98 Degrees of Nick Lachey

Is there anything more pathetic than a man who’s whipped? Yes, there is: a man who’s whipped and whose relationship is the basis for a reality t.v. show. Such is the sad fate of Nick Lachey, one-time member of the boy band 98 Degrees, whose marriage to pop diva Jessica Simpson provides the impetus for Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Is there a more entertaining show on television than Newlyweds? Debatable, because no matter what your opinions on Nick and Jessica’s music (which are, I assume, mostly negative), you’ve gotta love a show in which a man voluntarily humiliates himself for the viewing pleasure of millions on account of gaining unlimited access to Jessica Simpson’s breasts.

Because really, that’s what Newlyweds is all about isn’t it? A man whose life has been taken over by his wife’s bosom? That sure is the impression I got when I happened across an episode this evening. MuchMusic, following in the path of its American bretheren over at MTV, has virtually eschewed the music video upon which it was founded in favour of this kind of shoddy, titilating, appeals-to-your-thirteen-year-old-prom-queen kinda programming. Shows like Newlyweds are a product of this transformation: I still go over to Much in vain hope of seeing a Matthew Good video, yet six times out of ten I’ll end up watching an episode of Newlyweds instead. It has been said that Jessica Simpson’s alleged idiocy is all an act–that she’s really not as stupid as she seems, that she’s actually shrewd and calculating and using her apparent vapidness as a marketing tool. Which is, like, so bogus. Because Jessica Simpson is dumb as a post; celebrity sycophants can say what they want in her defence, but watching a single episode of her television show leads us to that immutable conclusion.

But that’s all well and good, because Simpson’s stupidity–entertaining though it is–is merely window dressing for the real star: Nick Lachey, whose whip-edness is so extreme it makes my buddy Jon’s four-year relationship with our friend Rob’s sister seem noble by comparison. Is anyone else as astounding as me by what Little Nicky will put up with? Your typical episode of Newlyweds sees Jessica Simpson whining, begging, moping, crying, spazzing and sulking on mind-numbingly trivial things (her inability to cook, for instance), because she knows she’s got her man whipped to the nth degree (I resisted the urge to write “98th degree” because, well, it just seemed so easy). Jessica Simpson can utilize her body in order to manipulate poor ol’ Lachey into doing just about anything she wants. Nick, meanwhile, seems content to be utterly passive; occasionally he’ll interject with mild objections to Simpson’s excessive drama queen-ness, but in the end you just know he’ll capitulate, tail firmly between his legs, all in the name of gaining access to a little slice of Simpson’s chest.

In that sense, maybe Jessica Simpson is a lot more shrewd than we give her credit for being: she has this man–this once proud man whose videos used to play on MuchMusic when MuchMusic still played videos and when he was still in a semi-succesful group–wrapped five times around her little finger. The slightest flinch on her part sends him scrambling to please her, to give her what she wants, to do as she desires, to be as she sees fit. And here’s the thing: Nick will do it! But to what end? Her charming personality? Nope: she doesn’t have one, at least from what we’re allowed to see on her show. Her wit, her intelligence, her compassion? None of that either, unless finding a $2,500 dog “cute” is a mark of empathy. Thus, we are forced to conclude, sadly, that Nick sees nothing in Jessica beyond her physical beauty. You would hope there was more to it than that; watching Newlyweds, however, you’re left to conclude that there is not–and for that reason, it’s hard not to be filled with tremendous sense of schadenfreude as you watch Nick Lachey be voluntarily reduced to a shadow of what you’d hope a real man would be.

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