Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Fascination with the Abomination: FLAVOR FLAV!!!
Reality television is like a car crash—I never really want to see it, but if it comes across my radar, it can be hard to look away.
That’s especially true when C- and D-list celebrities are involved, because there’s something satisfying about seeing how people who you used to think had it all are actually rather worthless human beings—and they don’t even know it. VH-1 has been ahead of this curve for a while, what with the cable station’s “Surreal Life,” which jams ancient or semi-celebrities together in a house and tapes their interactions “Real World”-style. The channel even came up with its own (fantastic) name for this phenomenon: “Celebreality,” a term that implies both the fascination and the abomination all in one conjunction.
There’s no better example of this, however, than VH-1’s latest foray into the life of a hanger-on, “Flavor of Love,” which goes straight to the top of the list—or bottom, as the case may be—for reality TV that utterly demeans the human condition.
The show stars Flavor Flav, one half of the influential rap duo Public Enemy, as he searches for “love” in a group of 15 “women” (“gold diggers” or “whores” may be more appropriate). It’s essentially “Survivor” with lots of sex, as Flav kicks a few girls off his personal pleasure island each week.
I was too young for Public Enemy’s 1988 “masterpiece,” “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” and I’m not in the habit of exploring the history of gangsta rap. So my first real exposure to Flavor Flav was his previous VH-1 celebreality show, “Strange Love,” chronicling his romantic—but ultimately doomed (shocker!)—exploits with fellow D-lister Brigitte Nielsen (a spin-off from the odd couple’s insane hook-up during one season of “Surreal Life”). “Strange Love” was by no means appointment viewing, but cable TV as a rule constantly replays programming, so the show always seemed to be on during weekend work sessions. It was something I could have on in the background, looking over once in a while to hear Flav yell his trademark “FLAVOR FLAV!!!” whenever something went his way.
I’ll say this for Flav: If nothing else, he’s good for the occasional laugh, with the crazy outfits, the Viking helmets, the clocks-as-jewelry, and his marbles-in-the-mouth speech pattern. Someone so completely unaware of his own ghoulishness can actually be quite funny—again, in a man-I’m-glad-that’s-not-me kinda way.
But not even that outsized personality can save “Flavor of Love.”
Make no mistake, I have not watched much of this show—certainly not an entire episode. It’s deplorable, even for celebreality and even for Flavor Flav, and belongs one rung above the circle of hell currently occupied by “The Swan.” Each episode essentially consists of these women throwing themselves at Flav, each trying to outdo the other in “affection”; Flav gives them some “challenges” in each episode (cooking dinner, meeting the moms, lie detector tests with Brigitte—you know, the usual), but as far as I can tell, the idea is for Flav to get as much action from as many different women (separate or all together) as he can before the rules of the show force him to kick some of them out using another ubiquitous catch phrase, “You know what time it is.” The two most recent rejects (sent home after they slept with him, of course) were bounced because one, according to Flav, “just wanted to be friends,” and the other, again—according to Flav, had been on too many reality TV shows. That, coming from a celebreality whore, was his reasoning—I wish I were kidding. The contestants are so objectified, they don’t even go by their real names, instead adopting nicknames such as New York, Hoopz, Goldie, and Pumkin (all spelled correctly, according to the show).
It sounds like I’ve watched a lot of “Flavor of Love,” but I assure you, I have not. It doesn’t take long to figure out what time it is in Flav’s world. When I first came across the show while flipping channels several weeks ago, just 30 seconds were enough to demonstrate how vile this show is, and I quickly turned it off. But, like I said, VH-1 reruns its featured programming continuously, so eventually this car wreck wore me down. “He is a loathsome, offensive brute—and yet, I can’t look away” (bonus points for whomever can identify that quote). I can’t take it for long stretches, but each time I flip back, I think the same thing: “These are terrible, awful, subhuman beings.” In some way, it’s fascinating to observe something so objectionable, as well as reassuring—thank goodness I’m not one of these people. I’ve never been happier with my life than when watching Flavor Flav’s.
What, then, is the point of all this? I honestly have no idea. But if you want such an otherworldly experience (celebrities really do live in a different world—I’m convinced they sacrifice their humanity for fame, but that’s a subject for another time), VH-1 is—surprise, surprise—hosting a “Flavor of Love” marathon Sunday leading up to the final episode, capping two months of debauchery and dehumanization.
Doesn’t that sound like fun? FLAVOR FLAV!!!