I don’t watch Intervention. As far as I am concerned, it is an exceptionally manipulative reality show (which is really saying something, considering how manipulative reality TV is in general) that exploits broken families at their worst in order to provide compelling entertainment to audiences who trick themselves into thinking that they are watching a train wreck out of the goodness of their hearts. I don’t think that the show actually helps people, or if it does help people, I don’t think that the help it provides outweighs the damage it causes by broadcasting the self-destructive behavior and emotional wreckage of these unfortunate drug addicts on national television. But welcome back, Intervention!
Last night also saw the return of Hoarders, which is basically Intervention but for people who are addicted to filling their houses with piles of rotting garbage. I’ve never seen this show, so I watched last night’s premiere. It is very compelling! And it is just as morally dishonest as Intervention!
On last night’s episode, the hoarder in question was Augustine, a 68-year-old Louisiana resident and mother of two whose house was not only filled to the brim with piles of dirty clothes (“I don’t want to pick them up now because they smell” — Augustine) and toilets overflowing with feces, but that also included two dead cats that had at some point either died behind a pile of junk and were never found, or who may even have been killed by a collapsing pile of junk (and were never found) based on the shrieking face that one of their dessicated faces was frozen in. With Augustine’s health failing and her house/dumpster falling apart, her family worried what would happen if she didn’t get help fast. ENTER TEAM HOARDERS TO THE RESCUE! The rest of the episode was taken up with people from 1-800-JUNK literally shoveling (with actual shovels) mountains of shit out of Augustine’s house. Eventually they carted away 8,000 pounds of trash. That is so many pounds! All the while, Augustine sat in a rocking chair on her porch eating raw hot dogs like churros and complaining about how no one loved her because for some reason her adult children didn’t want to move into a house that had actual human feces worked tirelessly into the carpet. Yikes.
Now if you ask me, Augustine wasn’t actually a hoarder. She just seemed like a lazy and depressed jerk who blamed everyone else for whatever went wrong in her life, if you really consider 15 years worth of accumulated and compressed garbage and cat corpses to simply be “something going wrong.” Obviously, I am not a Hoarders-ing expert like the doctors on this show, who come into the home and ask questions like “Do you think that’s a common event for people to have dead cats in their house?” and “Where did you last see your teeth?” so maybe I don’t actually understand what Augustine’s clinical condition is (since “Category 5 Hoarder” seems like a really serious term based in science and medicine). But she seemed pretty content to throw everything away, as long as someone else was doing the shoveling. She even said a begrudging “thank you” to the workers when they all pitched in and bought her a new armchair after her old armchair turned into a haze of HELL DUST and COCKROACH EGGS upon being lifted off of the ROTTING GROUND of her HOME. As long as people left her to sit on her porch, and stopped asking her what happened to all the cats that they should be dead for 10 years crushed under a bag of used diapers, she was fine with making the necessary changes to not have her home bulldozed. The picture of mental and physical health!
But regardless of whether or not Augustine was an actual hoarder or not (excuse me, “Category 5 Hoarder”), the reality is that America needs to be more honest with itself about why it watches this show. It is OK to enjoy watching it, but please stop pretending like it is because you like to see people get the help they need. For one thing, you know that since filming ended on last night’s episode, Augustine is back up to her neck in pickle jars and soiled loose change. This show is about gaping and feeling better about yourself. So what if you haven’t done laundry in a few days? At least you don’t have to tunnel through a stack of moldy old birthday cakes to get to your jacket! So what if there are some leftovers in the fridge that should probably be thrown away? At least your family can sit on a chair that isn’t buried under a mountain of bug-infested used napkins from a long-abandoned Chuck-E-Cheeze! You’re doing great! I mean, that is what this show is for.
“I know what you are.”
I really think the whole thing was pretty neatly summed up in last night’s season premiere in a scene where Augustine is confronted by her two adult children (who seem pretty normal, all things considered!) in front of the team from 1-800-JUNK. At a certain point, Susan, who had to raise her brother when Augustine’s house became unlivable for anyone but Augustine, broke down in tears at her mother’s obstinance, cruelty, selfishness, and disregard. It was a difficult scene to watch, unless you were this dude, who could seriously not stop smiling.
The truth is, when we watch this show, we are all that dude. Admitting it is the first step towards getting better. Or whatever.