At its peak, The Real Housewives of Orange County was a staple amongst Bravo fans. You had everything you could ask for in a Real Housewives franchise: real-life drama, lavish lifestyles, cancer scams, and a great group dynamic. However, this season is anything but great, and has been called the worst season in the show’s 15-year run. While COVID has put a strain on the production of many shows, anyone with Bravo access can see that COVID is not the reason this show has been on a downward spiral. With this season receiving negative reviews due to its controversial casting choices, cast members’ behavior on social media, and the lack of authenticity within the cast, Bravo fans are wondering what went wrong, and if the show can ever bounce back.
Let’s just get this out of the way. Kelly Dodd is arguably one of the most controversial Housewives to date. This season, however, it was her social media behavior, rather than her on-camera antics, that landed her in hot water. Dodd has made numerous controversial choices in the past year, from calling COVID “God’s way of thinning out the herd”, to spreading misinformation about the virus, to even wearing a “Drunk Wives Matter” hat at her bridal shower. Some viewers have been so disgusted by her behavior that they boycotted the show this season.
Here’s the thing: this behavior is nothing new to Kelly. In 2016, before her first season on the show even aired, she proclaimed to TMZ (while drunk) that she does not like Black men. This statement alone should have gotten her fired a long time ago, yet Bravo decided to keep her on and it took years for her statement to resurface. Trust me, if I knew she said this years ago, I would’ve never watched the show while she was on it.
But let’s be real—a majority of people, including myself, liked Kelly on the show. She is incredibly blunt, has funny moments, and knows how to keep conversations going. She is good television. But when and where do we draw the line? Kelly thinks the reason for her downfall among some Bravo viewers is because they want to “censor” her, and that people refuse to separate politics from television. That’s not the case. If conservative politics were a dealbreaker when it comes to watching Real Housewives, the Orange County, Dallas, and New Jersey installments would be obsolete from our minds. See Kelly, we do not care about your politics, it’s your behavior and your continued bigotry that is turning people off from watching the show.
I mean, in a preview for the conclusion of the Season 15 reunion, Kelly rebuts the accusation that she is racist by proclaiming that she is Black. According to her 23andMe results, shared via Instagram, she is 2.3% African. Kelly, that does not make you Black, and even if you were 30% African, you have lived your life as white-passing—or at most, racially ambiguous—and you’ve benefited from that. Apologizing for your continuous derogatory behavior does not make up for the fact that you continue to use horrific and prejudiced rhetoric on an almost daily basis. God forbid, but if Bravo decides to keep Kelly on the show after everything she’s done, I do not want them hiring a Black woman or a woman of color for the sole purpose of “explaining” to Kelly what she has done wrong and how she can “fix it”. It is not the responsibility of Black women or women of color to save the images of controversial individuals. She needs to be held accountable for her behavior, whether that means firing her, a severe pay cut and demotion, or making her donate her entire salary to the marginalized communities that she continues to purposely offend.
Connections: You Need Them
Speaking of casting, one of the reasons why this season fell flat is because the cast lacks genuine connections with one another. The reason why we love The Real Housewives is because of the real friendships and bonds the women have with one another. This is a big reason why installments like Potomac, New York, and New Jersey have had successful multiple-season runs with barely any cast changes. When you throw a group of people together with nothing in common but the same zip code, you are setting yourself up for a sh*t show. This cast of ladies would probably never hang out with each other if there weren’t cameras around. Chemistry is what makes any television show amazing. It’s what made seasons 10-11 of RHOC amazing, and the lack of chemistry is what has made the show unbearable since season 12. With that being said, to bring this type of “organic” connection to RHOC, there has to be a major cast shake-up.
Bring Back Vets
First of all, getting rid of Heather Dubrow was a BIG mistake. HUGE. She was rich, blunt, and had a genuine connection with the cast. Yes, she was a bit pompous and it was hard to watch her at times, but the show needs someone who is a little bit snobby. Someone who will get the group all the way together in an effortless fashion. Someone who has the over-the-top lifestyle that RHOC once represented. I also think it’s time to bring Tamra Judge back. Yes I know, Tamra was not always a fan favorite, but she knows how to keep the momentum going by stirring the pot, and she isn’t a bigot. Seriously, the bar is so low with the RHOC that ANYONE who is not a bigot would be a good casting choice for this show. Bring back these two and maybe throw in a newbie, and I think the show will finally be back on the right track.
Who Needs To Go
We need to make room for people that would actually contribute to the success of the show, and that means some of these ladies should get the axe. First, get rid of Emily. She seems to have a more dominating presence on social media, but this is not The Real Housewives of Twitter, so unfortunately her time is up. Also, her viewpoints at times align with Kelly’s, and to be honest, I do not need any more of that on my TV screen. At least Kelly is somewhat interesting. Emily is not. The jury is still out when it comes to newbie Elizabeth Vargas, as she seems to have an interesting relationship with the ladies, so maybe she should come back for one more season.
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Braunwyn helped carry this season without a doubt. I’ll give her that. She talked about Gina’s home being too small, accused Elizabeth of consistently lying about her whole life, and her relationship with her husband Sean is… interesting. I do think that Braunwyn has a tendency to embellish and she can be hypocritical at times. The staged paparazzi shots and her allegedly offering drugs to Shannon’s teenage daughter aren’t helping her case, either. However, I don’t see Bravo getting rid of her anytime soon, mainly because she has the most interesting storyline out of all the ladies. So, the most I can ask of Braunwyn is to genuinely be herself and to stop giving us what she thinks will be “good reality TV”. Also, we NEED to hear more about how her kids and her husband Sean truly feel about this new stage in her life.
Obviously, with the Black Lives Matter movement reaching millions in 2020, the conversation about politics is bound to come up on some of these shows. Here’s the thing, as a Southern California native, I am painfully aware of how conservative Orange County, and Newport Beach in particular, can be. Yes, when we watch The Real Housewives, many of us are looking for an escape. We want to see wealthy women argue over frivolous things—it can be hilarious and, in some weird, sick way, therapeutic. We aren’t tuning in every week to see these women discuss politics. However, there is a clear line between what is political and what is about basic human rights. Trying to politicize human rights is a fault of your own. That is when watching RHOC can get a tad uncomfortable, mainly because some of the cast members, notably Kelly Dodd, have made these conversations political. When she does this, it comes off like she is in fact a bigot. We do not want to watch bigots on television.
Let me also make myself clear: just because I am a progressive leftist does not mean I align bigotry with everyone that has conservative values. It just so happens that a majority of the conservative cast members on this show tend to use egregious rhetoric in conversations surrounding social issues. I, without a doubt, commend Braunwyn, one of the only two liberal cast members on the show, for attempting to have a conversation about social injustices with the ladies, knowing that a majority of the cast is conservative. Whether her intention was genuine, to stir the pot, or even performative, having conversations about serious topics can be intimidating. However, it is not the responsibility of Braunwyn or any other woman (especially Black women and WOC) to explain racial injustice to these women. Bravo prides itself on being a network that is not only inclusive, but also a network that does not tolerate divisiveness. We saw this with the firings with some of the Vanderpump Rules cast members. However, it seems to me that Bravo is picking and choosing who they feel meets this standard of discrimination. If they do decide to keep the cast as-is, especially Kelly Dodd, then there is no one else to blame but Bravo for the fall of what was once one of the most-watched installments across the Real Housewives franchise.
Images: Tommy Garcia/Yavir Ramawtar/Bravo; Giphy; bravobybetches / Instagram
If you’ve been watching Bravo shows like Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules for years, you’ve probably come to terms with the fact that not all the cast members are great people. But usually that’s in the context of the show. It’s entertaining to watch someone be a nightmare on a group trip, but when that same person starts spouting ignorant nonsense on social media, it’s no longer fun.
A lot of Bravolebrities usually keep their views on real world events pretty quiet, but in the last week, pretty much everyone has posted in support of the Justice For George Floyd campaign, at the very least. And while some Bravolebrities have had amazing, inspirational responses to the current situation, some have really f*cked it up. Here are some of the Bravolebrity responses to what’s going on in the world right now, from the uplifting to the problematic.
Porsha Williams is the granddaughter of civil rights leader Hosea Williams, and she’s done his legacy proud over the last week. Last week, she peacefully protested in Atlanta with RHOA costar Shamea Morton, and spoke to a local news network about the need for justice. In the powerful clip, Porsha said “I may be well-known, but I am here to be a voice for the voiceless,” and demanded justice for George Floyd and greater change in black communities. Porsha has come a long way since the days when she thought the Underground Railroad was an actual train.
I swear the media is doing THEE MOST race baiting! If it wasn’t for social media, we wouldn’t have seen the peaceful protestors at all! Watch the news and it’s all violence and looting by people who are clearly not a part of the cause! Am I the only one seeing this? Frustrating!
— Monique Samuels (@iammrssamuels) June 1, 2020
Monique has been very active on Twitter over the past week, sharing her own thoughts as well as retweeting a lot of information and insightful commentary. She also brought attention to the elections happening in many states on Tuesday, which is important, because state and local elections have a direct effect on a lot of the issues at hand here.
To put it simply, Kelly Bensimon has been a disaster on social media this week. Multiple times, she’s posted something offensive or inaccurate, gotten called out, deleted the post, made a confusing apology, and then put up another offensive or inaccurate post. We’re all learning, and it’s okay to make honest mistakes, but Kelly’s posts just feel reckless and tone-deaf.
In this tweet from Monday, she shared a photo of peaceful protestors blocking a highway, claiming that it was a scene from the Hamptons in real time. She called for an end to the protests and loitering (lol, she meant looting), ignoring the whole reason why the protests are occurring. On top of that, this isn’t the Hamptons, it’s Connecticut, and the photo was from Sunday, not Monday.
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Despite making some bizarre apologies, Kelly obviously still doesn’t get it. On Thursday morning, she tweeted this graphic attempting to explain white privilege. In the tweet, Kelly called herself a “victim of how white privilege sounds” (not a thing), and also used a Blue Lives Matter hashtag. Kelly says that she’s learning, but any white person who thinks now is the time to call themselves a victim clearly hasn’t learned enough.
I’m a victim of how white privilege sounds. See below to help change the way we speak. #BlueLivesMatters pic.twitter.com/Edyx9wdtcr
— Kelly K. Bensimon (@kellybensimon) June 4, 2020
Kelly also doesn’t seem to understand the reasons Black Lives Matter exists and why it’s problematic to swap out “Black” with other words. Over the weekend, she posted an “All Lives Matter” tweet, which she later deleted. She’s apologized for the “verbiage mix up“, and has used #BlackLivesMatter in many subsequent posts. But then, today, she’s talking about Blue Lives all of a sudden? Yeah, no.
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The Real Housewives of Orange County is one of the more conservative casts on Bravo, so Braunwyn’s recent behavior has been a breath of fresh air compared to that of her costars. Braunwyn has joined peaceful protests multiple days this week, and even brought some of her children to a protest on Wednesday. She isn’t afraid to speak out, and her sign in this photo is really great: “There is a name for white people in OC who protest their ‘right to a haircut’ but stay silent when black lives are murdered: RACIST.” Damn.
Speaking of Braunwyn’s RHOC costars, this has been a trying time to follow Kelly Dodd on Instagram. She’s spent the last few months flying back and forth between New York and California, downplaying the danger of COVID-19, and even calling it “God’s way of thinning the herd.” Unsurprisingly, she’s been similarly problematic over the past week. In one Instagram story (which got deleted), she called protestors “animals” committing “terrorism on our land,” and opined that they don’t have problems like this in England (false, btw). Her words were completely disgusting, and though she’s pivoted to saying Black Lives Matter on social media, it’s hard to believe that’s anything more than a PR move.
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Eva has been one of the most active Housewives on Instagram this week, posting informational videos, voting PSAs, and inspirational messages daily. Her profile has become a valuable platform for updates, including multiple posts bringing awareness to fake protestors breaking windows and looting just to cause chaos. Eva isn’t taking any of this lightly, and her dedication to this cause has really been amazing to see.
More than most in the Bravo community, Katie seems to understand and accept the work that it takes to educate yourself and be a good ally. In addition to posting several times in support of Black Lives Matter, she’s also used her platform to spotlight black-owned businesses, anti-racist literature, and a Google Doc with hundreds of resources dedicated to dismantling systemic racism. Katie showed a hint of this understanding on this season of VPR when she called out the police prank as problematic, and she’s backing that up with action.
What is happening now has nothing to do with the tragic death of George Floyd – criminal looting is stealing – our businesses hurt by COVID don’t deserve this!!! You are blessed to live in the USA. Leave our small businesses alone!
— Taylor Armstrong (@TaylorArmstrong) June 3, 2020
Taylor Armstrong is the kind of person who makes me want to stay off of Twitter right now. While she’s repeatedly condemned the murder of George Floyd, she doesn’t seem to get the larger issue here. She’s tweeted many times about looting and the effect on small businesses, and yesterday she added that the protestors are “blessed to live in the USA.” Really? I’m sure I can think of plenty of people who don’t feel blessed to live in a country that has systematically oppressed them for centuries, and to even suggest that is incredibly tone-deaf.
In another tweet, Taylor suggested that, because she is part Native American, she understands “heritage issues.” I don’t really know what she means by that, but I’m going to stop thinking about it before I get any more angry.
Candiace Dillard Bassett
In a powerful Twitter thread from last week, RHOP’s Candiace Dillard challenged non-Black allies to do better, saying that “the oppressed cannot drive out oppression on our own.” She called out those she works with, saying, “I’m disappointed that amongst my white colleagues, who have no problem using their platforms to promote their businesses, their clothing lines, their restaurants and everything in between, there has been virtual silence.” In the week since Candiace posted this, many more people have shown their support and joined the conversation, but this is an important message to remember even when Black Lives Matter isn’t trending. Being an ally is a 24/7 job, not just when there’s a hashtag to share.
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My kids researched and found this peaceful protest that we attended today. It was organized by teenagers and was 2k-3k strong. My girls made our signs and wanted to be the 1st ones there. You have to talk to your children so that they understand because they too want their voices heard. #blmbethesda #justiceforgeorgefloyd
RHOP’s Gizelle Bryant has been outspoken on social media, and on Tuesday, she posted that she brought her daughters to a protest. She specified that her daughters did the research to find the protest, made their own signs, and wanted to be the first ones there, which makes my heart so warm. The children, they really are the future.
If you’ve watched even one episode of RHONY, you probably know that Ramona Singer is a piece of work, and her behavior this week has been… frustrating. After saying nothing over the weekend, her first comment on the current situation was in the form of an “all lives matter” comment. Oof. She was called out by many, including castmate Leah McSweeney, and deleted the comment. Since then, she’s posted a couple times, and said Black Lives Matter, but she’s been quiet since her Blackout Tuesday post. It seems like Ramona got the message about not saying All Lives Matter, but I’m not convinced she actually cares, or plans to do anything more meaningful. Not necessarily surprising, but it’s too bad.
The majority of the Bravolebrities haven’t been problematic this week, but he’s be honest, our expectations for them are pretty low. It’s good that only a handful have been out here spreading bullsh*t, but the vast majority of them could still do way more. These are just some of the best and worst examples, but if you want a more in-depth list of each Housewife’s posts, writer Tracie Morrissey has meticulously catalogued them in her Instagram Story highlights.
Images: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com; itstanyatime, bravobybetches, braunwynwindhamburke, musickillskate, candeegal09, ramonasinger, evamarcille, gizellebryant / Instagram; kellybensimon, taylorarmstrong, iammrssamuels / Twitter