Growing Up Twisted

[30 July 2010]

By Leigh H. Edwards

Awesome Points

I hate to break it to you, but Dee Snider’s family is totally freakin’ adorable. Hilarious and boisterous, this Long Island Italian crew sports a lot of mohawks, but the most radical thing about them is how much they love each other. They’re like one big, mulleted, leopard-printed group hug waiting to happen.

The newest rock-star-with-a-family reality show, Growing Up Twisted, which premiered 27 July, stands out because that family is so functional. From the first episode, it was clear that mom Suzette is in charge. She’s raunchy, witty, and willing to punch your face in if you mess with her family. Dee, on the other hand, comes off like a big teddy-bear sweetheart. When he and eldest son Jesse headed over by chopper to the studio to make some music, their first priority was talking out what was happening at home, namely, the upcoming christening of Jesse’s baby daughter.

They can certainly look unconventional: Suzette wore a skin-tight leopard print dress to the christening after joking with pink-haired teenager Cheyenne that she might dress “conservatively.” And their concerns aren’t exactly mundane. In “Baptism by Snider,” Cheyenne’s brother Cody tried to take down her trampoline. Hit in the face by a spring, he needed stitches, but just laughed, “The trampoline hit back,” thinking he earned “awesome points” for the injury. Suzette, ever the kidder, teased, “Cody, I don’t know how you don’t break your penis.” Dee confided to the camera, “I came home to chaos, you know blood, tears, total mayhem. The usual.”

Make that some degree of mayhem. The family enjoys their share of pranks, dick jokes, and tattoos, and the kids roll their eyes at the parents giving them TMI about their sex life as well as stories about Dee’s rocker days. But they’re a stable group. The first episode, “Carpet and Drapes,” was all about mom and dad’s 34th wedding anniversary. Dee had his tattoo of her name redone while Suzette got her tattoo of his name lasered off, deciding she didn’t want to like “his property.” Seeing that he was hurt over her decision, she made it up to him with another anniversary celebration, and a new tattoo on her ass. Just to keep it wild.

More wildness was evident in son Shane’s stand-up comedy routine. The family trooped out to the city to watch, and he was pretty funny, with good-enough jokes about kids at school yelling at him, “We’re not gonna take it!” He also had a zinger about the upcoming christening of his niece, saying Jesse wasn’t psyched about it, “because [his wife] Patty’s a Methodist, and he wants the baby to go to hell.”

But when another comic at the club heckled the family a little too hard, Shane slammed him back. Rowdy son Cody, a budding filmmaker, told the guy he was an asshole and threatened to take him “outside.” At dinner later, Suzette applauded Cody’s behavior, while Dee cautioned him not to be such a “hothead.” As always, Suzette had the last word, saying it’s “Italian” to defend your family and that Cody “should have kicked his ass.” They agreed to disagree. Group hug.

This was the pattern of the first two episodes: mini-upset leading to speedy reconciliation. When Jesse composed a song for the christening, he worried that he upset Dee with the lines: “The sins of the father won’t be the sins of the son / You’re coming with me wherever I run.” Translation: he’s pledged not to leave his wife and kid behind to go on tour like his dad did when he was young. When Jesse performed, the camera focused on Dee’s face, looking a little hurt. Jesse asked him to sing “I’m a douchebag” as a harmony over the bridge. Aww. Speaking to the camera, Dee confessed he had missed a lot when Jesse was young, but just wait ‘til Jesse has to go to work without his family.

After the ceremony, dedicated jokesters Shane and Cody broke up the sentimental mood during one of several joint interviews (these showed them to be an amusing comedy team). After Shane said, “It was a beautiful experience,” Cody pointed out, “It’s not scripted.” Beat. Shane: “I’m surprised flowers didn’t start blooming out of everyone’s ears.” Cody: “I got an erection.” They laughed. Even as they resorted to dick-joking, their eyes were shining with happiness for their brother.

Dee’s coda interview summed up: “Our kids are pretty amazing. Suzette and I always say, if you want to know us, if you want to know the kind of people we are, talk to our kids. Don’t judge me for whatever movie or song I wrote. If you want to know who we are as people, meet our kids, talk to our kids.” Family trumps celebrity here. I know they’re doing the show to prop up Dee’s career, platform Jesse’s, and launch the other kids on various entertainment ventures. But maybe they’ll weather the fame storm. My advice: hold on to your black leather jackets and your appreciation for the absurd.

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