remember that I can’t change that, I can just be the best and most awesome me that I can be and try not to screw up on a global scale.

I’m doing this whole new “be grateful” and “things could always be worse” thing with my life, so, in light of recent events, here are a list of five people who I am glad I did not wake up as this morning, and why.

5. Lindsay Lohan. She’s so far gone that she’s a caricature of Lindsay Lohan, being a caricature of Lindsay Lohan. Part of me hopes she’ll pull a Britney and become a normal person, but seeing how long it took Britney to get there, we probably won’t be seeing that until the 2020s.

4. Justin Bieber. Yes, he has fans, is Canadian, and has nice hair. I have nice hair, I hope I have some fans, and I don’t throw up on stage or party in a onesie in Sweden or act like someone I’m not. He’s got me on the Canadian part though.

3. Amanda Bynes. Abandoning everyone you know? Moving to NYC to start in the “fashion industry?” Torturing your hair like it sent you anthrax? Wearing purple lipstick and odd-shaped sunglasses? Locking yourself in a public restroom for a half-hour? Tweeting about the weird stuff that turns you on? Oy vey, you were such a nice Jewish girl. Unlike even the worst celebrities, you don’t even have the self awareness to laugh at yourself. And now what is this? Amanda, this is a shonda.

2. Anyone named Kardashian. First of all, that’s not even a real last name. It sounds like a horse that won the Belmont Stakes in the 1970s. Second of all, nobody really knows why you’re famous. Third of all, I have never seen your show and you’ve never appeared in any of the academic journals I read, so who are you? Fourth of all, North West? Couldn’t you have just stuck with the “K” thing and chosen Kimberly or Katherine or even something like Mary? Fifth of all, Taylor Swift called you out on Twitter. That’s sad.

1. And as a grand finale, a brand-new addition to the list, Aaron Hernandez. You just gave up a forty-million dollar contract, a job with the New England Patriots, and millions of fans in exchange for a blow-up at a bar. Now you’re in jail, probably for a long time. And you’re twenty-three, a full two years younger than me. Game over. I sure am glad I’m not you today.