Unstapled, Episode 2: Carnie Got Back

By | January 22, 2010

Previously: Carnie set herself up as the cocaine supplier to a local dealer. Oh, apologies, what I meant to say was Carnie successfully convinced a baked-goods shop to sell her baked goods. See, last week Dallas told us that food is the same thing as cocaine so I got confused. Also, Carnie was harrassed by her manager; she hated the clothes Art the Stylist brought her; she confessed to Dallas about her financial problems.

In a new interactive effort, on Tuesday I put up a poll on the sidebar asking: “Would you frame and display a giant print of yourself on a 1991 cover of Rolling Stone?” It seems most people feel as I do, as the most popular answer was “Maybe, but I’d hang it somewhere ironic, like the bathroom.”

This week, we open with Ren & Stimpy music, which is bizarre and yet appropriate. Carnie is returning from a shopping trip with DanielBrian (whom she repeatedly, both in last week’s episode and this one, refers to as her “bubies”, which… man, I want to find it cute and endearing, but I just can’t). Again, Carnie clarifies that DanielBrian are her “gay BFFs”, which, AGAIN, I want to think it’s cute and endearing, but it’s not. Speaking as a woman who has had a few gay best friends in my life, this raises my hackles a bit. I’ll explain. Anytime I hear a straight woman refer to her gay male best friend as her “gay BFF” it makes him sound like a kicky accessory to me, and not an actual person. If these gentlemen are your best friends, what does their sexual orientation have to do with it? Would they cease to be your best friends if they were straight? Does referencing their gayness make them seem cooler? It’s not as if these men are stealth gays. Their gayness would be apparent from fifty yards away with vaseline smeared on your eyeballs. Also, “Gay BFF”, intentionally or not, sounds to me like a qualifier — oh, these aren’t my REAL best friends, they’re my gay ones! It just doesn’t hit me as cute, though I know it’s meant to be cute; instead it sounds tokenizing. I fully believe that DanielBrian, though I cannot distinguish between them on the TV, really are two individuals with interests and personalities, and are not the one-dimensional caricatures the show seems to want them to be.

Okay, sorry. Pet peeve. Moving on.

Carnie loves shopping, she tells us, and especially when shopping involves DanielBrian. She and DanielBrian pull a ridiculous number of shopping bags from the back of the car. I mean ridiculous with a capital RIDIC. Carnie stops suddenly, holding a huge black shopping bag, and says: “Wait a minute, I just thought of something!” In a confidential whisper (BECAUSE YO IT’S NOT LIKE YOU’RE BEING FILMED HERE, HELLO), she says of the big bag, “This bag… I think I should hide this bag.” She hands it to one half of DanielBrian and tells him to take it and pretend like it’s his. Oh, my mom used to do this! It’s called a shopping addiction, and she taught me well in how to self-soothe via consumerism. (Love you, Mom, but you know it’s totally true.)

DanielBrian isn’t happy about lying, and when they get inside and Rob and his hair are nowhere in sight, Carnie has DanielBrian stash the contraband, whatever it is, under a table. Oh, so it looks like you spent too much money on something weeks ago and then forgot about it! That’s much better. Rob and his hair enter shortly thereafter and asks if they won the lottery. HAHA, oh Rob! But they’re gifts! Carnie presents Rob and his hair with a plaid lumberjack shirt that looks almost exactly like the one he’s currently wearing. At least she knows what he likes. There is also a turquoise leopard-print hairdryer; I presume the leopard-print makes it more effective in some way. Rob says, “So now we have three hairdryers.” They’ve also bought toys for the kids.

This whole scene feels very staged, y’all, but damn the torpedoes, I am sticking with it.

DanielBrian confessionizes, “Boy, talk about a party crasher! Rob came in and the shopping was over.” Back in the living room, Carnie shows Rob and his hair a box of blocks for Lola, and Rob states that they already have that exact same set. But I bet it was on sale! Rob confessions that Carnie’s coming home with lots of bags makes him nervous “because I never know how much she’s spent.” Shit, y’all. Carnie wants Rob and his hair to lighten up; Rob can’t lighten up if he’s worrying about money. Rob wants to know how much it all cost, and Carnie looks at DanielBrian when she says, “Five, six hundred dollars?” At which point DanielBrian totally blow her secret and tell Rob about the additional item they smuggled in and hid under the table. From the murky depths of the shopping bag in question, they pull some black shoulder bag we don’t really get a good look at. I KNEW it’d be a purse or something. Those things are expensive. Rob says, incredulous: “THIS COST A THOUSAND DOLLARS?” at which point DanielBrian scurry from the house like two boys caught watching their dad’s porn.

Rob and his hair are actually very sympathetic and likeable here, in which he confessions that as a working musician he doesn’t bring in as much money as Carnie, and that he often feels like “a jackass” telling her she’s spending too much. But, he says, “it has to be done.” Rob feels like her overspending is embarrassing. Carnie confessions that people think because she’s the daughter of a Beach Boy (which, seriously y’all, it wasn’t just a Beach Boy, her dad is Brian bleeding Wilson), and she was so successful with Wilson Phillips, that she must be rich. Apparently not so, and that money’s been spent. Back in the living room, Rob and his hair are still griping. It turns out the bag is a baby bag. Ah, so its usefulness is even more limited than I thought. Apparently Carnie already has several baby bags; she objects that she needed a black one. I can sort of understand this, but I wouldn’t spend a grand on a black baby bag when baby bags can be had at Target for thirty bucks.

Rob and his hair call for a financial meeting. Dun dun dunnnn.

Now we’re visiting Sweet Harts, the bakery where Carnie’s selling her goods, and thanks to helpful reader stormy.friday, I now know this shop is ACTUALLY owned by Melissa Joan Hart of Sabrina the Teenage Witch fame. Melissa’s not here, though in her stead Dean tells Carnie they love her stuff and want more. Yay.

Later, Carnie’s talking on the phone and chilling by the pool back at the house when Art the Stylist appears with two Starbucks cups. Frappucinos, I think. They hug, and Carnie reminds us that Art is her Newlywed Game stylist. We know. Then she tells us, “He’s also a genius behind the plus-size fashion boom.” O RLY. Let us google Mr. Art Conn. There is a disused Twitter account. His IMDB profile lists him as having been a stylist on American Idol, but nothing else. In fairness, I don’t think IMDB is that invested in chronicling the careers of people who sling clothing. LinkedIn, Facebook. Yawn. There’s a few interviews and mentions on fashion blogs. He worked with Jordin Sparks! Oh, and he’s friends with Nick Verreos from Project Runway! Nick was totally robbed. All in all, it seems as though Art is a respected member of his profession, but I’m finding nothing that speaks to his fame as a plus-size-specific stylist. Oh well. It was worth a look.

Art reminds Carnie that he’s been working with “the clothing company Torrid.” I LOLed. It’s hilarious to me that huge swathes of the population have no idea what Torrid is, but to me it’s one of like four stores total I can shop in that reliably carries my size. Apparently Torrid wants to give Art a fashion award. Aw, that’s nice! Though getting a fashion award from Torrid is kind of like getting an art award from Bob Ross, isn’t it? No offense to Bob Ross, who was awesome, but his awesomeness was mostly derived from his complete embrace of mediocrity, and the idea that even people who’ll never be great artists can paint for the pure joy of it. Torrid, too, embraces fashion mediocrity a good portion of the time; if wearing an Invader Zim tee or a dress plucked from the pages of Twilight makes you happy, you should absolutely do so and tell me to shut the fuck up. But it’s hard to argue that they’re on the cutting edge of fashion. My opinion, anyway.

Torrid has asked Art who he’d like to have present the award. He’s asking Carnie to do it. Alas, the ceremony conflicts with Lola’s tennis lesson, which apparently Lola has wanted Carnie to come see, but which Carnie has yet to attend. Carnie decides to explain to Lola about Art’s special award, and go to the Torrid event instead of to her tennis lesson. Notice how carefully I am not passing judgement on this choice. No judgement at all. This paragraph right here is a judgement-free zone.

Later, Carnie’s manager, whose name I will remember at some point, comes in to sit on the couch with her and ask her about her financial situation. Manager says he’s not there to “throw cold water over everything”, and then he throws cold water over everything by dissing Carnie’s baking business idea again. They move on to broader topics and he asks Carnie what she thinks they should focus on. Carnie says, emphatically and believably, “I relate to women, no matter if I’m three hundred, two hundred, or a hundred and fifty pounds, and I want to build the Carnie brand, like having a plus size clothing line—”

This was the point in this episode, less than ten minutes in, where my brain popped out of my head, declared its disgust with me for forcing it to endure this drivel, and walked out of the house, slamming the door behind it like a final exclamation point. I am fairly certain that any clothing line Carnie Wilson stamped with her signature would look like every other bland, matronly, synthetic-fiber fat-lady line, as, in my opinion, it’s impossible to produce a truly amazing plus-size collection when you hate your plus size body. It comes through.

Manager wants to pitch the plus size clothing idea to QVC; Carnie agrees. Yeah! Oh wait, I mean why god, why. Commercial.

Carnie has cajoled her hairstylist/makeup artist to make a house call by promising her cheesecake. Carnie needs her services in advance of the Torrid award gala. (As an aside: Torrid, Evans goes with Beth Ditto, and you join up with Carnie Wilson? What is wrong with this picture?) Lola comes in wearing her tennis outfit and she and Carnie interact for like, the second time ever in two episodes so far. Wow, Lola looks a lot like her dad. Rob and his hair are taking her to her lesson, and Rob guilt-trips Carnie a little over breaking her plans with her daughter.

At the tennis lesson, Rob sits on the bench with the other moms, shouting encouragement, while Lola has a group lesson. It is, indeed, very cute.

There is no explanation here why Carnie couldn’t do both, as when Rob is at the tennis lesson, it’s broad daylight, but when we cut to Carnie next, it’s dark out. Maybe her hair took a really long time. Carnie’s in the limo heading to the Torrid party to honor Art “for his work with plus size women”. That’s seriously how she says it, like dressing fat girls is charity work on a level with nursing lepers in India. She confessions, “No skinny bitches gonna be hogging that red carpet tonight,” and I literally clap my hands to my face and shake my head miserably. Yeah, hating on skinny women is an appropriate response to one’s own insecurity. Oh snap, Carnie. You sure told them. Oh snap, indeed.

On arrival, Carnie greets Art and they both pose for pictures with some Torrid models. Carnie asks Art if he’s nervous, and he says, “a little.” Dude, you already know you’ve won! What’s to be nervous about?

This next part I rewound on DVR three times because I was convinced I hallucinated it. Carnie suddenly announces she “has the biggest fart ever to make” and scampers off away from the crowd to theatrically let it rip in an open space near a building, doing a little farting-dance and shaking one leg out in the process. WHAT.



And then the show continues like this event was fully ordinary. You know, I am generally okay with folks being open about bodily functions with their friends and loved ones. I am not personally fond of being exposed to either pre-fart announcements, or to farts themselves, but I can understand there are folks who consider it no big deal, or who even find it amusing (for heaven’s sake, I married just such a person). However, doing this on television? I feel like this crosses a line. The whole “try not to fart in public” line I learned about when I was around eight years old, a line I have attempted to respect for the majority of my life since then. If that makes me uptight, then I can accept that.

Inside, there is a Torrid fashion show. I dig maybe three things that go down the runway. Among the ones I dislike is a long pink mermaid dress with a giant polka-dotted flounce. Remember when I described one of the dresses Heather got to choose from on More to Love as “something a clown would wear if she wanted to upstage all the other clowns at the big annual Clown Ball”? That description totally fits this dress. (Also, remember the Room of Requirement? Such happy recapping memories!) Carnie says, “When I see these big girls in their form-fitting clothes, I get really inspired for my own clothing line.” Uh huh. I’d rather it inspire her to shed the self-loathing and quit the cyclical weight-loss/weight-gain merry-go-round, but I guess that’ll have to do.

Carnie gets onstage to present the “first-ever Torrid Dream Maker” award to Art, and talks about how awesome he is. Cut to many shots of cute fat girls in the audience. Eventually Art gets up and my hopes are high until he says, “As a pretty girl myself, I know there are two things we always need, which is companies like Torrid who design amazing clothes… and Spanx.” HAHA. Fuck you. Sorry kids, but if you know me at all you’ll know how vehemently I revile Spanx as just a hipper reinvention of the girdle using faux-empowerment rhetoric and a cute cartoon lady. No offense meant to those who love them, but they’re offensive to my lower half.

At any rate, when Art says “Spanx”, Carnie, who is supposed to be standing placidly in the background and giving Art his moment and explicitly not making this all about her, suddenly shrieks, “Oh please, are you kidding me?” and proceeds to turn around, bend over, and lift up her dress, effectively mooning the audience with her enSpanxed bottom (complete with hole, quality garments that Spanx are). “I’m wearing them right now!” she crows. (I am reminded, again, of More to Love’s Spanx-bonding amongst the laydeez in the first episode. Hell’s bells, is it possible that this show is making me nostalgic for More to Love?) After this, we don’t get to hear the rest of Art’s acceptance speech but cut straight to “…thanks, have a wonderful night.” At least that’s over. Art confessions something about Carnie being a “crazy bitch” for mooning the crowd but that’s why he loves her.

As an aside, I did some googling for further information on this so-called award gala, because it just seemed off to me. I found that the gala was not really an awards ceremony as the show makes it sound, but a benefit for the The National Breast Cancer Foundation, and there were several “Dream Maker” awards given that night. The Torrid model search winners were in the runway show, and there were some live musical performances. There’s a highlight video here, though Carnie is only pictured for like a second. I gotta say, this whole thing would have been FAR more interesting if they’d not edited this to make it look like some half-assed award thing but showed it for the multipurpose benefit event it was.

Carnie arrives home to find she’s locked out of her gated house, with no keys, and neither Rob nor his hair are answering the phone. Carnie is reduced to shouting over the wall around her home to get Rob’s attention, but it’s not working. She walks around to the sides of the house and shouts some more. See, this is why having a wall around your house is a stupid idea. Normal people get locked out and just climb though the kitchen window. Finally the gate opens. Carnie finds Rob, who was working downstairs with headphones on and didn’t hear the phone. He gets in a jab about the $1,000 diaper bag almost immediately. He then reminds her they’re meeting with their financial planner tomorrow.

[I must pause here to acknowledge something only tangentially related to this recap. Earlier this week I was buzzing around YouTube looking for further early-80s lite-FM examples of Rob’s hair. I ran across the video for REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, linked below, which I submit as one of the most unintentionally hilarious videos ever made. Though I remember the song vividly (and have, in fact, had occasion to listen to it many times since the 80s ended) I have absolutely no memory of this video, which means I never saw it, for if I had I am certain it would have been burned into my memory like an REO-shaped branding iron for the rest of my life. The literal “candle in the window” scene! The magical teddy-bear world under the bed! The almost catatonic blandness with which Kevin Cronin delivers vocals one would expect to involve lots of grimacing and fist-clenching, the better to punctuate the mixture of pain and elation at falling hopelessly in love with a friend, and the risk of brutal rejection upon the expression of those feelings! The liberal overuse of chromakey technology which was the hallmark of so many 80s videos! The red piano! Damn, I want a red piano! All of this is to lead up to the following:]

As they walk from the street into the financial-planner office the next day, Rob’s hair is OUT of CONTROL. Rob, take care, another month without a haircut and you will be approaching the Kevin Cronin level of hair dangerousness, in which the hair is but a few days’ growth from completely consuming the head.

I am sad when it turns out the financial planner is a human woman, and not a financial panther as I’d hoped. She wants to know why Carnie and Rob wanted to see her; Carnie cops to the fact that it was all Rob’s idea. And so therapy begins. The financial planner observes that Rob is concerned because Carnie is spending as much as she’s making. Nicely put! Carnie immediately launches into defensive mode, probably understandably, saying, “I don’t want this to be a Carnie-bashing moment… I feel like I do everything,”—except take your daughter to her tennis lesson—-”I’m busting my balls to make this money so we can live this lifestyle.” Okay, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the heterosexual male mind by any means, but this strikes me as being awfully dismissive of a partner’s concerns, not to mention being just the teensiest bit emasculating. I am honestly coming to dig Rob (if not his hair) a lot because he seems mostly unbothered by Carnie’s being the breadwinner, except insofar as it takes her away from her family, but I do wonder if he misses his own balls once in awhile. I feel entitled to say this as a wife who attempts to run roughshod over her own husband on a near-daily basis, with occasional success. So I recognize the behavior and the need for a more equitable conversation. Finally, the financial planner tells Carnie it’s clear Rob’s fearful for their fiscal well-being, to which Carnie immediately states that she’s not fearful at all. “You should be,” says the financial planner. ZING.

The financial planner tells them to make a budget, and to first mutually discuss and come to agreement on any additional expenditures. DUH. Anyone living in a partnership in which financial resources are shared: you should be doing this. Period. Any other way just leads to resentment and frustration that will bleed over into every other aspect of your relationship. Carnie agrees that this is a good idea, for the sake of her family. Commercial.

Carnie’s mom and stepdad, along with Dee Dee, have come over for dinner, and Carnie has big news. Evidently QVC passed on her clothing line! Whew! No wait, that’s not the big news. They ARE interested in a line of Carnie Wilson products. Now she just has to come up with ideas to take to New York to pitch to them. Last I knew QVC was based in Pennsylvania, but okay. Carnie says, by way of example, “macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, sugar free desserts, regular desserts…” Do they sell food on QVC now? Mom thinks house slippers are a good idea. Someone else says “personal massagers” and I lose my mind laughing. Even Carnie is a little disbelieving. Mom says, “That’s for your housewares side!” I guess a vibrator sort of counts as a household appliance. Does anyone else find the idea of women eating Carnie Wilson food while wearing Carnie Wilson slippers and pleasuring themselves with Carnie Wilson “personal massagers” absolutely hilarious? Carnie’s convinced that if this goes well they’ll be super rich instead of just moderately rich. Awesome.

Later that night, Carnie and Rob are putting Lola to bed. Lola inexplicably has a bag of quarters, and Carnie, always self-referential, decides to teach Lola about saving money. Apparently one saves money by putting said money into a coin bank shaped like a giant butt, and which makes farting noises when the coins are dropped through the coin slot, which is placed approximately where the anus would be. This episode is all about ass, it seems. As if this weren’t surreal enough, apparently the farting ass-bank was a gift from Lola’s grandmother. This is another scene that feels incredibly staged but dudes, I don’t even care.

Next week: Dallas the personal trainer reappears, lest you thought he was smothered in an avalanche of sleeveless t-shirts, and he’s equipped with a measuring tape and a merciless passion for going through Carnie’s pantry and identifying the evil spirits “bad” foods residing therein. I’m sure this won’t be miserable and body-hating at all. Until then.

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