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A Call For More Catty Villains

Brandy Cerne | Friday, February 26, 2010

Love them or hate them, catty villains — to put the term nicely — are almost always the best characters on television.

While they are portrayed as the villain to the main character, often I find myself rooting for them instead. Their acid tongues speak the truth (albeit in a nasty, sneaky way), making them the voice of reason amid the delusionals that seem to live on TV.

They exist in both reality and scripted shows, but they are always best on reality shows when they offer their own scathing commentary. Do not get me wrong, I would not want to come across them in real life, but there is no doubt that these catty villains make for the best entertainment. They can be men or women, but either way, they will do and say anything to get what they want.

It is easiest to spot them on reality shows, where casting directors search for who will antagonize the house and talk about fellow contestants during their confessionals. Each cycle of “America’s Next Top Model” has a new one, but the best from ANTM’s history has to be Jade from cycle six. She preyed on the weaknesses of other model-wannabe Gina, made arrogant statements like “My look is in a different realm that people cannot handle,” and left the audience with a beat poem when she was eliminated. Sometimes scary but always entertaining, Jade could stand up with the best of these catty villains.

“Project Runway” also has a clearly defined villain on each season. There was Santino Rice in Season 2, Jeffrey Sebelia in Season 3, and Irina Shabayeva in Season 6, to name a few. These insensitive designers may talk badly about other designs, but they usually have the most talent and end up either winning or coming quite close. They just say what we are thinking at home when we see some of those hideous designs.

These villains do not only exist on reality reruns though. Bravo seems to specialize in giving them their own television shows, making it one of the most guilty pleasure television networks. Each “Real Housewives” location is catty in its own right, but “Real Housewives of New York City” takes it to another level.

On the outside, these women have successful careers and families. They describe themselves as classy and having etiquette. Yet after watching one episode, it becomes evident that the majority of their time is spent flitting from one cast member to another, talking about the awful behavior of the person they were just talking to. The third season starts March 4.

Bravo adds more bitchiness with its new series “Kell on Earth.” It follows the life of Kelly Cutrone, head of fashion PR firm People’s Revolution and former boss on “The City.” Cutrone was always the best character of MTV’s scripted reality shows, as she justifiably cut down blond bimbo employees left and right.

After watching “Kell on Earth,” you feel bad for her employees who actually do work hard, and realize that she is a horrible boss. However, that in no way means that we want her to be nicer. Instead, I find myself waiting for her to yell at someone, which luckily happens quite often. Kell on Earth airs on Mondays at 10 p.m.

My favorite reality villain? Hands down, comedienne Kathy Griffin. Griffin rightfully has her own reality show, also on Bravo, “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List.” The more fame Griffin has received from her Emmy-award-winning show, the more opportunities she has had to interact with other celebrities, which pays off in hilarious material for her fans. Griffin holds back on no one as she details these encounters that show everyone how ridiculous celebrities and Hollywood culture can be. Many think she is overly cruel, but you can see from the show that she has a good heart. Most celebrities deserve it, anyway. “Life on the D-List” is currently filming new episodes.

So thank you, television — and especially you, Bravo — for giving us what we want: more catty villains. Even though they may not be nice, they are something better: truthful and entertaining. After all, who wants to watch a bunch of people be nice to each other? If I did, I would watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition, which just for the record, lost two years in a row at the Emmys to My Life on the D-List.  


Contact Brandy Cerne at bcerne1@nd.edu