So much has happened in the world of reality tv this past week, that has now crossed over into the real world. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here then come back. For those who are aware of all that’s taken place, indulge me for a moment.
You may not agree but I believe that an unclear precedent is being set for reality tv, the entertainment industry and the world of work as we know it. Some may argue that it’s about time while others will say this is all performative. What do I mean by this? Well, with the current climate of Black voices being “heard” due to another killing of an unarmed black man (regardless of his past, he was unarmed) which prompted protests all over the world and other racial issues in the US, networks and corporations have been taking a few actions to address this matter. Bravo TV for example is one of such networks and will be what my reference point throughout.
Due to what has been brought back to light regarding Max, Stassi, Kristen and Brett , Bravo TV decided to fire all four Vanderpump Rules stars for their past comments and actions (not said or done while on the job, still not an excuse). Both Max and Brett have apologised for what they tweeted some eight years ago and haven’t done anything of that nature since then (based on what’s been accessible to us). Should they keep paying for it? How long? Was this the right move or was Bravo trying to save face? On one hand, the audience sees this as the perfect consequence because these four don’t deserve a platform. However, there is a flip side. If Bravo is sending a message that they don’t tolerate any kind of discrimination and they stand with Black people against racism as well as any other minority group, then these four shouldn’t be the only ones fired AND they know it. YOU do too.
The TV shows that didn’t have any issues related to race (that we know of) got cancelled by Bravo and got called boring by fans because there weren’t any controversies. So it begs one to believe that none of these firings have anything to do with what’s right but more so what looks good to the public, aka performative. After all, Bravo is owned by NBC Universal with 11 of its 17 top positions being occupied by women, two of whom are Black women. I mentioned this fact because both women would have been with NBC Universal, overseeing Bravo, from the time she-who-shall-not-be-named (at age 41) said that Joyce Giraud couldn’t swim because she’s a Black woman, on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills season 4. As vacuous as the comment was she-who-shall-not-be-named didn’t lose her job over it. In fact, I don’t even think she suffered any financial damages then and certainly not presently because the very network, Bravo, has invited her back on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Could she have seen the error in making such a statement and has grown from it, and therefore should be given a chance? Or will it be announced that she too will fired by the network? Only time will tell.
Now, the talent already on the network and hopefuls will more than likely hide their true feelings about any and everything topical and stick with what the popular perceived right is, like the women on The Real Housewives of Dallas do. Don’t act like you don’t know. How will reality tv fare against this cancel culture? Are the tv stars even going to end up in conflicts anymore out of fear that they may say the wrong thing in the heat of the moment? I mean, you can have drama and disagreements without making racial moments. Listen, I am in no way defending anyone’s actions or comments that caused or could have caused harm to any Black person or minority. That’s not what this is. I’m simply trying to understand the direction of this new wave that doesn’t seem to have a firm threshold.
Take for example Married to Medicine LA. Here we have a show of Black women (doctors and doctors’ wives) and their families based in LA. Most of the women have been connected for years and some newly formed friendships. Apart from the drug dealer comment in season 1, this show is very different from the cast of Married to Medicine Atlanta. The cast so far haven’t been outright vicious to each other and so many aren’t watching, even in a pandemic. Why is this? Some won’t admit it but the fans love the dirty, in the gutter drama. They live for drug accusations, hair pulling, cheating, nonstop fighting, and the list goes on.
Family Karma is another example. This was the first time we’ve ever seen a reality tv show about Indians. I loved the cast. They were their unedited selves. The production was fresh. They weren’t vicious and ripping into each other but they did have their share of drama. However, the cancel culture clique called it boring because they have gotten so accustomed to outlandish behaviour. The same behaviour that they have complained about for some time. Another example of a great show with an equally great cast is Southern Charm New Orleans. This was probably one of the best cast ever to be on a network like Bravo. The group was fun, they were actually friends and they weren’t going out of their way accusing people of terrible things like doing cocaine, Mind you, they did have a little bit of controversy when a cast member used foul language toward a guest at an event in an argument. He wasn’t the first to do so on the network. He showed immediate remorse and this was captured on film where fans could see and judge for themselves. However, the audience wasn’t into it. They kept saying the cast was boring. Yet, somehow you see them protesting about the current state of the shows being aired. I have always made it known that I prefer the fun stuff. That’s what these shows gave me. That’s why I’ll forever love There Goes The Motherhood and how positive of a show it was as well as Jersey Belle.
Fans who once loved the outrageousness from these stars, are now calling for everyone they don’t like to be sacked while excusing or blatantly ignoring their favourite’s actions of the same nature. So the behaviours that they’ve lauded from these “now” problematic tv stars for years, bother them. They, somehow grew but the stars stayed the same. They are then left wondering why? Why has there been no growth? BUT how could there have been any growth when the personalities they fell in love with kept doing what they thought their fans wanted? I mean, isn’t that why many keep saying bring back she-who-shall-not-be-named, while totally ignoring what she has said on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Isn’t that the reason they paid those hefty ticket prices for BravoCon to meet Stassi because they loved her? Now, she’s cancelled and is the worst person ever, when her actions were known? There’s a reason she felt comfortable sharing what she and Kristen did regarding Faith. Could it have been their white privilege at play? Sure. BUT they knew something like that would make their fans laugh because that behaviour would’ve made “great tv” and Faith was public enemy number 1 for sleeping with their friend’s boyfriend. An act committed while Faith was supposedly taking care of an elderly patient. Lest we forget, no one (cast nor some fans) was on Faith’s side for what she did and apparently she never apologised. None which warrants the girls trying to get her arrested.
So where do we go from here? The default was always white with one or two people for diversity. So any plans moving forward can’t involve getting any input from yet another white person. If networks are reading the room (finally, even if self preserving) they need to read it well. Networks and corporations need to bear more responsibilities for not acting on these offenses sooner. Especially now that they are making examples out of one set of people, while being mum about others. If you mess up, you should face the consequences for the decisions you made but when does it end? Will these people (or any others) be given a chance to show their growth? Will other networks or companies ever want to work them or will they forever be blackballed from making any sort of living because of their actions? Do they deserve that chance? Would you or I deserve it?
Companies like Bravo shouldn’t just fire their employees and leave them out in the cold when they helped create the personalities many came to love for whatever reason. This could’ve been the perfect opportunity to bring all parties involved (Stassi, Kristen, Faith, etc), face to face, and get it all on film. Instead of paying them, give their salary to organisations dedicated toward uplifting the Black community and other minority groups. Call me naive. Some may say the stars were old enough to know better and though that is true, we live in a world where many people make mistakes and regret them terribly. I know I have. As I stated before, it can’t be that we’re willing to cancel people we don’t like and have no interest in knowing whether they are the same people now than they were then. Surely you aren’t because you’re no longer laughing with them (at least publicly) like you were when the mistake was made. Or maybe you haven’t and you’re just posturing because it’s the new trend and you know, anything for the likes. If it’s the latter, then no just Cause needs you as an ally.
We have to get a handle on this seemingly uncontrollable monster that is cancel culture before it causes catastrophic damages. It’s growing exponentially with no clear signs of slowing down. It has already claimed the life of a young wrestler on a tv show in Japan. Something to think about.