This fine Sunday morning, we sat in the bright sunlight streaming in through the French windows here at Withering Depths, lost in what poet Wallace Stevens termed "complacencies of the peignoir," and looked up as our houseboy Agador, clad only in his habitual marabou thong (well, after the split from Helen Hunt, Hank Azaria had to find work, and we were only too willing to oblige), brought us our glass of soursop-and-blood-orange juice and our stack of morning papers.
Imagine our delight when, flipping through the pages of that fine Long Island institution, Newsday, we came across an editorial written by Mrs. Rita Hall, mother of Top Chef victor Ilan Hall. Mrs. Hall, who happens to work at Newsday, wrote a trenchant analysis of reality television, and described her own reactions to watching Top Chef:
What I didn't expect was how much I believed what I saw and how much friends who have known Ilan since he was little reassessed their opinion of him, good and bad, based on the edited version of reality that they saw weekly on the small screen. And how just as involved - though utterly presumptuous and cruel - the viewers in the blogosphere can be.
"Utterly presumptuous and cruel?" we queried of the cryptically-monikered Miss XaXa, as she looked at us through her sunglasses and cocked her Hermès-scarf-swathed head at us.
"That sounds about right," said Miss XaXa, interacting with us. "How very well-put."
We sat back, pleased with our human interaction, and resumed reading.
And what of the anonymous souls who spent so much time discussing and disparaging a person they would never meet and who would have no effect on their lives? Cryptically named writers jumped to wild unsubstantiated conclusions and, despite having slavishly watched each episode, made charges and claims that belied what they had seen:
Ilan doesn't deserve to win. (He won more elimination rounds than anyone and was in the group judged the worst only once, far fewer than anyone.) He's gay. (This homophobic invective didn't bother Ilan except that he has a girlfriend and he said so.) What was with the head scarf? (He covered his head for continuity; he changed his hair at the end of filming and they needed to insert interviews into previous episodes when his do was different.) Why the sunglasses in bed? (To avoid the morning onslaught of the bright lights and cameras that was their wake-up call.) Ilan is the bad guy. (In an ongoing conflict with fellow contestant Marcel, bloggers largely sided against Ilan, even though, over 13 weeks, almost every chef had a dispute with Marcel.)Why were they so interested? So certain of their impressions?
I can only imagine that cabin-feverish loners sitting in dark basements envy and loathe reality-TV stars. Reality TV provides a chance for previously anonymous Everymen to become well known. The blogosphere allows people who previously had to interact with other people to bloviate anonymously. How frightening the cameras would be for them. And how they must hate people who live with live cameras so easily.
First of all, Mrs. Hall, it's not a basement. It's a tastefully appointed subterranean lair. Or at least that's what the realtor told us.
And speaking of euphemism, "he changed his hair at the end of filming"?!? But we understand, Mrs. Hall. You're a mother, and we know that if we'd had a mother, it also would have been difficult for her to write, "He shaved his head after instigating and videotaping an assault on Marcel that included an abortive attempt to shave Marcel's head."
But the homophobia? We're afraid we must plead guilty to that. When we, of all people, speculate that someone is gay, it most definitely is "homophobic invective." As soon as we file this post, we will be checking ourselves into the same gayhab that Isaiah Washington so recently and so successfully attended. In fact, while we're there, we're also considering the three-week counseling program that turned pastor Ted Haggard "completely heterosexual." It's the least we can do.
Still, the most valuable lesson to be extracted from Mrs. Hall's editorial is this: Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be reality-show winners.