Robert and Cortney Novogratz are many things — house flippers, art lovers, bohochicalites (boho chic + socialite), parents of seven, soon-to-be-Bravo-stars. And, according to social psychologist Irwin Altman, they are also “a symbol of our new polyfunctional world.”
That’s right, somehow in the course of flipping houses, getting pregnant, writing a book, designing a hotel and signing on to a soon-to-be-aired Bravo show about the whole mess, Mr. & Mrs. Novogratz ended up becoming a symbol of the modern ‘branded family.’ At least according to today’s article about them in the New York Times.
Somewhere between decorating houses and delivering babies, Robert and Cortney joined the ranks of Jon and Kate, Tori and Dean, Jessica and Nick and all those other couples who put their lives in front of the camera in exchange for a check in the bank and a few cases of ziploc baggies in the pantry. I don’t mean to sound derisive. In fact, more power to any person who can manage to make merely living their lives into a cash-producing career.
Besides, if you check my DVR, you’ll see that I do harbor a fondness for a certain former 90210-er and her Hallmark Channel hunk of a hubby.
What I do take issue with though is the fact that, yet again, mass media is taking the opportunity to turn what would otherwise be a fairly fluffy piece with little to no news value (if a pair of semi-celebrity-spouses signing up to be on a reality show were really news, CNN would have to stop covering Bo the Presidential Pooch for lack of time), into an opportunity to comment on “the Facebook/Twitter age, [where] fewer and fewer can claim an old-fashioned private life, even at home.”
Let’s be honest here, New York Times. You decided to run the story, for whatever reason. You threw in the obligatory mentions of all the semi-celebs who showed up to the Novogratz’s kid’s christening, you added a few references to the upcoming show and you even managed to squeeze in a shoutout to Ziploc, who apparently made sure that the soon-to-be-stars were supplied with a lifetime’s worth of plastic baggies. And then you started grasping at straws.
Turns out the easiest straw to grasp at is the brave new polyfunctional world one. In my head, it’s a twisty straw — maybe one of the ones with a cute cartoon character on top — but that’s another story.
Anyway, thanks to the straw you did decide to grasp at, you ended up turning the Novogratzs into a symbol of all things social networking. So you told us, your loyal lunch break readers to take a long, hard, two page look at this hip, modern family. You told us about how everything they do is captured on film. You showed us how they branded themselves as the face of fun, family-values flippers with just their boho-chic bravado and that lifetime supply of ziploc baggies to draw from. And then you casually referenced Twitter and Facebook, as if to say that the Novogratz’s meteoric rise to reality-show fame must be symptomatic of social networking’s stronghold on modern society.
My theory: maybe it’s just symptomatic of the fact that people like to watch stories about other people. Maybe a family signing up to do a reality show is just that — a family signing up to make money because they’re willing (and able) to do what the rest of us won’t. They’re willing to allow every detail of their daily lives to be mined for comedic and dramatic effect, carefully filtered through a producer’s lens and an editor’s laptop and delivered direct to the DVRs of an audience looking to laugh, cry and live for a moment in someone else’s shoes — especially if those shoes happen to cost more than said audience’s rent for the month.
Sure, social networking has made us all more open to the idea that more of our lives are lived in the public sphere than the private. And sure, the massive popularity of microblogging did coincide nicely with the surging popularity of the whole reality show phenomenon. But let’s not be so quick to conclude that social networking has destroyed the sacred space inside the four walls of the family home.
After all, the original reality show family sprung up long before facebook, twitter and even — gasp — google. And Lucy and Desi seemed to do just fine cashing in on their coupledom without a single twitter account between them.
Update: As of March 29, 2010 we’re officially a little over a week away from the premiere of 9 By Design – the Novogratz reality show on Bravo. Looking forward to tweeting all about it…