If you’ve been following Southern Charm since the beginning, you should be able to admit to yourself that this cast questionable since inception. If you’ve never seen the show, it still might be worth your while to continue reading. When the show first aired, the cast would go at length about their family’s long history in Charleston, South Carolina. I was turned off initially because I knew what that meant. However, it’s the 21st century and these people were nothing like their ancestors…right? They couldn’t be because they wouldn’t be on tv. I gave the show a chance and quickly fell in love with it, glossing over the parties on plantations just for the sake of entertainment.
During the filming of season 7 and during the protests for removal of statues that for confederate figureheads, Kathryn Calhoun Dennis slid into a Black woman’s direct messages on Instagram to tell her that she should “stop using Charleston and ur minority claim to harass people” and that she is what was wrong with Charleston. In addition to that, she sent the lady a monkey emoji in one of the exchanges. When this happened in May of last year, people were angry at Kathryn while others were in support of her. Since we hadn’t any idea of what filming was like, we didn’t know how this matter would’ve been addressed on the show, if any at all.
Fast forward to October 2020 when the show finally aired and the episodes started to come out. The season introduced us to a new full time cast member, Leva Bonaparte. Leva is an Iranian woman who was born in Canada, is married to a Black man and has a Black baby boy and has been a Charleston resident for years. She owns many restaurants, one of which was where Kathryn met her kids’ father. So Leva isn’t unknown to this group. Due to the nature of the situation, the burden fell on Leva’s soldiers to hold Kathryn accountable. The producers of this show also made it a point to finally add Venita, a Black woman, in the mix as well as to give Madison Simon more screen time. It seemed very performative because it’s not like these new additions weren’t in Charleston before. Anyways, those three were the most vocal about what Kathryn did. The men didn’t care enough to get full details, yet they were defending Kathryn blindly.
For weeks, fans of the show have been going after Leva, claiming she was bullying Kathryn, and that the emoji incident had nothing to do with her. Comments like “she should back to Canada“, “she doesn’t even belong on Southern Charm“, “you don’t hear people talking about what Iranians have done“, have all been said about Leva. So colour me unsurprised when on the season finale, Kathryn herself claimed, through a friend, that Leva was rallying everyone in the group to go against her. See, I like Kathryn but that wasn’t the case. What Leva did was question why everyone was so nonchalant about Kathryn’s actions. Well, mostly the men. Why was she the one to fight this fight, along with Venita and Madison Simon? Was it because they were the only ones with “skin in the game”? Fans chalked it up to Leva doing Cameran’s dirty work but fail to remember that Leva and Kathryn moved on from that issue. It’s almost as if, people are more upset at Leva for not letting Kathryn off the hook so easily, than what Kathryn actually did. Those in defense of Kathryn seem to be focused on one thing, the emoji. This is also what the men focused on and what Kathryn chose to also speak about. Everyone seems to ignore all the messages sent of Kathryn taunting the woman. The issue was more than an emoji.
Over on The Real Housewives of Dallas (I’m going to assume both shows share a lot of the same fans), Dr. Tiffany Moon, the newest cast member, was left to confront Brandi Redmond about a video she posted mocking Asians. Tiffany took a softer approach with Brandi and the fans wouldn’t stop singing her praise. They called the moment “classy”. They said Tiffany was their favourite. Basically, all hail Tiffany because she handled racism in a more palatable way with Brandi. This is what they expected with the situation on Southern Charm.
Here’s the thing, accountability comes in many forms. Some choose softer approaches because they may not want to deal with the issue beyond a moment or don’t have the time to be educating grown people on how not to be racist. Others take a more stern approach, especially when dealing with people who tend to brush things under the rug or who usually get a pass. Unfortunately for Kathryn, Leva, Venita and Madison Simon were no Tiffany and that is what has angered people. It’s unfair backlash and it makes Leva’s point ring even more true; coddling someone’s racist behaviour says a lot.
I strongly believe that people are able to grow and learn from mistakes made. This is something I’ve always said. I wrote a whole blog about that here. However, if someone isn’t willing to change then “these are pointed choices…this is a pattern, this is a personality, this is who this person is.” (Ariana Madix, Vanderpump Rules)