The drama-packed trailer for the tenth season of the Real Housewives of Orange County has lived up to much of the side-eye inducting antics it promised. Near the eye of that storm of crazy is a chronicle of the marriage troubles between Shannon Beador and her husband David.
In the first episode of the season, Shannon revealed that David had an affair for close to a year. Watching them on the previous season, the two quite clearly had other issues, which one can only imagine were compounded by David’s infidelity.
The Beadors have gone on to bring up David’s affair and their struggle to stay married and remotely happy on what seems like every episode of the season. This is the storyline Shannon has chosen for herself and dammit if she’s not sticking to it.
We’ve seen them in couples therapy, we see them bicker over David’s drinking and carelessness and Shannon’s tendency to anger quickly. Perhaps most depressingly, we see Shannon and David talk openly about the affair with their three tween daughters during a scene where David apologizes to the entire family.
Shannon has said that they decided to share their extremely personal issues on national television because it was an opportunity to show other couples that an affair doesn’t have to mean divorce. David added, “If we can help just one couple, than it was worth letting it out there because it certainly wasn’t an easy thing to do for Shannon or for myself. If we can help one couple, or one family, it is all worth it.”
On Monday night’s episode, Shannon, David and their three daughters glumly celebrate Shannon’s 51st birthday at what looks like an upscale tavern. Shannon looks teary-eyed and seems to complain almost the entire time. You can sort of see where she was coming from—it wasn’t the most elegant of affairs—but dear god, woman.
She explains that she had particularly high expectations for this year’s celebration because her 50th birthday was a disaster. She then tells an audience of over a million people one of the darkest stories I’ve ever heard on reality television. Apparently David and Shannon had sex on her birthday and David later told her that afterwards, he left and had sex with his mistress that very same night.
The question this raises for me is: How exactly is this helping? I understand how reality television works-you share the good and the bad, blah blah blah. But my god, aren’t there any limits?
The notion that simply airing one’s dirty laundry is helping other people fix their marriages seems tenuous at best. David and Shannon look miserable and don’t seem to be making much headway. All this would do is convince me that happiness and reconciliation seem so far off, difficult and uncertain that perhaps it’s best to cut your losses and work on being healthy and happy.
Talking about one’s personal struggles doesn’t have to be tactless. Contrast that depressing-ass birthday dinner and the Beador’s storyline in general with the Real Housewives of New York City castmates Carole Radziwill and Dorinda Medley.
This season, the women took a trip to London to collect the ashes of Carole’s late husband. Carole invited Dorinda on the trip because she also became a widow a few years ago.
After Carole retrieved the ashes, the two went on to have one a truly beautiful conversation about death and love and loss. They managed to articulate feelings that seemingly have no words and approached losing the loves of their lives with sensitivity, humor and grace.
It is unfair to compare an individual’s response to tragedy to another—we don’t necessarily have a choice in how we react to things. Still, I do think it’s fair to look at how they choose to share those incidents with a national television audience, because that is absolutely a personal choice.
Shannon and David are indeed still married, so maybe this truly was helpful. Perhaps it was cathartic to put everything out there—no matter how ugly—and it’s easier to spin that choice as a sacrifice to help others.
I’m sure the Beadors are good parents, but I can’t not think about how I’d feel if I was thirteen and my mother was talking about my dad having sex with his mistress on Bravo. It’s one thing to be so famous that privacy breaches—unwarranted as they are—come to be expected. Obviously it is quite another to volunteer.
After Dorinda and Carole’s conversation, I walked away feeling like I had insight—even just slightly—into a loss of that magnitude and felt comforted by their ability to share. Watching Shannon and David Beador’s storyline, it’s hard not to feel slimy. It was too depressing to be entertaining and without at least that, all I can wonder is what exactly we’re supposed to do with this information.
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