TV

Hoarders

Hoarders vividly illustrates the psychological effects of hoarding, the feelings of shame, worthlessness, and despair caused by living in an uncontrollable mess.

Hoarders

Airtime: Mondays, 10pm ET
Cast: Various
Network: A&E;
Air date: 2009-08-17
Website
Trailer
Amazon

A&E’s unsettling yet compelling new show, Hoarders, follows people who suffer from a mysterious compulsion to hoard objects, trash, and even animals. Cast in a similar mold to the network's popular Intervention, the series follows new subjects each week. While they appear in their often unimaginably filthy houses, the show cuts to hoarding specialists, including therapists and professional cleanup crews, who try to help make the homes habitable. As the camera pans over mountains of clutter -- including tattered clothes, discarded plastic wrappers, rotting food, and, most hauntingly, the remains of long-dead animals -- Hoarders evokes a range of conflicting emotions from its audience, from morbid fascination to compassion to revulsion.

According to MayoClinic.com, the causes of hoarding are not entirely known or understood, though it is often associated (rightly or wrongly) with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The series does not attempt to ferret out underlying reasons for how or why its subjects began to hoard, at least not in the episode that aired on 7 September. Here, 21-year-old garbage hoarder Jake struggled with suicidal depression, and Shirley, a 71-year-old stray-cat hoarder, faced criminal charges for animal endangerment. The experts called in to assist Jake and Shirley compared hoarding to drug and alcoholic addiction, but the high or relief that comes from hoarding is trickier to fathom, especially in cases like Jake's and Shirley’s, when the objects kept have long outlived their use, beauty, or safety. For instance, Jake had trouble parting with his dog’s shed fur (he fears disposing of it will lead to her death), and Shirley had long forgotten the contents of the many cardboard boxes, now soaked in cat urine, crowding every room in her house.

With Jake, there were hints of a heredity disposition or perhaps environmental influences. His alcoholic father also had hoarding issues; his collection of empty booze bottles (crammed under pieces of furniture and inside dresser drawers and kitchen cabinets) must have numbered in the hundreds. Shirley was unable to tackle the clutter because she had been weakened by a recent stroke, but her hoarding of animals began long before then. That she continued to take on more and more cats despite the fact that her pets had destroyed nearly everything in her home (leaving waste and carcasses in their wake) suggested that she was struggling with psychological issues as debilitating as her physical infirmities.

Hoarders vividly illustrates the psychological effects of hoarding, the feelings of shame, worthlessness, and despair caused by living in an uncontrollable mess, plus the crippling anxiety that comes when trying to get rid of it. The show also examines the puzzling codependent dynamic between hoarders and their cohabitants. Family members may be appalled by the clutter, but many also seem to adapt to it. Viewers who have never struggled with this problem (or known someone who has) may throw up their hands in exasperation and exclaim, “Just clean it up already!” But what the show makes palpable is the crippling inertia that can overwhelm the hoarder once his home has been stuffed to maximum capacity. It often takes an outsider -- a therapist, law-enforcement official, or removal crew member -- to articulate, “It is dangerous for you to keep living this way.”

With their strong resolve, and even stronger stomachs, the experts are the heroes of this series. As he directed his assistants to Shirley’s garage, hoarding specialist Matt Paxton warned, “The smell is going to be aggressive, so if you need to throw up or anything, do it outside.” The therapists, protected by face masks and gloves during the removal process, powered through, talking their clients down from each panic attack and offering positive reinforcement for every useless or unsafe object the hoarder threw away.

Much like Intervention or Obsessed, Hoarders' visual style follows the typical reality-TV model. Interspersed among the alarming shots of hoarded objects are talking-head interviews and black-and-white intertitles that provide information about the subjects and the therapeutic process. The series occasionally undermines this straightforward approach with unnecessarily “freaky” sound effects (devolving into Clean Sweep by way of David Fincher). While the show sometimes seems exploitative, it also provides its participants with essential (and, one suspects, expensive) professional help they might not otherwise receive. Without the support of these specialists, who knows what would become of Jake, Shirley, or her cats.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image