There is no television I adore like reality television. When presented with the opportunity, I gorge on it until double-vision kicks in and I’m imagining throw-downs with JWOWW after we’ve had a few. Visiting a relative in a Florida snowbird community this past week, I watched several hours of Selling New York, a reality show about high-end brokers in Manhattan; on the planes to and fro, I helped myself to Million Dollar Listing, a reality show about young, male real estate hockers in Los Angeles.
These shows are lousy with Jews, of course, and what these Jews communicate, beyond the fact that they deal with expensive properties and wealthy clients, is a vulgarity and love of money that at times embarrasses me. More than embarrassment, though, I worry that these shows affirm anti-Semitic stereotypes—Jews are good at business, they love money, they’re hustlers. With their aspiration for enduring manicures (I include the men from these shows herewith), the Jews on these shows, along with the likes of Patti Stanger, Jill Zarin, and who knows who else on what else, give lie to the idea that Jews are a “people of the book.” Unless, of course, you’re talking about the kind filled with checks.
Then, thankfully, I got hooked on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the best franchise in that robust Bravo empire. The cast of mostly African-American women is rounded out by Kim, the show’s only white woman. Not a Jew. Kim is a wig designer, lives in a gated community, has two seemingly normal daughters, a mane of blonde hair (one of her own creations?), and is now pursuing her “passion” to be a singer. She seems to greet nearly everyone with a loud, throaty, “Hello, love!” that screams hard living and dubious affection.
Kim is trashy. Before her friend’s wedding, on this week’s season finale, she gets her “titties” redone, invites her personal assistant to see how soft they are and then, hobbles into her dressing room where she uses a curling iron on her Rapunzle-like tresses while a cigarette dangles from her mouth. After her gum-chewing football-playing boyfriend picks her up, they make their way to the party, where she asks a waiter to hide a bottle of wine they’ve brought for their exclusive consumption, assuming the booze on hand will be inferior. Classy broad.
And I love her. Not because she’s affable. Not because she’s smart (though she does convincingly offer information on pregnancy, supporting her assertion that she studied nursing). I love Kim because she made me realize that Jews on reality television have no monopoly on garishness. They are not the only ones invoking stereotypes. Other peoples can and do, happily, deliciously, elicit my cry of: Oh! The Humanity!
Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.