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
As you’ve probably noticed, lately there have been more and more Instagram Photoshop fails that need to be called out. Holly does a great job with the Photoshop Fail of the Week, but I couldn’t resist doing my own little photo editing roast today. I may not be a trained graphic designer, but it doesn’t take an expert to realize that something is very wrong with the picture here.
Today’s culprit: Madison LeCroy of Bravo’s Southern Charm. Madison is new to the show this season, and she was brought on as Austen Kroll’s girlfriend. It’s unclear at the moment if they’re still together, but it is clear that Madison is in a serious relationship with Facetune. Here’s the photo in question:
I have many questions, but first I’d like to ask where her organs are?? Looking at this photo, I have to say I’m impressed, for a couple reasons. First of all, I’m impressed that she had the balls to post this photo, given that she looks like she has the actual body proportions of a Barbie doll. Most people wouldn’t even try to get away with this.
But I also have to give her credit for doing a pretty good job with the straight lines in the background. Everything on the right side of the photo looks pretty even and straight, but then I took a closer look at the wall behind her.
The lines between those top two stones are perfectly straight, but the next one down angles up toward Madison’s body. It would be one thing if the stones were irregularly shaped, but if you look at the area around her waist and butt, the stones actually seem to…disappear? Rather than a thin line of grout and then another stone, there’s just this weird black buffer area between her body and the rest of the wall.
I’m not a stone mason, but I feel like this isn’t how stone walls are built? Honestly, if I just saw this picture from the waist down, I might not have noticed anything was wrong, but the dead giveaway here is that her head and shoulders look twice as big as her hips. That’s not how bodies work!
I wasn’t the only person to notice the, um, irregularities in Madison’s photo, and people quickly started to troll her in the comment section. Sadly, she turned off the comments, so all of these wonderful bits of shade are gone, but she left up the photo because why not? She obviously thinks she looks hot, so whatever.
So have a good week, be careful with Facetune, and don’t hesitate to DM me with any egregious uses of photo editing you see on your timeline. It’s one of the causes I’m most passionate about. And Austen, if you’re single, please also don’t hesitate to slide into my DMs, just for research purposes.
Images: Madison.lecroy (3) / Instagram