The Broken People Club: How Do We Solve a Problem Like Reality TV?
It is no secret that reality television is a haven for the unstable and unwell. The term “damaged” is one of those horrific yet accurate terms that you don’t like to use, but is the only way to describe the ideal candidates reality television cherry picks, fosters and further ruins. And we all know that. This is not news. But, as we watch (or actively avoid) and laugh (or dismiss and write off) it’s easy for forget what we’re laughing at or dismissing: a person who under any other circumstances would require urgent care but who by sheer fate is instead paid large sums of money just for being mentally ill. For this, they get fame, which makes them get sicker, and then have forums and platforms to reach large groups of people, people who then laugh and ridicule, self included (twice), thus leading to further downspiraling.
It’s dark out there.
I think about this today because of Farrah Abraham, a star(?) born out of televised mess factory, Teen Mom, which means she has a child, lest we forget. She also starred in a sex tape, which was just a fully produced porn that she claimed was a stolen sex tape, despite her co-star, James Deen, saying the contrary. She is now appearing on VH1’s Couples Therapy by herself, not as a couple, because her supposed partner in couplage, Brian Dawe, was hired by Abraham to appear on the show as her boyfriend, so we’re off to a really healthy start already. Dawe backed out of the show citing “morals and integrity,” words uttered anywhere near a reality star or program elicits an automatic snort.
On last night’s episode, after weeks facing accusations from her co-stars that she was lying about the sex tape, she came clean…ish.
“I signed some shit away that I’m fucking against and I can’t even talk about it because I signed this huge fucking contract…You guys think that I’m purposefully and intentionally lying to you but it’s like, you know, I have a lot to lose. So I would tell you the truth if I could, if it were safe. If it wasn’t gonna fuck up my whole life, then I would tell you the truth.”
So, either Farrah Abraham’s life is in danger if she admits the tape wasn’t an accident, or she’s severely paranoid OR a problem liar. It is probably one of those last two. Who fucking knows which.
It should be noted that Abraham also says she was beaten as a child and repeatedly raped at events following the video’s release.
And here’s where we get into the societally important, uncomfortable area—where to go from here.
To distrust a woman who claims she has been raped is not something I am remotely comfortable even considering, and, yet, here I am, unsure this woman is telling the truth because she is attempting to build an entire career (complete with erotic novels AND a Christian parenting book) on the back of this tape, because she is working on its sequel, because she is an opportunistic reality star, albeit one who seems clearly unstable. And I feel awful about it. It’s easy to lament Philip Seymour Hoffman, to examine his illness and mourn him as tragedy; it’s harder when it’s Farrah Abraham.
So what’s the answer? Fuck if I know. But, at some point, MTV and VH1 will face consequences. Until then, we have these people. And other people are tuning in.