Bravo ‘Real Housewives’ in Dallas and Salt Lake City highlight need for a racial reckoning
Once again, racism and the “real housewives” are making the headlines. The latest scandal concerns the actor from “Real Housewives of Dallas” and the Pink Dog Food Huckster Kameron Westcott, who compared their Chinese actor to Thai sex workers in an episode of “Watch What Happens Live”.
This isn’t the first time prejudice has surfaced in Dallas, and unfortunately it is unlikely to be the last.
This isn’t the first time prejudice has surfaced in Dallas, and unfortunately it is unlikely to be the last. As the series progresses, racist moments feel like a main driver of the drama. In the meantime, racist behavior is already becoming a main theme of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.
Even before the assassination of George Floyd sparked a national reckoning on racism and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Bravo’s flagship Real Housewives was criticized for being far too separate. (Bravo is owned by NBCUniversal, which also owns NBC News.) Typically the highest rated of the shows, Real Housewives of Atlanta has always had a predominantly black cast, but many of the oldest franchises went with zero black housewives for years.
That started to change in 2020. In October, Real Housewives of New York cast Eboni K. Williams, the show’s first black cast member. In November, Real Housewives of Salt Lake City premiered with both a black cast member and the franchise’s first Pacific Islander. “Real Housewives of Dallas” and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” added Tiffany Moon and Crystal Kung Minkoff, the first Asian American housewives for both shows.
But as is so often the case, this surge in diversity failed to cover up ongoing institutional concerns. It turns out that casting alone can’t fix this problem.
In June, Housewives spinoff “Vanderpump Rules” took original actors Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute out of the can after Faith Stowers, a former castmate and the only black person on the show, alleged racist (and frankly stupid) behavior against them . At the same time, the show split from two new cast members, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni, after their old racist tweets surfaced.
But Lisa Vanderpump, the former star and producer of “Real Housewife” and “Vanderpump Rules,” now says that she may regret the way Schroeder and Doute were fired. “It wasn’t right at all what you did, but do I think you are racist? 1,000 percent not, ”she said on the podcast“ The Skinny Confidential’s Him & Her ”. “Do I think it was a racist act? Not at all. I just think it was terrible timing and stupid and ignorant. “
This is the same Lisa Vanderpump who said on season eight of the Vanderpump Rules that she also didn’t believe Boyens and Caprioni were racists, despite condemning their earlier comments.
Even Andy Cohen, Bravo’s top mascot, is now hinting that he is concerned about the layoffs and tells the New York Times that they are “decisions for this moment.” “It is more interesting to sit with people you have a deep interest in and watch them find their way,” he continued, “than just turn off the lights and forget that it exists.”
But not everyone finds their way. And Bravo, with its huge reality TV empire, is increasingly forced to grapple with scandals that at least suggest that producers need to better choose their stars.
In the current season of Southern Charm, Kathryn Dennis is embroiled in a scandal after attacking a black radio host on Instagram and using a monkey emoji. Dennis publicly apologized to the host but claimed on the show that she was not a racist. She’s even started dating a black guy, which unfortunately feels more like damage control than romance.
People who excel in reality television aren’t necessarily known for their ability to learn or grow.
Watching people learn and grow from their experiences would probably make a great reality TV. But people who excel in reality television aren’t necessarily known for their ability to learn or grow. In fact, the entire premise of Real Housewives and other like-minded shows is that provocation takes you far further than empathy. Why apologize and compromise when you can self-righteously play victim for 20 episodes and a three-part reunion?
Instead of growing, Dennis – defending someone who organized a Trump parade when she was using the emoji – doubles her bad behavior. And their white castmates cover them. This forced Leva Bonaparte, the show’s only full-time actress, to explain to Dennis, the rest of the cast, and the audience why such actions are hateful.
On Real Housewives of Dallas, Brandi Redmond was criticized for a video she made to ridicule Asians, but she still managed to keep her job. (On the flip side, her castmate LeeAnne Locken quit the show after making racist remarks about Mexican castmate Kary Brittingham. She claims she quit, but I claim hardly any housewife leaves.) Redmond was forced to Face Her Racism as a Chinese American Doctor Tiffany Moon was cast on the show and Redmond had to explain herself to an actual Asian performer. At least, unlike Dennis, Redmond seems to have learned her lesson.
But here too Bravo takes a step forward and two steps back. When Kameron Westcott appeared on “Watch What Happens Live” in early January, she was asked for her first impressions of Moon. “I originally thought she was going to be my best friend,” she said. “Then I didn’t notice how bossy she is. I thought the girls in Thailand were bossy when I saw this ping pong show, but I’ll tell you it’s more bossy. “This was a reference to the cast’s trip to an infamous Thai sex show during their group vacation last year. When she made the comparison, Andy Cohen’s mouth had fallen so open it looked like a python about to swallow a little pig.
Meanwhile, Porsha Williams (who once said she thought the Underground Railroad was a real train) was arrested at Real Housewives Atlanta to protest the murder of Breonna Taylor. Things on Bravo really do matter.
Activists know that the very work of progress must continue even with the cameras turned off. But that doesn’t seem to be happening with Bravo. Instead, showrunners and hosts choose who and how to punish for their bad behavior – only to sometimes regret imposing those sentences in the first place. After all, this is the network in which “Real Housewives of New York” star Luann de Lesseps was disguised as Diana Ross for Halloween, which some in an episode of the show from 2018 would call blackface and without consequences or even with strictness Conversations faced.
Just like Carole was the only one who realized how insulting it was. Meanwhile, Bethenny said it was amazing and she admired LuAnn’s eggs 👀 #RHONY https://t.co/N89KsR1YFl
– Housewives Historian (@cuntneykardash) August 16, 2020
Bravo has a history of engaging in air waves. It became increasingly popular on the back of Queer Eye, a show that gave gay men in particular a positive platform when such a representation was difficult to find. The network has also made hits from “Shahs of Sunset,” “Married to Medicine,” and “Real Housewives of Potomac,” all of which feature different line-ups.
The reaction to this particular political and cultural moment, however, remains arbitrary. Of course something has to be done, but what and how much is unclear. In August, the network aired a special featuring some of its black “Bravolebrities” talking about the personal tribute racism that has taken their lives to educate fans. It seems like some of the company’s executives – and certainly the stars who helped make it stand out – could use a little education of their own.