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Daphne Merkin

Dream Girl

Much as we might rag on it, the awful truth must be looked at head-on: Reality TV, that fiction of verisimilitude, is, even for people who read W. G. Sebald and enjoy grim Scottish films with subtitles, supernally addictive. Not always and (let’s hope!) not forever, but in the right now of it. Sure, sometimes one is simply not in the mood for all that virtual id, the jawing and bitching, the glaring white teeth and the faux familiarity. And it is possible to envision a day in the not-too-far-off future when one might return to an old-fashioned pastime, like doing one’s nails, over the vicarious pleasures of comparing and contrasting the suntans and blown-out blondness that beset the Real Housewives of Orange County. Meanwhile, though, one stays tuned, fascinated by the mindless commotion, caught on the hook of the souped-up dramas that barge into every episode, unsure whether one is watching a version of oneself or a counter-version or perhaps an alternate version. Which brings me to the question: Who might one be if one were to be played by a reality-show star? Who might one want to be?

First, indulge me in a bit of scene setting. Think New York City, a tony Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, lunchtime on a gray Monday afternoon in early March. Cut to me, played by myself, wearing a radically unchic down jacket and floppy corduroy pants, rushing up the stairs of the restaurant, tardy to the party as usual. At a choice corner table overlooking 86th Street, a trio — a man and two women — awaits me. I was expecting only one person, but hey, when you’re this famous, you can’t be expected to sit alone. Or is it that you can’t afford to be seen sitting alone, can’t afford to be stuck in the clumsy quotidian reality of being on your own, unattended by others?

T Magazine | April 14, 2010


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