There is a moment when you are watching MTV’s wishful segue way into the Hamptons preferred lifestyle fantasia starring Brittany Mendenhall and her ‘bitch’ pal Ashleigh Jennifer Parker in “True Life: I’m hustling in the Hamptons,” that you are deliciously caught off guard and all you can do is laugh. There in the middle of the strolling green pastures amidst Argentinian studs and polo players is a supposed brazen blonde vixen who understands the world means nothing unless you are holding a champagne bottle close to your lips while her supposedly annoyed buddy- the aspiring blogger, Brittany Mendenhall, is made to supposedly feel once again out of place courtesy of her buffoon mate- Ashleigh Jennifer Parker and of course her physical disposition- ‘that of a tall black lady.’
It might be hysterical and have you feeling for the new girl in town until you later realize the whole show is a delicious set up, trading up on stereotype images and sliced and diced opportunistic jingoes. How does the author know all this? Because somehow he has managed to get his hands on a bevy of evidence which sadly calls into question the legitimacy of the producers, to some extent the principal of the show- Ms Mendenhall and what it even means to create a reality show when in essence the only reality is the purported bunk that is traveling at a dizzy speed out of your nostrils…
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting directly across the brazen blonde vixen who goes by Ashleigh Jennifer Parker who for the first time in her 24 years of life has managed to make it to Williamsburg, Brooklyn- the bastion of hipsters and probably the antithesis to what goes in the supposed exclusive terrain of the Hamptons, that part of the world where heroes like Jay Gatsby grandly aspired but magnanimously failed to live up to their expectations of domination and well pressed white linen pants and rayon summer suits.
“See when they asked they us to be on the show, it was so they could portray us as being part of an up and coming web blog site making the rounds, networking, meeting all the right people. Instead what they did (by they, Ashleigh means the producers- Cindy Blissit and Bill Richmond)- they tried to make out that I was Jules Kirby the second and that Brittany was the only black person who had ever been to the Hamptons and that somehow I was holding that against her, because that’s what we’re taught to understand what white people do, …well this white person anyway.”
I motion closer and ask her what evidence she has to validate her claims that the show’s producers had an ulterior motive. She leans over and shows me the text messaging between herself and Brittany.
Brittany Mendenhall: (Mobile) Apr28 2010, 1:07:09 AM
Yes, But I negotiated hard. You should have heard what they ORIGINALLY wanted me to say.
Apr28: 2010. 12:54:21 AM
It’d be great if you could stand up a bit more for me during these comments.
By now the comments flying around the blogosphere are that the Ashleigh is the next ingrate after Jules Kirby and that blog sites like Gawker are handing it to the young starlets. What isn’t quite understood yet is that the comments that Ashleigh is referring to are the voice over comments the producers have made Brittany Mendenhall come in and say all over again, as if she was still responding to Ashleigh some 9 months ago at the Capri Hotel when in fact that segment is being filmed in the producers living room not just 3 weeks ago. It is this that Brittany is referring to when she mentions that she negotiated real hard. Which only raises the question, if this is a reality show, why is there a need to ‘negotiate thoughts, ideas and comments, unless of course there is an agenda the producers are trying to orchestrate for the sake of ratings?
“I’ve been receiving hate mail and annoying phone calls from people who I don’t even know, since the show aired this past Monday. What I don’t understand is what ever happened to social satire? Everyone has literally come after me, reading all sorts of hidden agendas on my part when in fact not once do you see me act the way I am made to sound or appear like. At best it’s wishful thinking on the parts of the producers and them trying very hard after 500 hours of footage to find the one thing that could hint at bad form on my part.”
She then reaches over and shows me correspondence between herself and a young intern/correspondent, Daniel Barnum-Swett of Gawker TV who reacted to the show’s contents and ridiculed/lampooned it as is typical of Gawker alumni. Of course this is no real news as any seasoned media junkie by now can tell that Gawker live for this type of thing and if they must maintain the myths or double standards for the sake of getting the laughs and appropriate reactions then they will, after all, like MTV- they too are in a form of show business, and as much as it makes sense to publicly question what’s at stake, the young author only does so in private. (see note below).
True Life‘s Champagne Bitches and Caviar Dreams(Gawker TV- what’s presented to the public):
I’m Hustling in the Hamptons could have served as commentary on extant racism and subtle class divisions within Long Island’s honkey haven’s upper echelon. Instead, MTV worked its magic and gave the world a brand new horrible bitch to love.
Burgeoning blogtress Brittany relocates her New York operations for the summer to stay in the center of the gossip scene while it takes its seasonal siesta. The Hamptons’
culture and its calendar of polo parties and cocktails at the club are ridiculously WASPy. The place is racist by default, so Brittany is hyper-aware of the difficulties she faces. Not only is she prying, hoping to publish juicy tidbits about an elite and close-knit social circle, she is also black. Brittany is model-tall, beautiful, charming, and intelligent—all the superficial and professional characteristics needed for success in a preppy mecca—but she is still an obvious outsider in that whitewashed world.
A worse challenge presents itself in Ashleigh, Brittany’s weirdly wealthy “friend” who tags along on the trip to serve as the blog’s PR/freebie agent. Ashleigh is the distillation of a rich bitch: she’s bold, she’s brash, and you better believe she’s got billions in the bank even though she never pays for transportation, lodging, food, or drinks. Ohhhh, the drinks. Champagne is Ashleigh’s poison (literally, she’s probably developing cirrhosis), and her thirst is unquenchable.
And what’s presented in a private note to Ashleigh;
Original article: http://tv.gawker.com/5525637/true-lifes-champagne-bitches-and-caviar-dreams
The attached photo showing “intern” plus his comment on ChiChi212… and our emails:
—– Forwarded Message —-
From: daniel barnum-swett <email@example.com>
To: Ashleigh Jennifer Parker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tue, April 27, 2010 6:31:04 PM
Subject: Re: True Life
Thanks for reading and responding–I think the advantages of working for a site like GawkerTV or ChiChi212 is the ability to break down the barriers between subject, writer, and audience. Given the state of new media and reality tv, I think it’s important to distinguish between “real” and “reality”, and appreciate that you take any criticism in the piece as directed toward the True Life you, and not the you from actual true life. That being said, I thought your “character” was fantastic and found the episode, specifically the story of you and Brittany, genuinely entertaining. Also, though I’m sure it was ridiculously overplayed by the network, I could totally empathize with you on your champagne search.
I’m sorry to read that MTV used their usual tricks to portray you both in less-than-positive lights. They’ve definitely got a story to sell at the end of the day, and I’ve heard from friends and friends of
friends who have been involved with MTV filming before that what ends up onscreen is usually close to a complete fabrication, a testament to the power of editing to create what’s not there. I’m definitely interested in your take on the show and situation and have asked my boss if this would be something he’d be interested in having for the site. I’m not sure if you’re still working for ChiChi212 in any capacity, but it’d be interesting to have the perspective of a blog-tv crossover on a tv blogging site. Let me know if you’re interested in that, and we’ll see what the boss thinks too, but I’d be happy to meet up with you regardless. I’m only in the city half the week (I live in Boston, I’m in New York Thurs-Sat), but we can try to figure something out, in or out of the office.
Thanks & Best,
On Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 5:25 PM, Ashleigh Jennifer Parker <email@example.com> wrote:
I just wanted to let you know I’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss the real me instead of the ‘reality me’ you wrote about in your article and see in the show. Also, see Brittany’s post http://chichi212.com/uncategorized/true-life-im-on-reality-tv-part-deux-the-juice/
In any event, enjoyed your analysis and thanks for the coverage.
Ashleigh Jennifer Parker
The next question I ask is why Ashley thinks Brittany went back 3 weeks ago to add further voice commentary. Especially voice commentary that is inflammatory and goes a long way in ridiculing her and what she calls compromising her integrity.
“I think the producers were adamant that they wanted some changes made and that by now they had come up with a script and they needed to find a way to pigeon hole some of the commentary. And then of course, there’s Brittany the blogger who’s aware that the only real way to get attention to your blog is to open some wounds and play into it, even if there were never any wounds to begin with.”
I turn around, notice the punk kids who have not a single care about what the Hamptons means but yet am fully aware to a particular sect of society, the Hamptons symbolizes all that is good and bad with America, what is attainable and socially validated and what in effect is not and to some degree does not belong there.
“Do you think there is stereo typical portrayals of prejudice in the Hamptons?”
“Look, that’s a phony idea, there are a lot of acts that are going and have been going to the Hamptons of different race forever. The question is why have the producers gone out of their way to portray Brittany is the only black human being in that part of the world and why I was manhandled to appear that I perpetrate such ideas?”
“Does racism sell?”
“I think you have to be aware that society is playing many roles at any given moment and depending on what’s marketable certain ideas or stereo types are put into airplay even if most of us don’t seriously believe in them.”
“So did it behoove Brittany to play the victim card?”
“I don’t think it was ever something she ever wanted to play and in the end there was this heavy handed portrayal of her being the token black girl lucky enough to be in this part of the world and that I was there to somehow remind her of it and keep her from attaining it. Never mind I’m the one who arranged all our complimentary accommodation and travel and access to certain events.”
“So shouldn’t the show really be called ‘Fake Life, or at least Misled Life as opposed to True life?”
“Exactly, it’s all fake, it’s sliced and diced and taken out of context with the singular view of creating telegenic drama and underscoring some social myths and portraying some of us victims and others as villains. I mean at one stage my dad passed away during the show, but not once do they discuss this or does it get a mention because that could suddenly make me into a three dimensional character with real issues and no longer just the wicked witch of the Hamptons.”
“But strangely the one time Brittany breaks down, it’s all over the screen…”
One supposes that it’s the best interest of the producers to keep Ms Parker in check and characterize her as the bad white person who is supposedly keeping her in chains and locks….
“How do you both get on in private?”
“We’re actually very close and I think we agree the show’s producers certainly went into filming this with a very different agenda then why we went filming into this.”
In fact a quote from Ms Mendenhall’s website goes out of the way to attest to as much and the blogger’s remorse in being involved in the show but their gratitude for all the attention it garnished her:
True Life: I’m On Reality TV Part Deux: The Juice(ChiChi212.com)
We were getting along great until we realized MTV was trying to play us and we threatened to quit the show. So they found other ways to get the footage they wanted. I’m sure people who actually live in the Hamptons hated the show and I do not blame them.
“It seems at the end of the day, everyone’s a winner. Everyone gets the attention they want and the invites that they’ve been looking for.”
“Well maybe so, but for me, it’s all so ironic, because it was the first time I really ever went to the Hamptons or ever intend to return to it.”
“Well, apart from Hipsters and the Hamptons where can we expect to see you this summer?”
“In Europe, where I belong.”
I look at her, smile and wait for her to smile when only then do I realize that she really means what she is saying and as much as she may be living the idyllic American dream, she is currently romanced by what goes in Europe and as much as what goes in on in the Hamptons that once held Jay Gatsby at bay and many other young people after him, including the many aspiring jet setter scene that will soon be making their ritual treks back to the Hamptons, this young lady is hardly interested, and it is only then when she realizes that I realize this that she breaks a wicked smile.