(June 19, 2012) – I complain so much about these Housewives show that I would like to take a nanosecond break to confess something that may be surprising: I have learned more about myself and my personal/business relationships from watching these quirky shows than I have in the first 40 years of my life.
With the aid of a DVR and Bravo’s incessant reruns, I’ve had the invaluable opportunity to rewind/fast forward through many scenes and analyze what I believe is really happening with these nutty women and their families – despite Bravo’s meddlesome need to manipulate what we see in some of the scenes.
Oddly enough – and don’t ask me why because I have no idea – I can see myself better after reviewing and thinking about what happened with these complete strangers and the simulated versions of their lives.
Like many other viewers I was truly disturbed by that insane argument Teresa Giudice had with Jacqueline Laurita and Caroline Manzo the other day. I rarely comment on the Real Housewives of New Jersey because that cast is just too combative for my tastes. They love to live life at such a high volume that I can barely view the show, let along write about it. In fact their approaches to life make me wince on a fairly consistent basis. I find all of the shouting and their incomprehensible arguments jarring, to say the least.
Still, despite my inability to write much about this cast’s antics this season, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am not one of Teresa Giudice’s great champions. I do not like her now, nor have I ever been amused by her, even back in the beginning when Caroline and Dina Manzo were telling us endlessly that Teresa is “so funny.” I do not find her even remotely amusing, not even today.
What has changed is that I feel enormous empathy for Teresa after she was viciously shouted down by Caroline. No one deserves to be treated as Teresa was in Jacqueline’s backyard. While I forgive Jacqueline – because I do not believe it was her intention to invite Teresa over for an ambush – I do blame Caroline.
When she strolled in after the conversation had already gone from bright sunshine to well past sunset, Caroline obviously had two goals in mind: 1) to position herself in front of Reality TV cameras; and 2) to give Teresa a talking to she’d never forget. I find neither of those goals even remotely admirable. The first I can live with because this is an assisted-reality docudrama. The second repulses me.
When the conversation begins, Teresa arrives cheerfully. She’s flattering Jacqueline about her appearance. Then Jac becomes choked up and makes her case that she’s been a good friend. She says that Teresa doesn’t tell her what is going on her life. Instead Jac has to read about her friend’s troubles in supermarket tabloids. Reading those magazines scares Jac. She’s worried Teresa is going to jail. Teresa says nothing is going on and that she’s not even remotely worried about the bankruptcy court’s threats.
This may be true. This may be false. Still just as I do not believe it is Alexis Bellino’s obligation to air her dirty laundry with her colleagues in Orange County, I do not understand why in Franklin Lakes, Teresa should feel any need to explain her problems on the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Love or hate it, in my world, there is only one acceptable answer when a stranger asks, “how are you?’ That answer is, “fine.” I know she and Jacqueline are not strangers. We viewers are. Teresa has every right to try and manage what we know and when.
Still Jacqueline, whom I normally love, feels the need to provoke Teresa. She mentions the carport Teresa is building on her enormous house and all the things she’s been buying while trying to sort out her problems with her creditors and the courts. She mentions that Teresa gets paid by the tabloids. Teresa denies she was paid for those In Touch and Life & Style stories we’ve all seen in the supermarket. And she defends her purchases by saying that just because you’re in bankruptcy doesn’t mean your life ends. Teresa says none of this Jac’s business. Considering how volatile Teresa is, I found her responses surprisingly gentle.
Still Jac will not drop it. She is hell-bent determined to provoke her friend and long time colleague. She thinks her conversations with Teresa are one-sided. She and her husband Chris (whom Bravo wants us to believe is lurking and eavesdropping nearby) think their shared interactions are always about Teresa. In his video diary, Chris tells us Teresa calls his wife every morning and has never asked about his step daughter and her incessant problems. Teresa thinks that asking about Ashley would be prying. Jac asks if Teresa is annoyed that she is prying by asking about the bankruptcy and the threat of jail. Teresa admits that she thinks Jacqueline is.
Whether she knows it consciously or subconsciously, Jacqueline is provoking Teresa with these kinds of questions. There is no doubt in my mind that she is trying to get Teresa to explode with rage. And as far as I can tell her chief complaint is that Teresa is trying to control how her legal and financial problems are discussed in public.
Teresa says she is hurt that Jac thinks she would hide things. Rarely in my life have I ever seen a clearer example of someone trying to turn someone else’s complaint into their own. Still I don’t blame Teresa for turning this conversation around. I think she felt defensive that Jacqueline was spotlighting her problems on camera. The only way she could divert the attention away from her own financial problems was to highlight that she was puzzled and hurt that Jac was embarrassing her on camera.
Teresa goes on to say that she doesn’t think she should have to tell Jacqueline every time she’s interviewed. Jac says she doesn’t want to pry into her business. For whatever reason, Jac feels the need to escalate Teresa’s emotions by provoking her in another way by mentioning how Teresa has been tweeting with the cast’s shared arch enemy, Danielle Staub. She says that Teresa must hate her so much that she is contacting her enemy.
I do not believe for one second that Jacqueline believes those tweets had anything to do with Teresa’s opinion of her. I think she’s actually continuing on the path she set out when she first sat down. She wants to provoke Teresa by accusing her of things and playing the victim.
She then goes the extra step and identifies with Teresa’s alleged victims: Danielle and Melissa. She says that Teresa used Danielle to expose Melissa. Even though she allegedly hates Danielle and didn’t want Teresa to have any contact with her, Jacqueline is admitting she has sympathy for Danielle because she was used by Teresa to embarrass Melissa.
Melissa, however, cannot be discussed in any detail. The horrible things she did were two years ago. Those incidents cannot be discussed. Neither can anything related to the things Melissa has said about Teresa in the time she’s been on this show. It seems that in Jac’s book, everything is justified because they are angry with Teresa. Instead, Jac just takes her side and asks Teresa why Melissa and her brother are so bitter.
I feel for Teresa in this conversation for many reasons, not the least of which is that she’s too inarticulate to explain herself very well on a good day, but after being heavily pounded with one provocation after another, Teresa begins to stumble over her words and begins to shout that Melissa and Joey G. are jealous. Teresa denies she is upset though she certainly looks enraged and I really get why.
Eureka! Jacqueline gets the reaction she was looking for: pain and rage. Jacqueline visibly perks up and says this is exactly what she wanted to see: emotion. And just as quickly Jac wants to know why she won’t let go of the pain Melissa and her brother caused her. Just as quickly as Teresa was finally willing to tell the truth and admit she’s pissed off, suddenly Jacqueline asks her to put it away and forget it. That doesn’t sound reasonable to me.
But we can barely digest the scene before it turns into something almost out of a horror movie with the sudden emergence of Caroline out from the shadows of Jacqueline’s backyard with the words, “Why are you screaming?”
Caroline wants to know why Jac is upset. Teresa notes that she is also upset. Contemptuously Caroline asks why. She says she feels ambushed. Jac mentions the article. Caroline insists that Teresa has a deal with the tabloids. Caroline then goes from 0 to 60, pointing at Teresa and accusing her of putting out lying gossip about her, too.
The minutia of the conversation dissolves into Caroline returning to her seasons 1 and 2 mobster personality. It’s a shame really. She did such a good job last season of distancing herself from that with her NJ101.5 job and apologizing to Kathy Wakile to whom she was initially so nasty when she first joined the cast. Now she is right back where she started: sounding like a bully, declaring she is no longer friends with Teresa and calling her a liar and crazy as often as she can fit the words into a sentence. Though Jacqueline is not nearly as vicious, she tells Teresa she has decided to “distance” herself from Teresa and her family.
The odd thing here is that repeatedly Caroline has told us that her feelings about Teresa have not changed as a result of the cookbook. “It’s more than that,” she’s told us incessantly. She goes so far as to say that the Olive Garden comment and her criticism of her son’s car wash idea are “inconsequential.”
What is Caroline’s problem then? I do not believe this has anything to do with Caroline’s severed relationship with her sister Dina who remains friendly with Teresa. Both Dina and Teresa deny any of this is true and I believe them.
I think there are a combination of factors. One, the cast is obsessed with Teresa. Two, Melissa is jealous of Teresa and Caroline wants to support Melissa and Joey G. Three, Caroline is enraged at Teresa about that trip to the Hard Rock Casino in Punta Cana. Rumor has it Teresa provoked a fight. The cast joined in and Caroline’s sons ended up in a Dominican jail for at least one night, maybe more. Four, Caroline just needs to have an enemy. She thrives on it. She forms friendships by uniting with someone against someone else. I have a client whose entire marriage is based on and nurtured by this exact destructive philosophy.
Just as in that case, Caroline’s uniting with one person to aid another is sad, not to mention pathetic. This lady should release herself from the Bravo contract, take some classes at the local community college, learn about literature, theater or nursing and try to piece together a happy life for herself and her family, which in my estimation needs someone to guide them.
Her daughter Lauren is in pain, feels hopelessly overweight and wants her mother’s approval. Her sons do not appear to have jobs, other than their work with BLK water, which I am sorry to say doesn’t sound like full-time work.
At the risk of sounding horribly mean (trust me I am not), her children are wasting their 20s, lying around on sofas in Hoboken, waiting for the pizza guy to deliver their next meal because it’s raining outside and they aren’t creative enough to stand up and figure out a way to enjoy their privileged lives while the weather is not perfect. People with far less have found far better ways to enjoy foul weather than by whittling away the time and prank calling Jacqueline’s daughter Ashley and eating submarine sandwiches with Greggy Bennett, until the rain storm passes.
The storm in their lives is never going to pass unless they stand up and build for themselves new paths, unrelated to their angry mother’s Reality TV fame.
All photos are courtesy of BravoTV.com, unless otherwise indicated.
About the Author (Author Profile)
I am a New York City publicist who specializes in promoting luxury products and experiences and occasionally moonlight as a journalist.
Relatively new to the world of blogging, I have watched and enjoyed Bravo’s Housewives shows since the first season of the Real Housewives of Orange County. I created this blog over the 4th of July holiday of 2011 because I enjoy writing and love to figure out how to blend images and words to create something that is both visually compelling and interesting to read.