Oh dear, Charleston. Look what’s happened. Bravo TV has been silly enough to send a camera crew to our fair city to film the self-proclaimed “ruling, entrenched minority” in all their spectacle-creating glory.
From the first teaser trailer for Southern Charm, we know for sure that it stars Thomas Ravenel, who seems quite happy to smear his family’s name, as well as a smattering of other rich, white boys who refuse to grow up. Fantastic. And from the first teaser trailer, we also know Southern Charm promises to be a train wreck.
Reactions to the trailer have been near-universal: disgust, disbelief, anger, despair. Trust me, I could go on for hours, tearing apart the trailer and the people in it. They say ridiculous things, like the grammatically challenged “That’s not how we act like down here,” and the overly dramatic blanket statement, “Here in Charleston, they’ll say ‘bless your heart,’ ‘no problem,’ then they’ll just stab you in the back.” I could point out the inaccuracies in what these characters say, juxtaposed against the amazingly good people living in the Holy City.
But that’s not why I’m here. Not today. I’m here to tell you how to withstand the storm of Southern Charm. Because a storm it will be, a veritable hurricane of negative attention and embarrassing tabloid covers. So trust me, you want to be prepared. And I should know. I’m from New Jersey, and I survived the debacle that is Jersey Shore on MTV.
Yes, it’s true. Though people who meet me tend to not believe it — “Where’s your accent?” is something I hear regularly — I grew up in the Garden State, and going “down the shore” was something I did until I moved to Charleston in 2003.
Before that, I worked in an Italian bakery in the northern part of the state where some of the clientele were as Tony Soprano as it gets. I’ve also seen my share of Snookies, but you know what? Those people — they were the exception, not the rule, to the normal, average, wonderful people with whom I spent the majority of my time.
Because here’s the thing to remember, dear Charleston: Reality TV is sometimes scripted, always produced, and designed to spark drama. Maybe that should become our mantra during the coming dark days, a simple reminder that, at its core, reality TV is as fake as it gets.
When Jersey Shore was on the air and terrible accents and spray tans suddenly filled the small screen world, I cringed whenever I saw the Oompa Loompa-ish visage of JWoww or K-Shizzle or whatever the hell their names are. I saw bars at which I’ve partied, beaches at which I’ve swum, splattered across newspapers and magazines, boasting scenes of fist fights and other violence. I saw my home state embarrassed and humiliated when these unstable kids — most of whom were from New York — became the poster children for New Jersey.
So trust me, I know what you’ll be going through as Southern Charm gets rolling. You’ll either watch it or not — a lot depends on your proclivity toward rubber-necking at the scene of car accident. But even if you don’t watch, you’re going to hear about it. So-called friends and relatives in other cities will watch it, anxious to “learn” about this city you love so much. And they will call you, and say things like, “Did you see that episode? Do you ever go out with them? Is T-Rav really the baby daddy?” And you’re going to want to hide.
But that’s when you go back to our new mantra: reality TV is sometimes scripted, always produced, and is designed to spark drama. And then you hang up the phone.
We in Charleston know the show will be a giant charade. We in Charleston know the real city and its real people. We in Charleston know the truth, and together we will weather this storm.
And one day Southern Charm will be canceled, and T-Rav and his friends will fade back into obscurity, and we will all get on with our lives. But until then, always remember, reality TV is sometimes scripted, always produced, and designed to spark drama.