When it debuted in 2014, Southern Charm captivated Bravo viewers with its breezy Charleston backdrop and dynamic cast. But in recent years, the show has started to lose its luster, particularly with its continued indulgence of seriously toxic men. It seems that the powers that be at Bravo are also ambivalent about the show, as rumors swirl that production on season 7 has been delayed in an attempt to breathe new life into the stagnant franchise. But should they even bother? Unless some serious changes are made, my inclination is no, for several reasons.
TRav Continues To Dominate The Conversation
I’ll admit that when the show premiered, I enjoyed watching Thomas Ravenel. Despite being old enough to be the grandfather father of several of his castmates, there was something endearing about him, especially in his tearful breakup with Kathryn at the end of season 1. At the time they seemed like two star-crossed lovers, and it was genuinely heartwarming to learn that not only did they get back together, they had a baby after filming on season 1 wrapped. Of course, as the seasons went on it became very clear that Thomas was a veritable monster. We started to see firsthand his emotional abuse of Kathryn and his manipulation of both the press and the rest of the cast in a devious crusade to destroy Kathryn’s reputation and force her to lose custody of their two children. As if that weren’t disgusting enough, he was also arrested for sexual assault and battery.
Despite being removed from the cast, Thomas was implicated in virtually every major storyline in season 6 with the focus on his custody battle with Kathryn, the return of his whackjob on-again, off-again escort girlfriend Ashley, and even the casting of his family friend Eliza Limehouse, with that connection being touted several times throughout the season. This obsession with Thomas-adjacent plot points makes it seem like Bravo is afraid they can’t put together a successful show without Thomas somehow being involved. The rumors confirm this, with sources alleging that production approached Thomas’ cousin to join the cast for the upcoming season. Even Kathryn is seemingly buying into this idea, with a recent Instagram she put up with her estranged ex that suggests they might be back together. While I hope for her sake that it’s nothing more than a publicity stunt, if the show depends on a problematic and toxic cast member for its survival, this seems like a sign that Southern Charm may not be long for this world.
The Men Still Suck
Even putting TRav aside, my many qualms with the men on Southern Charm are well-documented. I won’t wax poetic on the varying degrees of their suckage here, but instead I’m most concerned with the lack of evolution we’ve seen with any of the men on this show. The most successful and compelling reality stars are the ones who evolve season after season and show us new sides of themselves. Sometimes this involves real growth, other times they regress, but the point is that there’s a general forward momentum that keeps viewers interested. The men on Southern Charm, if you can even call them that, have shown little to no growth over the course of six seasons. Shep, once an affable goofball, has transformed into a misogynistic emblem for white male privilege. Whitney continues to be creepy, and Craig, though adorable, seems content to push pillows and sleep ‘til noon for as long as he can ride this reality TV wave the foreseeable future. Austen’s never really been more than Shep Jr. until Madison came on the scene last season. Their dynamic added some spice, but not enough that I want to have my eyes and ears assaulted with more cries of “MAAAHDISEHHHN!” and a side of Austen’s half-mast boner next season.
The Rest Of The Cast Is Boring
So who does that leave us with? Cameran was fun the first few seasons as our resident narrator and f*ckboy-wrangler, but she hasn’t brought much else to the table throughout her tenure on the show. She’s always removed from the drama and seems to think palling around with Shep & co. while eating various fried foods passes for a legitimate storyline season after season. Her attempts to document her struggles as a new parent also fell flat last season. We watch reality TV to escape the more mundane aspects of our lives and to see something aspirational, not to watch someone whose challenges look much like our own. It’s great to be nice and normal, but like I’ve said before, well-adjusted people have no place on reality television. Chelsea, though sweet, is cut from a similar cloth as Cameran and has done little to hold my interest as a viewer. Eliza initially seemed like a potential new villain, but turned out to be a total non-entity last season. Naomie seems almost passive in her new relationship and did little to engage viewers either. Kathryn’s fascinating, but inconsistent, and if she’s really back with Thomas, the last thing any of us need to see is a vulnerable woman falling back into the arms of a sociopathic ex. You does it much better anyway.
Unless Bravo can shake its TRav obsession and add some fresh blood to the mix, I’m not sure how much longer Southern Charm can last. They took a step in the right direction with casting Madison, who was dynamic and unafraid to stand up to Shep last season, but she can’t carry the show on her own. Adding other new faces might be just what this franchise needs to stay afloat. It’s a strategy that seems to be working well on this season on Vanderpump Rules, despite some questionable new choices. Whether Bravo and the cast can get the show back on track this season remains to be seen, but here’s hoping these Southerners can once again turn on the charm.
Images: Heidi Gutman/Bravo; Giphy (1); kathryndennis / Instagram; Tenor (2)
Southern Charm is one of my favorite Bravo shows, and I was really excited for season 6 after a spectacular season 5, where all the women seemingly banded together to take down the “good ole boys” club that pervades Charleston and the mindsets of the men there. It was an exciting time to be watching—the #MeToo movement was igniting, and for a brief moment it felt like there would finally be a reckoning for some of the more toxic men on the show. To some extent, there has been, with Thomas’ arrest and removal from the cast, but you wouldn’t know it by watching this season. The camaraderie between the women is not quite the same as it was last season, and the only woman bold enough to call out the men’s more problematic behavior is being portrayed as a pseudo-villainess. How did we get here, and are there any good men on Southern Charm?
Although Thomas is no longer a cast member, his presence still lingers with the aftermath of his arrest for sexual assault and battery, and Kathryn’s struggle to maintain custody of their two children together. The two met when Kathryn was 21 and still in college, and Thomas was 51. I have no problem with an age gap, but a middle-aged man pursuing a relationship with a woman barely old enough to drink feels predatory and manipulative. And by Kathryn’s account, their relationship was emotionally abusive—she told People that when they started dating, “I just did what he said and took on his opinions and feelings as my own.” She also said that when their relationship started to deteriorate, she and her daughter were forced to live in the basement of Thomas’ plantation, where she felt “sad, scary, lonely, confused, quarantined and isolated.”
When Kathryn and Thomas were on the outs in seasons 2 and 3, she was a veritable pariah and excluded from just about every social function by everyone except Craig. Instead of trying to understand her perspective, she was written off by the others as gold-digging, crazy drug addict (after testing positive for marijuana, of all things) and completely disregarded in favor of a cocaine-using felon and disgraced politician whose attempts at speaking French would make the Seine run dry. Only after the sexual assault allegations against Thomas came out did cast members like Cameran and Patricia turn their backs on him and warm to Kathryn. And to that I say:
This has been a revealing season for Shep. Up until now, Shep has largely gotten away with his more problematic behavior. His attempt to grab and kiss Chelsea in season 4 was largely glossed over by the rest of the cast and referred to as an “incident” by Bravo instead of the assault that it was. The rest of the cast seems to regard his clear problem with alcohol and inability to commit to a woman or a vocation as the amusing quirks of a goofy man-child rather than glaring red flags. Interestingly, the arrival of Madison this season has exposed a lot of Shep’s more toxic tendencies. He refers to Madison as a “white trash hairstylist” despite Shep never having worked a day in his life. He shames her for sleeping with someone in retaliation after catching Austen in the middle of a threesome. Where was this outrage when he heard that Austen cheated with two other women?
After balking at Madison’s admittedly inappropriate revelation about him and Danni, Shep responds by DOING THE EXACT SAME THING and telling Cameran that Austen is a “sexual deviant” because he and Madison have done “butt stuff” together. It’s unclear what exactly he is referring to, but either party being on the receiving end of said “butt stuff” is hardly sexual deviance in this day and age. You know what is sexually deviant? Sleeping with someone you call a friend and definitely allegedly giving her chlamydia. Say what you want about Madison, but I can’t help but respect her for going toe-to-toe with the resident bully of the franchise. Shep has continued his one-man white privilege parade off-camera by recently posting a story to his Instagram where he openly mocked a visibly embarrassed homeless woman collecting cans. It’s revolting enough that he found this woman’s situation humorous. But to taunt and expose her to his hundreds of thousands of followers is appallingly callous, not to mention willfully ignorant. Gosh, I can’t imagine how he is still single!
Ummmm It might just be me but I really don’t think “BUTT STUFF”equals sexual deviancy and Is Shep not drinking because he is still on anabiotic’s from the chlamydia I’m confused
— Brandi Glanville (@BrandiGlanville) August 8, 2019
Whitney first pinged my creep radar in season 1 when he slept with Kathryn and told her to keep it a secret, only to reveal it later to Thomas without consulting her. Since then, Whitney and Kathryn’s relationship has been rocky, and Whitney has gone out of his way to sabotage her relationship with Thomas and malign her character. During season 2, Whitney convinces Thomas to film campaign videos with Kathryn’s sorority sisters that could easily have passed for Cialis commercials, and Kathryn reveals during the group’s trip to Jekyll Island that Whitney took Thomas to a strip club when she was 9 months pregnant with their child. Whitney’s obsessive insertion of himself into Thomas and Kathryn’s relationship looks a lot like Shep’s current involvement in Austen and Madison’s relationship. Is Shep so focused on what’s going on between Madison and Austen because he, like Whitney, is actually the one feeling butthurt? When we find out this season that Kathryn and Whitney have recently slept together, Whitney bizarrely denies it and attempts to gaslight her by saying, “We have a different interpretation of events.” I’m not sure how Kathryn can misinterpret your middle-aged penis struggling to find its way into her vagina, but okay, Whit.
We can now proceed to the f*ckboy portion of this article. Austen was first introduced to us in season 4 as a younger and marginally more attractive version of Shep. His behavior following the cooling off of his “relationship” with Chelsea and subsequent relationship with Madison support the comparison. He proceeded to suggest to all of his Instagram followers that Chelsea has no sex drive as well as talk badly about her to Madison, as all classy men do. When his girlfriend catches him in the aftermath of a threesome (I’m convinced hell is a persistent loop of him screaming “MAAADISEHHHN!”), he proceeds to call her “a crazy person” and threatens to physically remove her from his home. After all, it’s easier to deflect and question a woman’s sanity than to take ownership for the misdeeds that are making her so “crazy” in the first place. #JusticeForVictoria Even when he isn’t the target of criticism, Austen is reluctant to side with women. When Naomie and Chelsea rightfully called out human hemorrhoid J.D. for his philandering and grifting last season, Austen claimed he needed more proof than the claims of his friends, one of whom got her information from J.D.’s wife.
Oh, Craigy. Our favorite pillow artisan is by far the least toxic of the bunch, and he should be commended for his fierce defense of Kathryn for many seasons, but he is not completely innocent either. He lied to the entire group about graduating from law school and passing the bar, and when Naomie directly questioned him about his desire to be a lawyer, he responded by telling her she was acting dumb. I agree that at times her approach was a bit mean, but Naomie’s concerns about Craig’s ambition and general life direction were not unfounded. Two seasons later we are still watching him struggle to get his fledgling pillow business off the ground and wake up before noon, yet Naomie was deemed a bitch for having the audacity to challenge her poor, innocent boyfriend. Even after she has clearly moved on, Craig continues to disrespect her by telling anyone who will listen that she still has feelings for him despite Naomie seeming genuinely happy in her new relationship (however we may feel about Metul).
It’d be a cop-out and a vast oversimplification to attribute the toxic behavior of the men on Southern Charm solely to Southern culture. Though that’s certainly a factor, it’s a symptom of a larger and more insidious disease in our society. When we allow boys to be boys unchecked and without any accountability, we breed a sense of entitlement where, given enough time, money or even fame, a Craig or an Austen might become a Shep or a Thomas. Until we do, men like these Southerners will keep passing for gentlemen.
Images: Bravo; Giphy (2); BrandiGlanville / Twitter
I don’t know if there’s going to be a new season of Southern Charm, the less hot, less interesting couple of Vanderpump Rules, because bad news just keeps coming. Last week it came out that Landon Clements isn’t returning to the show, and now this week, one of the main couples has broken up. It’s been confirmed that Craig Conover and Naomie Olindo are officially broken up, so I’m not sure who else is left to create drama on this show anymore.
Naomie confirmed the breakup in one of her Instagram comments (odd choice, but okay) earlier last week. Someone commented on one of Naomie’s pictures asking if she and Craig are still together. She replied, “unfortunately we are not. But we are still great friends”.
“Great friends”? Sure, Jan. Given how much Naomie and Craig openly hated each other when they were actually dating, I’d be shocked if they speak anymore. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—I don’t speak to any of my exes (I just choose to occasionally shade them in my TV recaps instead #HealthyBoundaries).
So now that Craig and Naomie are done and Landon won’t be thirsting over every guy within a five-foot radius, who’s going to bring the relationship drama? Austen and Chelsea were never that interesting, and Whitney and his random foreign hos rarely make it on camera. And I’m still not convinced Cameran’s husband exists, for what it’s worth. So who’s left? Just Thomas and Kathryn to carry the entire show? I mean, if we were dealing with old Kathryn, that could definitely work. But new-and-
less-crazy-improved Kathryn leaves much to be desired in the drama department (although I commend her strides in the parenting and not-snorting-cocaine departments).
I’m just going to call it now: I see the end of Southern Charm on the horizon. Everyone (minus Shep) is growing up and moving onto better things, or in Shep’s case, getting their own spin-offs. With Southern Charm Savannah still going on for reasons that are unknown to me, and the new Southern Charm New Orleans, maybe Bravo is just trying to shift from the OG Southern Charm to the different spin-offs. Who knows. Maybe Thomas and Kathryn will get their own spin-off. Honestly, that I’d watch.
Sorry this recap is late, I actually did it on time aka on Memorial Day like a fucking loser but then I kept forgetting to send it in so here we are. This week’s episode sucked anyway, as you’ll soon be able to tell from the dripping disdain that permeates every sentence of this recap. But uh, enjoy!
Craig couldn’t graduate from law school because he couldn’t satisfy his upper level writing requirement? Seriously? What a joke. This is like that time I almost didn’t graduate college because I almost failed my rock climbing gym class because I missed one too many classes
because I was hungover. Except I didn’t fail and also that mistake didn’t set me back like, 80K in debt.
Also I thought my college was cold for making me pay $50K for a piece of paper but Craig’s law school just gave him an email diploma. That’s way worse. Where did Craig go to law school, the University of Phoenix?
After a nice plug for Marshall’s/Home Goods, Chelsea meets up with Cameran to shop. We can stop with this whole “zen room” charade. Let’s just get to the obvious Shep/Austen convo which we all know is the real reason Chelsea and Cameran are appearing in the same place at the same time together.
Cameran: So last night at our dinner party everything was great, there was no drama…
Did we watch the same dinner party?
Cameran: Well of course Kathryn comes up.
Cam rehashes the phone call between Kathryn and Whitney. Literally why do I do this to myself and watch all these scenes that are just one person recapping last episode to another person? Also why does fucking Bravo do this to me?
Chelsea is like “Well IDK I cut Kathryn’s hair and she seemed nice.”
Cameran: I have seen Kathryn be an absolutely lovely person and I’ve seen her be a complete horror.
I mean, the same could be said of most people. Classic Cameran, flip-flopping when Chelsea wasn’t down to talk shit.
Craig meets Naomie for dinner to tell him he graduated law school. The first thing out of Naomie’s mouth is “I don’t even believe you right now.”
What should have been a happy conversation turns into Naomie being like “Well good thing you graduated law school because if you hadn’t we wouldn’t still be dating.” Which then segues into “Well are you gonna take the bar? Cheers to you finally being able to take the bar.” Look, Craig is no saint but holy shit, I honestly feel so bad for him rn. I don’t even think she actually said “Congratulations.” But again, typical Naomie, turning a chance to be supportive of her boyfriend into yet another opportunity to take shots at him. Honestly, I’m just sick of these people. Why do I do this to myself. *internally screams*
Shep calls Cameran to apologize and is like “I just want to bake a cake of rainbows and smiles and we can all eat it and be happy.”
Shep: I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m like Switzerland.
That’s exactly what I say when there’s a fight in the group text.
Shep is instigating a three-way calling attack and inviting Cameran and Kathryn to lunch.
Thomas is telling his kids’ nanny about how he has a date. Is it with Landon or with some random 20-year-old? My money is on the latter.
Oh ok I lied, Landon and Thomas are going to dinner. But what about Drew tho?? Have she and Landon even broken up? This is savage.
Landon: I know how Thomas feels about me. I know if I were to say yes I’d get a ring pretty quickly and get all the horses I want.
Well I’m glad she didn’t jump to any conclusions or be presumptuous or anything.
Thomas purposefully orders the most expensive bottle of cabernet and announces it like a fucking frat guy waving his credit card in front of the bartender’s face. Landon pronounces “Arnold Palmer” like “Arnold Palm-air” and I hope I’m not the only one who caught that. Yeah I know this recap is like, four days late but THE POINT STILL STANDS.
Thomas is making some dad joke about turquoise being from Turkey. Huh? Then he knocks over a glass of wine and says it’s just because Landon makes him nervous. That’s a funny way of saying “I’m wasted and pregamed this date”.
Landon: Well the reason I’m here is because Patricia told me I should consider you as a suitor.
But how does Landon feel? Also, are we in the 1800s? Who actually says the word “suitor” non-ironically?
Thomas: Just tell the critics something intellectual. Like Canterbury Tales, use thee, thy, thou.
What? What does that have to do with anything? “Go fuck thyself” is apparently the new insult now? OK, Grandpa.
OMG that random lady at the table next to them is like “I’ve watched you and you two put out a chemistry I’ve not seen before. And I can’t just sit here and say nohtig. I’ve been married for 34 years and I can tell you this little girl is your soul mate.” You gathered all that by sitting next to them for 45 seconds? The fuck is this bullshit, Bravo producers? How much did you pay this lady?
The lunch three-way call begins. Kathryn rolls up and orders “a regular Coca-Cola.” Like what, you worried they’re gonna misunderstand you if you order a “coke”? Because if so… DM me the address of this restaurant right tf now.
Apparently the last time Kathryn and Cam talked was when Kathryn asked her to lunch and Cam was like “It’s a no from me.” Ah, good times.
Whitney is making a surprise appearance at this lunch. See, I told you guys it was a three-way call attack. I guess it’s like a four-way lunch attack, more accurately?
Cam: I’m nervous, Kathryn in the past has been a bit unpredictable
^Says the woman who’s bringing Kathryn’s former hookup WITHOUT FUCKING TELLING ANYONE. But sure, Cameran. Fucking sure. Kathryn is the unpredictable one in this scenario.
Cameran: I don’t want anyone to think this is an ambush.
…She says as she ambushes them. Jesus fucking Crhist, are we sure Cameran isn’t the former senator of the group?
This silence is so awkward and long I went, got myself some wine, and came back and they were still awkwardly staring at each other.
Cameran: Well Kathryn I want you to know that we’re here because we support you and want you to feel supported and in the past you didn’t feel we supported you.
Whitney: In the past we’ve had our misunderstandings but it’s water under the bridge now.
Translation: I lied about the nature of our relationship but keep your fucking mouth shut.
Cameran: Are you totally checked out like with any romantic feelings with Thomas?
See this is the kind of shit I can’t stand about Kathryn. Literally last fucking episode she was like “I don’t wanna get involved in Thomas and Kathryn’s relationship, it’s none of our business.” And now here she is being like “So Kathryn are you still in love with Thomas? Is there any chance you’ll get back together?” I said it last time and I’ll say it again. Get this bitch outta here.
Kathryn brings up the letter and everyone acts like they didn’t already know this letter existed.
Craig meets Austen to do some golfing. I feel like the production team of this show also took a long weekend because why the fuck do I need to watch a 5-minute scene of Craig and Austen sucking at golf?
Holy shit I didn’t know Chelsea has been engaged twice. No wonder the poor girl doesn’t wanna jump into relationship with Shep Jr.
Shep goes to get his hair cut by Chelsea and he’s like “poor you, you have a thousand guys chasing you.” Literally me every time one of my hot friends complains about guys.
Are we really still on this faux Bro Code thing where Shep is STILL mad Austen didn’t ask his permission to go for Chelsea? Shep, calm the fuck down. You’re not her dad and Austen isn’t asking for her hand in marriage.
Shep asks Chelsea “What do you want?” and she says “I don’t want to be married!” Like uhh… that escalated quickly. Then she adds “I just think it would be nice to have one person you sleep with exclusively.”
Uhh do you not realize that you just described a relationship? Yeah it’s a pretty typical and conventional thing people do. Not that outside of the box at all. Looks like Chelsea is like other girls after all…
Thomas is planning a birthday party for Kenzie and he invites his dad and his dad’s like “Well I can’t come, I’m going to the dentist at 2:30.” LMAO. I could hear like, YEARS’ worth of disappointment in Thomas’ voice. Like, years of missed baseball games, high school graduations, birthday parties… ouch.
Holy shit Landon is going on a date with Drew. YOU LITTLE MINX!
Landon’s telling Drew how she isn’t allowed to call her website Roam anymore, which totally explains a lot.
Landon: It turns out, there are several other websites called Roam.
Gee, it just “turns out.” It’s not like you couldn’t have found that out easily if you had just fucking typed it into the internet or… IDK, used basic deductive reasoning since you had to hyphenate your own website’s URL….
Landon’s on this date talking about how her eggs are drying up. Christ, woman.
Landon: I don’t wanna mislead you because I really like you a lot and I respect you.
So you’re not gonna mislead him even though you’ve gone on dates with Thomas behind his back? Cool.
Ugh Landon’s crying. This s a fucking mess.
Landon: I’m not gonna cry again.
Also Landon: *starts crying about how she’s had her dog for 12 years and she hasn’t had a boyfriend to walk the dog with her.*
Landon is like “I just want someone to walk the dog with me!” while sobbing. Christ, woman. Hire a TaskRabbit. Get it the fuck together.
Oh I lied it’s Saint’s birthday. WTF ever. Kathryn and Elizabeth are getting lunch or some shit.
Elizabeth: So what’s gong on with you and Thomas?
Kathryn: IDK I sent him a letter but he never replied.
Elizabeth: He actually did write you a letter back…. and I just so happen to have it here right now!!!!
Pulling a Chris Harrison starting Rachel’s season of The Bachelorette during After The Final Rose.