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Superheroes need origin stories to compel us into understanding the hero was once, maybe, a regular Joe (or Jane), giving context and depth to their later adventures. The same is true for villains, who often end up unrecognizable from their early years. Thus enters the Real Housewives franchise, full of fighting lushes with their extensions, implants and skin pulled taught, constantly creating turmoil. But where did these women come from? Who were they before they were Bravo staples? The cable channel’s latest reality series, Princesses: Long Island, may answer the question, as it is a kind of “before they were Housewives” primer that looks to chronicle the slow fade into eventual infamy.
The series follows six women in their late 20s who still live at home and off of their parents’ credit cards in affluent Long Island. These aren’t the Millennials who have been forced to live at home because of a stagnant job market; these are women whose mothers still make their beds and whose fathers get mani-pedis with them and accept without pause when their daughter wants to be carried to the car. “I was born with a silver spoon in my ass,” 29-year-old hot mess party girl Erica Gimbel spouts before she’s corrected; and her friend, the 29-year-old uber-spoiled Ashlee White (the one who was carried) says later, “Why would I ever want to leave?
AIR DATE Nov 30, 1999
The premiere episode kicks off with, seemingly, one of the most normal of the six, Chanel Omari, who explains that as a follower of Modern Jewish Orthodoxy, it’s traditional for women to live at home until they are married. But this reverence for religion is soon lost, because while all of the girls are Jewish, most admit to being, as Erica puts it “Reform Jews, a.k.a. not Jewish.”
Still, their world is largely Jewish, and affluent, except for the token “poor girl,” Joey Lauren (no Adams), who comes from Freeport and usually brings “real talk” to her monologues, disparaging the rich girls yet clearly enjoying her time with them. But when Ashlee goes to pick her up (at Joey’s large home), she calls her father and almost starts crying because she doesn’t feel safe among these poor people with their wire fences.
From there, the episodes devolve, like so many Bravo series, into the eccentricities and privileges of the wealthy, especially those whose parents still provide everything for them long after they should (Princesses also feels like a follow-up to MTV’s My Super Sweet 16). Near the end of the episode, when a pool party is thrown and the alcohol begins flowing freely, drama predictably heats up. The shrieks of anger reach an unbearable pitch that signals, like cicadas filling the night air with a cacophony that welcomes summer, the advent of a new Bravo franchise.
The theme that runs through each of the women’s lives, though, is a desire to get married and not be considered old maids. But the narrow catalogue of acceptable traits — doctors or Wall Street brokers, preferably Jewish, at least 10 years older, who can perpetuate their current lifestyle, etc — lines up perfectly with the values of the Real Housewives they are destined to become.
The colon in the title suggests there may be other incarnations of the series if successful. Might we expect Princesses: Orange County or Princesses: Atlanta? It would be nice to get some heroic origin stories to balance out these, but it won’t be on this network. In the meantime, the series will likely draw the same large fanbase as the Housewives. So as Erica puts it, “Shabbat Shalom, go fuck yourself!”
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