I’d hardly compare myself to Martha, but this winter has been the season of my internment. First, a broken toe, a cane and a little Velcro booty. Now a sprained ankle, a pair of crutches and an air cast. I’d really, really like to blame these injuries—and their keeping me inside—for my addiction to a new numbing agent, ABC’s Wife Swap, which exerts a gravitational pull on the family remote every Wednesday night.
First there was the episode where steroid Mama—a scarily buff woman from California—traded places with a schlumpy, pleasantly plump middle-American wife. Hilarity, and resentment, ensued when steroid Mama pulled schlumpo Mama’s kids away from the junk food and toward the new workout equipment she’d set up in the garage. (Sex is not part of the show, though political infighting and sometimes violent discussion about the importance of a clean bathroom are integral to the voyeuristic appeal.) Then there was last week’s episode, which took two interracial couples and realigned them by skin color, thus putting the viewer on Stereotype Alert. The African American woman learned that getting home from work and heading straight to her bedroom isn’t, perhaps, the best family-bonding strategy; the Caucasian woman learned it is possible for men to put the kids to bed and turn on the oven.
This week was the red state vs. blue state episode. Though one got the feeling that the part where the mom from Kentucky replaced her adopted Minnesota family’s gay-pride flag with the stars and stripes (and then tried to get them all to say the Pledge of Allegiance) just MIGHT have been staged, what could be more fun than watching a 17-year-old hippie son fight with his temporary mom because he thinks he should be doing the dishes? Meanwhile, the Minnesota mom transplanted to Kentucky confiscates all of the kids’ toy guns and puts them in a box titled "War Chest" and tries to hold a peace rally with her new neighbors. They stare at her, stone-faced.
God, I’d better heal up soon.
—Posted by Catharine P. Taylor