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Social Studies

The Surreal Life

By Vincent Williams | Posted 8/17/2005

Honestly? It was Sherman Helmsley showing up and dancing some type of jig with Bobby Brown that let me know I was in over my head. Brown’s reality show, Being Bobby Brown, has taunted me since its inception with Brown’s combination of ghetto antics, celebrity excess, and general surrealism. But that’s the essence of Bobby Brown.

Since I started this column, I’ve been working through a long list of popular-culture subjects I’ve wanted to tackle, but Bobby Brown has continually eluded me. I mean, Brown is like this grand jewel of an experience, differently faceted depending on how you hold him in the sun. Where do you start with Brown and, specifically, how do you approach Being Bobby Brown?

I guess a good place to start is just with a quick examination of the nature of reality TV shows. You ready? They’re all bullshit. They’re staged, they’re edited, there’s nothing “real” about them at all. And the celebrity projects are even worse. Do you really believe Jessica Simpson is so stupid that she didn’t know about the tuna thing? Do you really believe that the millions of dollars she’s made off of her stupid image weren’t banked on? So, just so we’re all on the same page, reality shows are fake and packaged, and the celebrity ones are even more packaged. OK? OK.

Now, that means that the grand spectacle that is Being Bobby Brown is the package that Team Brown thinks is the best representation of the entertainer. That means that when Brown and his wife, Whitney Houston—Whitney fucking Houston—talk about taking a dump, over and over again, as if they were 12-year-old boys, the Browns said, “Yeah, that’s a good look.” Bobby Brown loaning some strange woman he just met money for her rent as they snuggle in a corner? Throw that in! The quietly pitiful shots of their daughter, Bobbi Christina, as she sits in the middle of her parents’ madness? Gotta include that. More than anything else, I find myself wondering what they did leave on the editing floor.

Watching multimillionaires Bobby and Whitney live their lives is like watching a documentary about your ghetto-ass cousins. Yeah, yeah, I know you’re not really supposed to call anyone “ghetto,” but you know that part of the family I’m talking about. I mean, Lil’ Ray and them—the ones that you invite to the barbeque and pray they don’t show up, but also the same ones you call when there’s a fight at the club. I’m talking about the cousin that hooked you up with a free cable box. Being Bobby Brown is like some ghetto-ass version of one of those HBO documentaries about drug addicts in the Ozarks who make crystal meth out of, I don’t know, Yoo-hoo and Fritos. Not that I’m saying the Browns are drug addicts, just that they’re . . . twitchy.

And yet, there’s a sort of grace to the Brown/Houstons. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me to watch them, I honestly and truly believe that those two lunatics love each other. In fact, I buy their relationship more than I do Brad and Angelina, Ben and New Jen, or Tom and that little girl he’s dating. And I have to say, as someone who’s still in a fairly new marriage, there’s something a little inspirational about their “Us Against the Whole Damn World” attitude.

Speaking of real, you know what else makes me love Bobby Brown? He has the nerve to still bring it. He drinks, he parties, he can’t possibly get his eight glasses of water a day, but on Jimmy Kimmel Live, that damn Bobby Brown rocked it like it was 1986. So many celebrities seem to specialize in just being celebrities. Brown has spent the past decade or more doing the same, but at the end of the day, he has the goods to remind you why he got large in the first place. Ultimately, when the smoke clears, how can you not appreciate talent?

And even if you don’t, you get to see Sherman Helmsley do a jig with Bobby Brown. That’s got to be worth the price of admission.

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