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Charm School? Hardly

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The "students" of Charm School

Charm School is VH1's new shameful display and exploitation of a posse of skanky cougar-strippers with pink streaks in their hair scratching each other's eyes out while wearing next to nothing, or, if its elimination night, sexy schoolgirl uniforms with white thigh-highs.

I'm no prude. I enjoyed Rock of Love as much as the next person-who-watches-way-too-much-reality-TV. And apparently, so do the Republicans. According to a recent survey, Rock Of Love is one of the highest rated shows amongst conservatives. This comes as no surprise to me, because at 19, while working for a catering service in Boston, I served dinner at a Republican convention. After getting my ass grabbed three times and enduring perverted comments throughout the night, I was given a pin as a tip—a tiny little golden masturbating monkey. I cannot think of a group of guys who would enjoy Rock of Love more. 

But at least Rock of Love was honest. The prize was to be an aging fish-lipped rock star's arm candy, and ladies gratefully jumped at the opportunity. On I Love Money the prize was $250,000, and there was no tiptoeing around the fact that the show was going to be a horrific marathon of drunken, drugged-out orgies and catfights. Ironically, Hoopz, the winner of VH1's I Love Money, (whose cast makes up a third of the Charm School cast), proved the one respectable person on the show.  Hoopz was miles behind in the final race against Whiteboy, but Hoopz’s sobriety gained her first place when she arranged the contestants’ photos in the order of their elimination, a task that proved impossible for her wasted Money castmates. Following that besotted nightmare, Charm School boats the doubtful notion of turning these, and I'm quoting Sharon Osborne here, “cheap, old tart groupies into women of importance.”

Uh, hello, you're Sharon Osbourne, not Merlin The Wizard. I hate to be cynical, but these ladies are no spring chickens. Possibly half are in their theoretical twenties. Maybe. But there are a few 40+ with a couple of kids at home, and the rest are thirty-something strippers with crows feet. At least the idiots on The Real World have the excuse of being twenty-two (and totally blacked out). And if the point were to really reform these ladies, why not make first prize a job that might get them out of stripping? Or the opportunity to get an education?  Something other than that hundred grand, which the winner will more than likely spend on new cheeks, costlier and more durable hair extensions, and even higher clear heels.

Sharon Osbourne, an appropriate choice for headmaster, must teach the ladies manners and etiquette. And I suspect she's there to watch the freak show like the rest of us. After meeting Angelique, a French middle-aged stripper (whom I'm certain is a man), Sharon quite publicly remarks, while smiling, that Angelique reminds her of a used tampon left in the bin. (Too bad she couldn't think of a more refined word for tampon). I am so not hating on Sharon Osbourne. It’s that I’m feeling guilty given how much I’m entertained by these ladies' deeply-rooted issues and bird-brains. There's good reason why strip clubs are only open late at night, and have dim lighting.

In the pilot episode, Courtney blacks out once again and they offer to take her to rehab; Lacey tries to yank Raven's wig off only to discover it’s glued down tight (an awesome scene); Lacey touches Dallas' private parts and Dallas throws an apple at Lacey's ear (to which Brandi C. exclaims, "If the apple hit her in the brain, she could've died!"), and Brandi M. defaces Brandi C.'s photo with a giant penis. I mean, it's only the beginning of the season, what else can possibly happen? I shudder in excitement—and am disgusted at myself for it. Every person I have forced to watch this show cannot help but laugh out loud. We've all come across these ladies sometime in our lives- perhaps they slept with our boyfriends, or spread a rumor about us, and now we get to revel in the satisfaction of watching them pull a drill seargent on a sled in the hot sun like a pack of huskies.

Meghan is back, after some R&R following I Love Money, and at her initiation, when asked about her life goals, announces that she sees herself as a top-of-the-line trophy wife.  When asked what that will entail,  Meghan says, "Not talking, making pies, laying out clothes because old people like their clothes laid out, because he will probably be old, getting ten hours of sleep, facials, and tennis." She's actually a lot more mature and aware than I thought.

Clearly the editors had a grand old time choosing their segments. They hold an uncomfortably long shot as Meghan's retarded dog licks her belly-button. As Lacey—a red-headed spoiled daddy's girl famous for causing trouble and getting into fights—arrives, Heather mumbles (thank God for those little microphones!) "Your hair looks like my period." As I howled with laughter and gave Heather points for originality, I also felt icky, and wondered if I should scrub myself in the shower. 

Rock of Love was like a Gremlin, a creature we hadn't seen yet, evoking our curiosity until it got wet and spawned a bunch of other shows, each one proving more void of moral substance than the last, and Charm School may well prove the scary lead gremlin that takes over the movie theater in Gremlins 2. Judging by the ratings, this franchise may never end.  VH1 understands there lurks an abundance of people just like Meghan, Lacey, and Heather, all eager to humiliate themselves for camera time. There are ways to profit big from this exposure. Lauren Conrad from MTV's Laguna Beach and The Hills pulls in two million a year for being an idiot, and doesn't even have to get nekked. She only has a "hypothetical" sex tape. Next to these girls L.C. looks like a saint, and is regarded by some as a role model.  Even the losers can still find a reality agent to make a living off their meager celebrity, booking appearances at cheesy nightclubs and other random jobs. The scariest aspect is the nastier you are, the higher the ratings and the more screen time you get. The skankiest achieve their own shows, the ones we remember and laugh at. So even if you aren't a horrible, backstabbing bitch, you better become one, and be prepared to undress if you want to soar to the top of the VH1 garbage heap. We wouldn’t want to disappoint all those pot-bellied Republicans out there so eager for a good ol' catfight and a glance at some trashy blonde tail.  Maybe it brings them back to their days at the frat. If this is only the beginning, and things have plummeted this low, I weep for the future (and also can't wait).


Mary Hanlon


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2008

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