The Wife Swap franchise has traditionally mined for precious, precious conflict by matching families whose wives play opposite roles in their respective households. But as we learned in last night’s episode of Celebrity Wife Swap, there is no need to contrive conflict in the celebrity version. It will come as surely as the winter wind blows and the sun comes up in the morning.
This week, Dee Snider’s wife, Suzette, traded places with Flavor Flav’s fiancee, Liz. Suzette is a domestic overachiever who invests every waking minute in being with her kids and keeping her giant house perfect. Liz, meanwhile, sends her 4-year-old child to chill with her ghastly mom so she can crochet and read self-help books. (Has she read SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOUR EFFING KIDS, LADY?)
Liz’s life as she portrayed it did seem pretty wasteful. If you are one of the few parents in this world who has the opportunity to share every day with your kids, it seems very sad to skip that on a whim. (Rich housemoms, PLEASE WEIGH IN!)
So the arc was embedded in the introductions: Suzette would roll up her sleeves and impress the Flav family, and the Sniders would appreciate how much their mom contributes. (Not that they didn’t seem greatly appreciative already.)
The Sniders cheerfully embraced Liz, making the week a light-hearted opportunity to give the Osbournes a run for their money and advertise for Dee’s "House of Hair" radio show. Suzette, however, approached her role with a reformative zeal that included judging her new town as soon as her limo rolled into Vegas. (Although, to be fair, and no offense to Las Vegans, your entire town looks like a mall parking lot.)
I can easily see how the qualities that go far toward making someone a legendary hype man would make the same person almost unbearable at close quarters. (The constant screaming, the maddening ticking of giant clocks.)
Flavor Flav, while initially very welcoming, seemed to dismiss the basic premise of the show pretty lightly. (Like, the idea that at one point Suzette would call the shots/have access to his house.) They went for a family bungee jump and played around on what must have been a sizzling trampoline, and then Flavor was off to conduct his business. To be fair, Flav’s longevity has a lot to do with shrewd, constant image cultivation. Liz was infuriated that he disappeared for a couple hours each morning without telling her, but I suspect he was making birthday party appearances / selling oranges on street corners / whatever is necessary to keep his throwback empire afloat.
Because of Flav’s continued insistence on using his phone (which I think is fair) and the fact he sent baby Kharma to grandma’s after Suzette specifically decreed that the baby would stay at home, I really felt for her.
So Suzette ended the swap three days in and checked into a hotel. This is another concrete example of how the celebrity version of Wife Swap loses the substance of the original. I don’t blame Suzette for taking off, but there’s something to be said for being too poor to buy your way out of an awkward situation. It forces you to grow and be more self-reflexive to deal with people at their worst, and the very wealthy never have to do that. (RICH HOUSEWIVES: Discuss!)
When the couples met up, it was clear they had basically spent time on two very different shows. Liz was glowing from her week with the jolly Sniders, and Suzette broke down in a histrionic screaming fit at Flavor Flav. It seemed like both Dee and Liz were kind of dismayed that Suzette had taken things so seriously.
Ultimately, the central issue was the damning nature of becoming famous for very specific behaviors. Both Dee and Flav won fame and fortune by capturing a suspended adolescence, and now that they’re family men, their transitions into maturity are not shown in a flattering contrast. This show is most interesting when the celebrity couples relate to each other on a “celebrity-only” level. (“When we go to restaurants, people yell stuff at us!” “You need to chill on the autographs!”), and hopefully it will stop trying to approach the celebrities as normal families and have them deal more with the unique problems of being celebrities. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making another celebrity zoo, don’t dress up your tigers like squirrels.
… Again: Why can’t it be Spouse Swap?
… Are you going to read Flav’s book that was discreetly all over the place?
… Does Suzette “have it all” because she has a beautiful body, heart, and family?
… Is crocheting Liz's placeholder for experiencing emotion? (Self-help book authors, WEIGH IN!)
… Does Gibran say to himself every day “The second I turn 18 I am so out of here”?
… Where do you think Suzette spent the rest of her week: Bellagio, Luxor, Planet Hollywood or Wynn?