If you’re asking yourself “who the fuck is Tamar Braxton?” you definitely didn’t watch the premiere of Braxton Family Values on Tuesday. Or, you scrolled through channels for an hour trying to find the WE channel, and failed. Your loss. Seriously. Braxton Family Values stands out in the company of other mediocre reality TV centered around actors who have been resurrected from oblivion (like Sinbad, which airs directly after), but the ignorance was not only palatable, it was enjoyable.
So the bad news is that Toni turns out to be normal. Boring, even. At least for now. The most interesting thing about her is her grown-woman acne problem, or what appears to be her mild narcoleptic condition (she was napping over half of the episode).
But her sister Tamar (pronounced Tay-mar) emerges eagerly as the star of the show, readily adopting all of the trappings of a reality TV personality. (Even in the company of Towanda, who has decided, at 38, that pigtails will be her signature hairstyle; and Traci, who is just too old to be crying all the time in public, and willingly admits “I feel like the Jan Brady.”)
Hopelessly egotistical, Tamar spends the entire episode resenting Toni for being in the spotlight at a performance for an Autism benefit. Aw, so heartbreaking! She yells at her husband, a producer who obviously never takes off his sunglasses, to sign her and legally promise her to put out an album within the year. She asks her husband earnestly why she can’t hop on a record with Lady Gaga (one of his clients).
When her sister Traci opens up about feeling left out of the performance, a confession begging for an ounce of empathy, Tamar is completely bankrupt of even shallow sympathy. Can you blame her? She responds, sincerely: “I am not the human resources for the background singers of America.” Then, as if that display of emotion wasn’t taxing enough, she confides to Trina: “I’m not captain save a ho. I can only save one ho at a time and that’s me.”
She slips effortlessly in and out of teenage colloquialisms, her favorite being to add “dot com” to the end of phrases to make her responses more memorable and poignant. Nice! “It’s time to get it together dot com”; “This is some bull you know what dot com”; “and I’m just like uuuugh dot com!” She even surprises us with “I’m so over this dot org.” What a supporter of the nonprofit community! Tamar is somehow always doing the most, and the quality of her weave seems to rise and fall with the plot line of the episode.
Tamar is also an enabler of addictions! When her sister Trina, later speculated in the episode to have a serious drinking problem when she passes out on the plane, recalls how her husband used to tell her “a sippin’ Christian is a slippin’ Christian,” Tamar encourages her to drink.
Deeply materialistic, when she’s asked about her relationship with her husband, she responds by talking about how she has all of the ingredients of a “perfect life” – a huge house, three cars, and flies privately around the world, but doesn’t mention her husband once. I mean, why would she?
I don’t know a lot about Snooki, and I’m not just saying that to sound educated. I feel the need to invoke her because she’s the perfect proxy for the evolution of the reality TV complex – early unawareness of crazy and stupidity leads to acute awareness and deliberate exploitation for personal gain, fueling infamy, lots of undeserved media attention and cash money.
Tamar is still only an amateur reality TV star, where her egotism, materialism, and elementary vocabulary are that unlikely combination of relatable, endearing, and entertaining. It’s like even though you know you are probably becoming a worse version of yourself for watching her, and she represents everything you would never tolerate in even a distant friend, you somehow let her off the hook because she’s so self-unaware. She’s likeable because she’s oblivious.
There were close calls during the episode where I thought Tamar may have been in on her own joke – thus becoming infinitely less likeable. But when she submits her dream of adopting an Asian baby, raising her as a Black woman, and naming her “Disney” as a serious topic of discussion, it is clear that she is genuinely surprised and offended when her sisters unanimously shake their heads in disapproval. What a relief!
Tamar’s complaints about being in Toni’s shadow are most eloquently summarized when she proclaims: “I shouldn’t be back here; I should be out in the front dropping it like it’s hot.” Here’s hoping! And here’s hoping my love affair with Tamar is allowed to get serious before she begins her inevitably terrible music career, and starts getting paid triple my annual salary just to make an appearance at a club.