Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Real Housewives of Atlanta: "You don't know where the knives are"

Last week's show was All About Kim, but she gets very little face time this week, most of it at the beginning of the show, where she goes on a boat ride with Sheree and one non-Housewife friend each.

Kim's non-Housewife friend drives the boat, Kim speaks to her rudely, the friend leaves the boat turned on while the girls drink wine and sunbathe on an island, they have to be rescued, and Kim makes predictable comments when Sheree requests some sunscreen, evidently having made the wise decision to disregard the assertion of the sketchy botox vendor that people of color have some sort of immunity to the effects of today's ozone-free solar rays.

We hear no gloating about it from NeNe, but her Big Hat Brunch launching her Twisted Hearts foundation to aid abused women is a rousing success, raising twice the total of DeShawn's Diamond Gala Night of 1000 Stars to benefit her nebulous goal of helping young girls with their self-esteem.

A little backstory about the hat thing: When Vatican II removed the head-covering requirement for women attending mass, an overwhelming majority of US Catholics responded by shouting "Hallelujah!" and gleefully tossing hats, veils, mantillas, dupattas, and every imaginable form of head covering air-ward as if they were Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis.

Protestant congregations, most of whom had never had any rules about women's headwear, were of course unaffected, and especially in the African-American community, the Sunday Hat tradition marched apace. If anything, the decades that followed saw even larger and more elaborate hats upon the heads of church-going ladies of all colors in the Protestant south, even unto successive generations as modern lifestyles also tended to include fewer occasions requiring millinery products.

As the years passed, and the cross-demographic general decrease in regular Sunday church-going removed, for many women, the last opportunity they had to rock wearable Head Art.

This is why NeNe's Big Hat Brunch was near-brilliant marketing, as it gave an outlet to this particular demographic sector - affluent and frustrated would-be hat-wearers, to whom for all their wealth, modern customs simply offered few opportunities to sport this particular accessory, although most had grown up in homes that whether rich or poor, almost always contained at least one or two hatboxes on a closet shelf, or perched on top of a chiffarobe, whose remarkable contents were lovingly taken out and applied to the proud heads of mothers and grandmothers and aunts, as all set off together on Sunday morning.

It is impossible to dislike NeNe. I have really tried, but whenever I think I am almost there, we get something like the scene where DeShawn says something about that she does know how to cut lemons, but - and NeNe finsishes her sentence: "But you don't know where the knives are." Impeccable. Chalk up a whole mess of snark-points for NeNe.

She manages to completely dominate this scene, though DeShawn gives it her best shot, simpering and hamming it up for the camera like Shirley Temple on crack. The setting is her breakfast nook. She has invited her good friend NeNe over to plan a sunset barbecue, so of course the nook contains no notepads or rolodexes, but two settings of ugly yellow-brown glazed earthenware, which appear to be intended to serve the function usually performed by charger plates, though few of us employ charger plates when sitting down with a good friend in our breakfast nook. There are things that DeShawn seems to see but through a very thick glass, and very darkly.

She wants her sunset barbecue to clear the air. She is a peacemaker, is our DeShawn, and so she calls both Sheree and Kim while NeNe sits right there, slicing the scene up and making it into sandwiches. She looks especially nice in a lavender dress with a higher neckline that she usually wears, her hair is flawless, and her eyeliner is perfect. For the first time, I realize that NeNe is actually a very pretty lady. She just happens to be a very pretty lady who should always, always remember to jack em up. Sadly, at her own elegant Big Hat Brunch, she failed to do so, and adorned the podium adorned by a good seven inches or so of "ghetto line."

Her bust has become the topic of lively discussion, as some photos have surfaced of her with a very small one, which even though bra-ed and covered, would clearly not be capable of producing even an inch of ghetto line, yet from the first episode of this series she appears with a most ample bosom.

One could conclude that she had, like Sheree, simply paid a visit to her local Boob-Mart, except that her ample bosom does not look boughten.

My speculation is that those small-busted photos being passed around from forum to forum are in fact more recent ones, and that since the show, NeNe has indeed paid a visit to Boob-Mart, but for the purposes of dropping off rather than acquiring.

But enough about NeNe's chest. It was a big week for the Atlanta elite. Sheree was planning an event, too - a launch party for her plans to "start a clothing line." Not the line itself, which does not yet exist. The party is just to announce that she plans to start one. She has hired someone to do the sketches, make the patterns and sew the clothes of the eponymous collection: "She by Sheree."

(Actually ShebaSheree would be a much better name, smoother alliteration, better overall aural aesthetics, and containing elements of Africa, classicism,and potential perception of "exotic" by the mainstream demographic, but she didn't ask me).

The clothes themselves look remarkably like things already ubiquitously available in every retail establishment that sells ladies ready-to-wear. Sheree says the clothes are intended for the masses, serenely disregarding, or perhaps unaware, that the masses already have them.

She is unhappy with the samples when they arrive. My impression is that the seamstresses made the clothing represented in the sketches, ready to be hung on racks from Tar-zhay to Macy's to Lord & Taylor, ready to wear. But Sheree, it seems, was expecting to receive couture samples.

Undeterred, she blows up her sketches and orders her ice sculpure and muscled male models upon whose skin she will cause to have painted her name, the name of the planned clothing line.

Until the line moves forward from the planning stages (and let us not get ahead of ourselves, the launch party to announce that it is going to be planned is barely underway) Sheree's current occupation consists of "efforting" to obtain a seven figure divorce settlement from her famous ball player ex-husband.

She is eager to show the world that she does not need him and that she can succeed all by herself, so she invites him to the launch party and poses with him for pictures for the media.

DeShawn and Lisa, both still married to their respective ball players, go shopping for expensive clothes for their children and discuss reproduction and the contract terms offered by companies who produce this flavor of ball throwing events as opposed to another flavor. Again, poor DeShawn tries and fails to be a face the camera loves. Somebody please get poor little Shirley off that awful crack!

Offline, I have been once again schooled on the nature of Lisa's hair. Previously, in the context of criticizing what appeared to me to be a faux Jheri-curl in one of her Video Diary scenes, I had opined that Lisa's head had been kissed harder by Asia than Africa, and was immediately corrected by several people, who were very definite in their assertions that this was a game that Africa had totally won, and when we see her with straight hair, it is because somebody has done some work.

A neighbor actually went so far as to freeze and blow up a computer image of her temple, so that I could see this truth writ large in the form of her baby hair.

So in case there are others of my fellow low vision afflictees who may have been laboring under the same misconception, Lisa's hair comes out of her head curly, and the Jheri curl scene was closer to her "real" hair than her usual straight do, although we can be sure that curly though it may be, it does not emerge from her scalp coated with quite so much product.

At the sunset barbecue, Lisa aligns herself with DeShawn as a peacemaker. She, too wishes to clear the air. But neither Kim nor Sheree shows up. They both have very busy lives, they explain when called on the telephone.

In a Flashback Plus (a previously aired scene plus Never Before Seen footage) we get to see a little more of NeNe getting her DNA test to find out whether the usually-absent gentleman whom NeNe has always thought of as her father actually provided any sperm on the occasion of her conception.

One of the things that happens is that the technician uses an extremely offensive term that I had not heard in years, and in the very distant past when I did hear it, it was invariably from the lips of southern white racists. Today the African-American Cheek-Scraping Technologist employs it jokingly, and NeNe, with surprising aplomb, just lets it slide, or, since she is much younger than I am, it is possible that she never heard it before and does not understand how offensive it is.

I thought about explaining more about it, and its usage, such as it was, nearly half a century ago, but decided it did not rate so many key-strokes. Suffice it to say that it is a compound term that contains the n-word, and it is a whole nother level of offensive, the n-word having become, though controversial, extremely common among African-American youth, even finding its way into popular music. But this term, not so much.

To return to our story, fast forward to the present, where the NeNe family is gathered round the dining room table, tastefully charger plate-free, for the Opening of the Envelope that contains the Truth about NeNe's parentage.

And so it is in this rather anti-climactic scene that we learn that Curtis is not her biodaddy. Gregg, NeNe's husband, characterizes the news as "devastating." "Then who is your father?" Brentt, whose name we may assume bears a second final and superfluous consonant in honor of his father's redunant "g," asks his mother.

NeNe doesn't know, though The Letter That Started It All made reference to at least one claimant. I wonder if she will request that the individual cited in The Letter will submit to a cheek-scrape, but nothing is said about it, at least in this episode.

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