Monday, May 16, 2016

Sister wives: badder catfish to fry

It's been a while since I've written about the polygamous soap opera Sister Wives, which is undoubtedly the most poisonous reality program ever to air on TLC (often called The Loser Channel, though once long ago it was devoted to "learning"). And I should never write about Sister Wives again, because not only has the youngest/most recent wife Robyn popped out a couple more pups, the first/oldest wife Meri was recently CATFISHED by a sociopathic middle-aged woman (who lives in her mother's basement, no kidding) named Jackie Overton. This Jackie posed as a handsome, wealthy man called Sam Cooper for months and months, while poor Meri, jilted by the family and feeling oh-so-barren after her one-and-only kid flew the coop, ate up all his flattery with a spoon like an entire container of Cool Whip non-dairy topping.

Still with me? I'm not, but I'll go on. Sister Wives has become a sort of addictive agony for me now, and so far this season they've run TWO episodes that were two hours long. That's a mind-numbing four hours of dysfunctional polygamy. The whole thing has become so staged that you can see these folks looking around for their cue cards, and several times per episode the director speaks to them (captioned, yet) from off-camera. Breaking the fourth wall, or breaking the barrier of indifference in the family?

Kody, the clueless patriarch with the very unconvincing surfer-dude hairdo, always sits there talking, usually about himself, as if he doesn't even know WHO or WHAT or WHERE his wives are. Unless he's in the bedroom impregnating one of them (that would be Robyn), that's probably true. Three of the four wives, too old to have any more kids, have been pretty much shelved. Meri was even required to divorce Kody (as if they were ever really married!) so Kody could then marry Robyn (who used to be married to someone else, explaining how she had three kids - but now had to marry Kody, so her kids could be - oh, who gives a fuck).

So Meri, left alone in a giant house without her one grown-up child (a daughter who seems to hate her - we'll get to see the catfight next episode!)has been shunted aside as useless while Robyn just keeps poppin' 'em out. They obviously need some more kids, and soon the tally will be somewhere around 20. Squicks me out that they all look alike, but they're all half-Kody, aren't they? Squick. Anyway, Meri started itchin' for action of some sort. SOMEhow she ended up "chatting" with someone on the internet, and ended up with This Guy who turns out to be a woman. The woman is an especially poisonous sort who is now out to ruin Meri by posting all her intimate voicemails on YouTube, not to mention embarrassing photos showing her suggestively eating a banana.

But that's not what I'm writing about today! 

One of the many sons - well, who knows who the mother is, but we can assume Kody is the Dad - is named Garrison, and guess what. He wants to join the army! Here is where the show's credibility is stretched so far it's close to the snapping point. Why not call him Beetle Bailey or Sad Sack? But anyway, Garrison wants to join a garrison somewhere, and there is the inevitable feverish discussion amongst family members, when the decision was probably made months ago. One of the other brothers - "a brother from another mother", Kody calls him (and the rest of them, when he forgets their names) is training to be an Officer, whereas it looks as if Garrison won't rise any higher than digging latrines.

Wait for it: here comes my point!

"I want to join the army," Garrison (Beetle Bailey) says, his muffled words spelled out in captions. "I think it will test my mettle."

I am sure, nearly certain, that most of the viewers said, "My God, LOOK at that spelling mistake."

Now, Garrison didn't make the "mistake". I'm amazed he knew the word "mettle" at all. And using it did not mean he knew how to spell it.

How many people DO know how to spell "mettle"? The producers of the show must have looked it up. It's one of those words where if you spell it correctly, someone will look at you with irritated contempt and say, "It's M-E-T-A-L," then wait for you to thank them for setting you straight.

Imagine: thinking "mettle" is a word!

This led me to remember a few others, similar misspellings or word-switcheroos (some of them bordering on the malaprop-ish). I wish I could think of more, but I am sure they will come to me because they are jammed in my face daily.

Someone on Facebook, a teenage girl probably, posts, "I looked out the window, and LOW AND BEHOLD, there was my kitten eating the neighbor's pet grasshopper."

Well - ?? Low and behold has to be right, because low is spelled . . .  low. That's just how you do it. You can't take off the w, for God's sake - it makes no sense!

Low, how the mighty have fallen.

OK, here's another: "I was in the THROWS of the flu at the time." (This is a misuse within a misuse, because flu is often spelled flue - and that, too is a real word, but - ). That IS how you spell throws, if you are talking about multiple tosses. I even looked it up, and if one has the flue, one often throes up. (Sorry, that was a mistake. Or two.)

One of the most irritating for me - and it's becoming almost universal - is loose instead of lose. Thus, "even after following the 600-lb.-a-week Chris Powell torture plan, I just couldn't loose weight." I have this image of someone loosing great chunks of weight on civilization, and once that weight is loosed, it wreaks havoc (never mind) on all and sundry (no, wait a minute! That's Sunday.)

Something else happened, and it peaked my interest. People have completely forgotten how to spell piqued. It just doesn't look right! It couldn't have a Q in it, could it? To confuse matters still more, peaked can mean something quite apart from pointy: it can mean pale or sickly, though it's pronounced PEAK-id. I don't think anyone under 40 has heard of this word, or believes that it even exists. Like quinsy and lumbago, it has just fallen into disuse and (thus) obsolescence.

Now getting into pronunciations - a hair product ad for Tousle Me Softly kept insisting the word was towssel (almost like tassel) rather than tousle. I always thought the s had a z sound, not a sibilant sssss. The ad gave me the awful squeamish feeling that most young women aren't familiar with the word tousle, have never seen it or used it, or can't spell it, and surely can't pronounce it to save their lives.

Since it was pointed out to me, I've started to notice "vocal fry", a tendency for mostly-young women to drop the pitch of their voices on the last syllable of a word or phrase with a sort of darkly grating, almost grinding sound that's hard to describe (but you'd know it to hear it). If you're a Kardashian, forget about it, your voice is just one big CROAK. I also hear final words opened out with an elongated short-a sound: "That's not really trewwwaaAAHH" (or, with the requisite "uptalk", "trewwwaaAAHH?") 

Then there's what I call the Say Yass to the Drass syndrome: "It's badder to go there for lunch when it's not so crowded?"  "She saadd she had her nails done in raadd but it wasn't trewwwwwaaAAHH?" And so on. I would ask what language they were speaking - I can't even think of appropriate phrases for it because it isn't really English. I guess it's a form of Valley Speak, but updated in the most bizarre way possible.

One thing it does is convey privilege, even entitlement. This isn't just uptalk (and even older people are upspeaking more and more now, no longer outgrowing it at age 14), it's la-di-da-speak, the drawly cigarette-holding speech of a post-millennial Tallulah Bankhead. Poor folk don't vocal fry because they have other fish to fry. Adding an extraneous "aah" to the end of words like the little fillip on the top of a Dairy Queen soft-serve cone (and PLEASE do not tell me it's spelled Phillip!) strikes them as silly, or maybe they just don't have time for it.

Want a great example? or a horrible one? I've just discovered a real estate-flipping show called Flip or Flop on the home-whatever channel, and the woman on it is a living Barbie, I swear. She has every vocal mannerism ever invented. I don't know where it all comes from. I marvel at this, and at her appearance, her unblinking Barbie eyes and pound of makeup. Nearly every sentence is either upticked, fried, "oh-ahhh"-ed, "badder"-ed, or all of the above.

I don't know how she keeps track of it all.

Oh. Oh. Oh! When I actually listened to this snippet of the Flip or Flop couple on a talk show (you'll see what I mean after only a couple of sentences: the woman is a blonde Kardashian), I heard another affectation: at the end, she said, "thank yeeaaaoooowwwwwwwhhhhhh" instead of "thank you". There's a sort of diphthong-y thing going on, a whole series of vowel sounds strung together. A simple sequence of ee and oo becomes a sort of cascading waterslide of vowel sounds that seems to encompass all of them. Instead of spreading out slushily in a crescendoed short-a sound, it sort of goes "YAOWWWH!" and is hauled back in again. 

Doesn't anyone realize how bizarre they sound? Why are they doing this? Was it a decision on their part? Who started it?

More to the point: when will it stop?

Sympathy for the Milkster