Hoarders, “Randy/Vicki”: in defense of the genre

Quick Take: Hoarders, “Randy/Vicki”
“Each machine has a personality.” – Randy 


Review: Hoarders, “Randy/Vicki”
(S0405) I somehow missed the memo that the fourth season of Hoarders started back in June. I don’t know how this happened. My pseudo-stalking of the A&E website was practically a compulsion in itself once I realized that new episodes of my favorite guilty pleasure were no longer popping up on On-Demand.

That was a dark day.

But Hoarders is back and though I may be late to the party, my life is complete once again. I no longer worry that the random shoes scattered throughout my apartment are an affront to nature, and I’m suddenly ultra-motivated to mop my kitchen floor. I have an irrational need to meticulously stack the moving bins that have been hanging out all willy-nilly in the basement since I moved in last May. I’m browsing the Ikea catalogue for sensible and stylish storage solutions.

Hoarders gets a lot of flack for exploiting a mental illness as some sort of modern day freakshow. One of tonight’s featured hoarders, Vicki, even makes the comment, “I don’t wanna be in this circus no more,” as she chases the camera crew away from her apartment, which caught me as oddly insightful for someone who has completely lost the ability to understand how her actions affect everyone around her.

When it comes to reality shows like Hoarders and Intervention, the exploitation is one part presentation, one part intention, and one part perception. The rampant Lysol ads made me chuckle and certainly, it was a blatant case of product placement. However, during the meat of the program, there is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Zasio and the other therapists and specialists sincerely want to help these people put their lives back on track. And finally, from my own perspective, Hoarders represents this niche subject that otherwise is only addressed purely for the shock value.

My mother is a hoarder. I like to joke, “For me, watching Hoarders is like watching home movies.” It’s one of the reasons that we don’t really talk to each other and if you can’t wrap your head around how a messy house can drive children away from their parents, you should probably give this little show a watch. The heart of every hoarder’s problem is never the mess. The mess is the easy fix.

This is not a series about messy houses. This is a series about mental illness.

As every episode unfolds, we the viewers come to see that the mind-blowing messes on the screen are really just placeholders for the mind-blowing messes in these peoples’ lives.

And this week, well into the 4th season, is no different. We meet Randy from New Jersey and Vicki from Texas. Hoarders like to occasionally depart from the “garden variety” hoarder and feature someone with a specialty, like that guy with all the rabbits last season, or that lady with all the dolls.

Randy is a specialist. He collects amusement park memorabilia.

Randy acknowledges that he is a hoarder in the sense that he has a massive collection of stuff. But like Eddie Izzard is an Executive Transvestite, Randy from New Jersey is an Executive Hoarder. You won’t find any dead cats in his hoard. It’s all clean and functional. It’s just…huge. And he can’t stop adding to it, to the point that he’s about to go bankrupt. His dream is to open an amusement park memorabilia museum (which is exactly where my brain went when I saw his hoard) but he can’t get past the sheer volume of his possessions to actually do anything with any of it.

Randy shares this episode with Vicki from Texas, who is the garden variety hoarder I mentioned above. Her house is a disastrous mass of health code violations. She has a crappy relationship with her daughter, the state wants to take her son away, and her husband wants a divorce.

Randy started buying up old amusement park games and merchandise because he had a crummy childhood and the happiest memories he has revolve around the boardwalk ventures of Wildwood, New Jersey. Vicki started dumpster diving after her father passed away.  In a way, both of these hoarders utilize physical objects to fill some void in their lives, but that’s standard operating procedure on this show.

In the end, the contrast between Randy and Vicki is intriguing. When Vicki gets upset with the people trying to clean up her hoard, everything she screams about boils down to how everybody is against her, nobody is listening to her, and no one cares about what she wants. The objects are practically irrelevant.

Randy’s sole major meltdown occurs when the moving crew doesn’t think that they can move a giant horse racing game down a flight of stairs. They don’t think it will fit. They don’t think that it’s a safe venture. It was jarring to see one of the weekly hoarders get upset because the crew would not take something outside. Randy is upset because he wants to share his collection with the world.

However, while it was easy to applaud Randy and groan at Vicki, I think it’s important to point out that Randy wasn’t being asked to get rid of anything over the course of this episode. It was almost like cheating at the Hoarders game. I applaud the show’s effort to get away from the standard fare, but there were definitely times over the course of this episode where I had a hard time understanding why Randy was being profiled.

By MaryAnn Sleasman

About the author

MaryAnn was raised by television because her parents were too cheap to get a babysitter. Some people have fond memories of summer camp, she has Salute Your Shorts rerunsStalk her on Twitter at @radium_girl.

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On: Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

That's what the tvga field guide is here for maryann, so no need to worry anymore ;-)

On: Tuesday, July 19, 2011
MaryAnn Sleasman said:

Haha, I check it daily! My days of losing episodes to forgetfulness are over. 


I mean, I'm still a giant flake whose desk is literally a mess of notes directing me to look at other notes directing me to...I think you get it. 

On: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Dogsbody said:

IMHO, Randy was a manipulative narcissist and control freak, much further down the rabbit hole than you seem to have picked up. It may be worth watching the episode again. Notice how he starts to function once he can boss people around and manifest his oversized ego. A chilling man, turning from all clowney to slit-your-throat mean and back again on a dime. Billy Bob from episode 2 was just as scary. And also hoarded lots of toys.

Hope you enjoyed yesterday's episode -- I felt sorry for the people trying to help (Smokey and Marisa, both adorable in their own way).


On: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
MaryAnn Sleasman said:

I gave Randy the benefit of the doubt until he started eating his hair. Or pretending to eat his hair. Either way...the hair just...irked me. He definitely has issues, but I feel like those issues have more to do with the control-freak tendencies and the narcisissim you pointed out, than the hoarding itself.

Also, I like Matt, I do, but I think he can be a little antagonistic sometimes. I wonder if he was paired with Randy just because their personalities were destined to clash so loudly.

Smokey and Marisa were great. Smokey was so sincere. I hope Carol realizes what a good friend he is.  I'm glad Marisa is benefiting from the aftercare. She seems so sweet, once you get past all the anger and hurt.


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