Why Women Watch Such Crap

By Joel Stein

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Anybody who has spent any time around children knows they are incredibly stupid. Many cannot even read. So it’s not surprising that they watch TV shows made for stupid people: You say it’s a country with 1.3 billion people who use chopsticks and speak Chinese? I don’t know this country of which you want to explore, Dora! But women, in the vast majority of my experiences, are not stupid. They say smart things, run smart companies, trick me into buying things I would never, ever want to buy. Yet women watch TV shows that are even dumber than the ones children like. The average Bravo viewer is college educated, wealthy, traveled and needs to know why Teresa Giudice called Danielle Staub a “prostitution whore.” Worse, women admit to watching horrifying shows as a pleasure they claim to feel guilty about but clearly do not feel nearly guilty enough about. When you actually feel guilty about a pleasure, you don’t talk about it all the time. Trust me.

Smart women watching dumb shows makes no sense. The only explanation is that the TV sends out waves that travel to the vagina and up to the brain, where they temporarily reduce IQ. I suggest this rationale not because I believe it but to demonstrate the kind of idiotic things people say on TV shows women watch.

And these aren’t accidental indulgences that happen when women are flipping channels. When you ask a woman why she’s keeping up with the Kardashians, she’ll freely admit the show is fake and stupid, but she needs to know what happens anyway. Which means women are having premeditated moronic experiences. When men do something stupid, we are tricked into it, usually late at night, usually when we’re drunk. We wouldn’t decide a week in advance to program a DVR to record “$1,000 withdrawal from the ATM at Spearmint Rhino.”

I know guys aren’t watching astrophysicist Brian Greene explain the origins of the universe on Nova. But actually they are. Sure, they’re also watching Monday Night Football and Ice Road Truckers, but that’s Masterpiece Theatre compared with Mob Wives and Bridalplasty.

These shows aren’t just dumb, they’re sexist. Vapid, slutty women either compete for men’s affection or compete to see who can spend their husband’s money fastest. Porn actresses are better role models. At least they don’t constantly complain about not getting what they want. And when they do, the men around them seem very, very happy to give it to them.

I shouldn’t even know how bad these shows are, but like all men, I’ve been needled into watching The Bachelor, Gossip Girl, Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of Every City Bravo Could Find and America’s Next Top Model. Women who would never watch five minutes of Deadliest Catch have no problem insisting that men give Here Comes Honey Boo Boo a chance. And we do it. Because unlike with crustaceans, a prolonged fight with women involves talking.

That’s why, when my wife and I visited my mom this summer, I watched a show called Bachelor Pad. The game show took place in a house inhabited by a bunch of young white women I couldn’t tell apart and a bunch of young white guys who all seemed gay. They had contests and voted one another out and gave roses to people they wanted to keep around. Things that took 20 seconds in real time took six minutes in Bachelor Pad time. About halfway through I had a familiar annoyed, disgusted reaction to the entitled, narcissistic people on the show. For a day I couldn’t figure out when I’d had that feeling before. Then I remembered: reading Jane Austen.

But through years and years of remedial English literature majoring and mastering, I was able to figure out that what annoyed me about Pride and Prejudice is also what makes it great. There’s a secret world of feminine semaphore that Austen—and these awful reality shows—amplifies and slows down in order to elucidate. That way you can see the unnecessary secrets to test alliances, the insults carefully designed to look like compliments to everyone except the person at whom they’re directed, the lies to break up friendships. Machinations worthy of a medieval court are used by reality-show cast members to get a guy to kiss them a little longer than he kissed some other girl. The amount of strategy used by a coach to determine whether to go on fourth down is the same amount of strategy Brittnee uses to decide whether to tell Madison that Michael told her that he liked—I can’t even stay interested enough to finish this hypothetical situation.

But as ridiculous as all that is, it’s how women see everything—all the time. Which must be exhausting. You buy her flowers because they’re on sale at Trader Joe’s. Three hours after getting the gerbera daisies, she’s yelling at you about what you posted on your ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page. To explain the psychological jujitsu she did to get from the daisies to your assumed guilt about the Facebook posting would take about 44 minutes of boring exposition spoken slowly into a camera. Which is why they have to make those reality stars so hot.


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