Wife Swap – Hedonism vs Devotion
The blurb for this episode seems to suggest that hard-working fashion designer atheists can’t be nurturing mothers. Can I stomach this? Let’s see…
Yolonda Faber is the “nurturing mum” in rural Victoria, demanding a “rigid routine” with her three daughters Michaela, Charisma and Montana. Set times for homework, dinner and daily devotions are highlighted here.
Cindy Liggins is the “hedonistic” fashion designer in Port Douglas. She loves swearing! The narrator actually says this. Do you think Cindy did? Do you think anybody actually says “I love swearing!”. I mean, I swear quite lavishly at times, a la Malcolm Tucker, but I would never say I love it.
As usual, the hyperbole is watered down pretty quickly. Cindy interviews “I probably swear too much.” Oh, and that part where the narrator says in a way that sounds quite judgemental “husband Mick is only home six months of the year” is soon clarified to “skippers boats, three weeks on, three weeks off”. Anyway, they have two daughters (Bianca and Leilani) and two large dogs. And it’s not as though Cindy has no regard for routine – at 4.30 she shuts herself in her bedroom with the TV and nobody is to disturb her while she watches “The Bold and The Beautiful”. I love that the TV screen is blurred out here.
By contrast, we are introduced to the Faber family in action saying grace over dinner. They don’t have computers and they play educational board games on the weekends. The kids can watch TV on Saturday mornings, so at least they can watch “Rage”. Well, maybe not – Glen identifies shows such as “The Brady Bunch” and “Bewitched” as containing the appropriate values. “Bewitched”, huh? What about the bit where Samantha just changes husbands with no explanation?
“Definitely a long way from Bonnie Doon” says Yolonda. Awwww! But you can still feel the serenity, right? She is impressed to see a finished kitchen, whilst in Bonnie Doon, Cindy is a bit freaked out by the lack of wine. I figure everybody’s playing their part here – Yolonda deadpans “maybe they’re into chooks?” when she sees the “rock out with your cock out” sign.
There is some nice editing when the wives read their manuals: “10 hours in the kitchen?” vs “I spend as little time as possible in the kitchen”.
Meeting the family
Mick immediately busts out a quote from “The Castle”, which is ace. The younger Faber girls seem pretty excited to learn that their new mum is a fashion designer but Michaela doesn’t quite know what to make of Cindy’s tatts. The Liggins girls are not all that impressed about the idea of a 7pm bed-time with devotions. Mick doesn’t think it will hurt the girls to have some exposure to religion so they can make up their own minds.
Charisma interviews that it makes her upset when Cindy swears and says she doesn’t believe in God. Again, this makes me wonder how fair any of these set-ups are on the kids. Glen is already annoyed and anticipates some clashes in the days to come.
On Friday, Yolonda goes into the shop and doesn’t think much of the “F” word on the counter. Cindy strolls around the lake, does the housework and chats to the girls about discipline, particularly about the use of the “plastic persuader”. Eeek.
Yolonda debriefs with Bianca about whether she feels she gets enough attention from her parents. Bianca feels her parents are approachable, but will go to Mick more as Cindy is usually busy. Yolonda thinks “that sucks” but then refers to her daughters as “wives in training” which… ick!
Back in Bonnie Doon, Cindy asks Glen whether Yolonda might be a bit lazy. He admits that he can’t imagine what she finds to do for 10 hours in the kitchen each day, but then says she has friends over and he’s cool with that. They renovate and Cindy teases him in a way she thinks is secretly turning him on. It’s not.
Cindy’s rules include:
- I will be going to work (and how is she going to find a job?)
- No puzzles for Glen – he has to go to the pub
She calls her rules “the ten commandments according to Cindy” which seems guaranteed to keeping that stony look on Glen’s face, but he does have a laugh when the girls do. As for work, she’s going to do some sewing and hopes to teach the girls that there’s more to life than keeping a hubby happy. No more devotions – dance competitions instead. Glen’s not pleased about this as he will lose the time he spends with the girls each night, but he is really happy about the pub rule.
Yolonda is excited about her changes, thinking she is going to leave a legacy. Family time is her first rule and to ensure the quality of the time, she’s banishing TV, laptops from bedrooms and separate eating in favour of talking, playing games and family meals. Bianca thinks the TV and laptop rule is stupid. Yolonda is also closing the shop so the girls can experience a nurturing mother. Little Leilani reveals that she’s scared about the daily devotions because “none of my friends do religious stuff and I’m scared of turning into something different”.
Whilst I’m not a fan of the Persuader, flipping into “don’t piss me off” mode with the Fabers as Cindy has is equally dissonant. Not only is it not what they are used to with their real mum, but it’s not what they have become used to with Cindy, either.
Yolonda takes the Ligginses to a wildlife park and then teaches her new “wives in training” to make hamburgers. Family dinner at the table starts with a prayer and Mick interviews that her newfound confidence is coming across as superior. Cindy forages for fabric at an op-shop and again name-checks The Castle when she talks about an accessory “bringing the serenity to [her] Bonnie Doon collection”. Montana is finding new Cindy a bit bossy when she is booted out of the TV room whilst “Bold…” is on.
Glen hits the pub after work and reveals that Yolonda doesn’t really like him drinking. He’d like it if she joined him in a drink at home, but she won’t, so he doesn’t. “When it comes to socialisation, beer is almost like a miracle. You become so relaxed. It’s fantastic!” Oh, wow, Glen really needs to try something more miraculous than Boag’s.
“Fun Cindy” is back with the dance off, which the girls seem to be enjoying. The New Quiet Times Bible is out at the Ligginses and the girls go along with it but interview that they thought it was dumb. Once the girls are in bed, Yolonda goes after Bianca’s “acrylic nails” which she thinks are inappropriate for a 12 year old. She merrily toboggans down the slippery slope from here, predicting that Bianca could then become like one of the “14 year-olds at our pubs”, picking up 25 year-olds who have no idea! Mick just shuts her down.
Yolonda hits Cindy with a big load of judgement, saying that it comes from the kids. Well, maybe it does, but we haven’t seen it – again, editors, show, don’t tell! – so my instinct is that she’s wrapping up her own criticisms in a fabricated paper.
Cindy hits back saying that the Faber kids are disrespectful and naughty, bringing up the physical discipline objection. She says that hitting the kids goes against god’s rule, demonstrating that she misunderstood “spare the rod”. Unfortunately, this gives Yolonda a chance to show that it is in fact god’s rule, which completely muddies the waters as to whether it’s appropriate or not.
Mick expresses his objection to the “training wives” program coherently, pointing out that kids should be allowed to be kids. There are some raised voices, but nothing too confrontational. Mick acknowledges that TV off during mealtimes works and that bedtime routines are also healthy.
It’s interesting to see that, when Cindy brings up Yolonda’s controlling nature – not letting Glen do what he wants – Yolonda proves the point. She basically admits it, says “we’ve discussed this and I’m going to try to change”, which acts as way of trying to control the discussion.
Cindy scraps most of the rules, but will spend more time with the girls. Yolonda thinks perhaps they can do both devotions and dancing.
Cindy is trying to do the afternoon tea thing, but the girls aren’t that keen on her cooking. They are also incorporating more family time, but Mick acknowledges that they fell back into their so-called “holiday lifestyle” pretty quickly.
Yolonda dismissed Cindy’s changes as ridiculous, saying they all degraded her family, values and standards. Glen interviews that he had thought he might go to the pub once a month, but it will probably be more like once every two months. Yolonda clarifies: “He probably will go again” (my emphasis). Poor bloke.
I think my discomfort with this show comes from the fact that the wives are put into a position of being advocates for change whilst the husbands are subject to it, not active participants. This leads to table meetings where the wives feel they have to defend their changes – a situation clearly designed to maximise conflict and defensive reactions – whilst the husbands are not as invested so can come across as more reasoned. I mean, yes, that is the basis of the show, so perhaps I’ve got to accept that I’m not really on board with it as a concept. I have watched both UK and US versions without as much consternation, but it’s easier to see Brits or Americans as characters, whereas when participants are local I feel more focussed on them as real people.
Anyway, next week! Producers mismatch another couple for our supposed entertainment/enlightenment.