"Ugh, I can't stand that guy! He's so annoying...When does the next episode air?" If you've found yourself saying something similar while watching TV lately, chances are you, too, have fallen prey to a new summer reality-TV syndrome I'd like to call hatenotizing.
Similar to hotnotizing, in which we watch a show like Windfall because D.J. Cotrona is irresistible, hatenotizing occurs when a character on a show is so obnoxious and completely detestable you find yourself unable to stop watching even though you're fully aware the show is a waste of time.
For me, the three biggest hatenotizing sources this summer are Heidi of The Hills, Wes of The RW/RR Challenge: Fresh Meat and Tyler of Real World: Key West. I can't stand them, but I can't stop watching.
For years we've heard the whole "it was all in the editing" mantra from reality TV's most notable villains--from Survivor's Jerri to The Apprentice's Omarosa to Korbi in our very own Tater Top Awards ceremony on the Vine--but does it hold true for this summer's biggest offenders?
My mission was to find out. Here's what I learned:
Tyler from Real World: Key West: It was the Real World altercation heard around the world. Not since Stephen slapped Irene in Seattle has an argument between housemates conjured up such outrage among MTV reality fans. I'm talking about the recent episode in which Tyler lashed out at a crying Svetlana--and her mother via the phone!--when he heard her trashing him and his "burn book" (apparently devoted to bashing Svetlana). He then topped it off by leaving a psychotic note on her door.
So, what does good ol' Tyler have to say for himself?
"Omigod! They have edited me into America's Next Top Gay Villain!" he tells me. "It's been terrible! People are sending me the worst hate mail. But the thing is, Svetlana made up the whole thing about the burn book. She never saw it. The book they showed is actually a clip book I have of Michelle Kwan news articles and stuff."
Say what? That's right. According to Tyler, Svetlana was in tears because she was busted for talking smack about Tyler and Janelle, and when they called her on it, she used the fabled burn book as justification. "She pretended to be upset about the burn book in order to save face. The funny part is, I actually showed her the burn book at one point, because nothing really mean is in there. It was just about weird things she'd said, and I also have a page in it, as do Paula and Zach and Janelle. Svetlana's just always playing the victim."
That's right. Tyler blames it all on the editing. "They make us into characters," he insists. "They wanted Svetlana to be the sexy girl, John to be the hot frat guy and me to be the conniving, gay villain. It's just sad because they're perpetuating this stereotype that gay guys are evil and mean. I actually talked to directors of the show after the episode, and all they would concede, for obvious reasons, is that they're only showing one side of me, and it's unfortunate it has to be the bad side. In order to sell [Svetlana] as the sex symbol, they have to make her seem like a sympathetic character. If they showed what actually came out of her mouth on a daily basis, they would see how ugly her personality is."
As for Tyler challenging Svet's madre, he makes no apologies. "The fact of the matter is, I never said anything mean to her. Anyone who overheard someone's mom say 'Oh, they were probably molested and beaten as children. They're lowlifes. They're just jealous of you,' would want to defend themselves, too. And that's all I did."
Verdict: I have a hard time believing Svetlana found an homage to Michelle Kwan instead of Tyler's burn book. Regardless, I admit "America's Next Top Gay Villain" is pretty dang entertaining and likeable in real life. He's certainly no saint, but something tells me Svetlana isn't one either!
Heidi from The Hills: You know that puppy that chews up your shoes, pees on your rug and just can't seem to learn any of the house rules but is so cute and friendly you can't help but love him? Well, after meeting her in person, that's how I would describe Heidi from The Hills.
Clearly, she's a bit spoiled, and she doesn't necessarily want to work too hard or think too much. But Heidi's happy-go-lucky attitude and insistence on not taking anything seriously--certainly not herself--is truly endearing in person.
When asked if she thinks she's been portrayed fairly, Heidi answers, "Yes and no. I think that's a big part of who I am, but it's definitely very edited. It's a show. It's a character. I have other sides to me, but that's the main one I guess they want to portray, so, whatever. I am who I am, and I don't really care!"
One bit of evidence in her favor? Apparently, that hilarious scene in which Lauren intentionally hangs up on Heidi when she tells her she's dropping out of school never happened. "Lauren just lost reception," Heidi explains, "and five seconds later, she called me back and was like, 'I'm so sorry!' and they didn't show that part. They made it look like something it wasn't."
Speaking of things that aren't what they seem, I'm a bit suspicious that Heidi and her boyfriend on the show, Jordan, are still together. She talked a lot about Jason's jealousy issues (which you can read about for yourself in the full interview transcript righte here http://www.eonline.com/Insider/Boards/ann.jspa?annID=600 ), even referring to their relationship in the past tense as something that was "their first love." When asked if they're still together, she takes a long pause and ekes out a quiet "yes."
Verdict: She's not as bad as they make her out to be!
Wes from The RW/RR Challenge: Fresh Meat: He screamed at his girlfriend and called her dumb, verbally abused his team partner and topped it off by threatening the rest of the cast with bodily harm if they didn't do things his way.
And they say chivalry is dead.
To find out if any human being could really be that awful, I went straight to those who bore the brunt of his misdeeds: girlfriend Johanna and fellow castmember Theo (my favorite funnyguy).
Johanna, believe it or not, is still with Wes (I'll pause while you digest that) and jumps to her man's defense. "Wes is a very competitive person and very athletic," she says. "His feeling was, 'I deserve to be here until the end because I'm physically better than a lot of these people.' And they don't show everything. For example, on the first episode there's this clip where he kicks people out of the room and looks like a jerk. But the only reason he did that was Coral, Tanya and Theo had kicked us out of the alumni room."
Still, the lovely and--I'll say it because everyone's thinking it--sorely mismatched Johanna admits Wes' bad behavior was not all in the eyes of the producers. "The words that come out of his mouth did come out of his mouth. The things he did, he did. It's, like, take responsibility. But he kind of understands now he needs to keep his temper under control."
Theo sees it another way. "The quality of the people on the Challenge has really changed over the years," he says. "Now, it's, like, For the love of God, somebody mail us a box of Bibles and get me the eff out of here!' I'm very serious. Wes is not the kind of guy I'd want to spend an afternoon with. I'm not sure why Johanna's with him. She probably has some self-esteem issues. She's a pretty girl and she's honestly as sweet as can be, which kind of makes you more mad at him, because it's like, 'You lucky bastard.' But at least you know when he goes out on a summer day, he'll always get a really bad sunburn."
Told ya. Funny. And speaking of, Theo's still in the running for Last Comic Standing, which I'll tell you about in Monday's chat.
Verdict: Paraphrasing the immortal words of Theo, I have no idea what Wes' problem is, 'cause I don't speak idiot.