Bridgerton boys are back, alright, and, obviously, prepare for spoilers. Season 1 came at exactly the right moment, when we were in the throes of our first pandemic winter, desperate for love and attention. Season 2 arrived in the springtime of our discontent, and we ate it up without pausing to savor or question its quality. Even though we enjoyed some of the same familiar gimmicks this season, we were promised a whole new spin on both the Regency genre and Bridgerton itself and, while it started strong, the storytelling got lazy midway.
Bridgerton season 1 took the ton by storm because of the central toxic Regency couple that we couldn’t help but root for. We couldn’t wait for season 2 and then had to wait and wait and wait for the core couple to consummate. While the new season has been much maligned and also praised for its slow burn, season 2, while popular, is lacking not because of the dearth of sex scenes, but in the exact ways season 1 succeeded. Simply put, season 2 reuses old tricks but with less success.
If you were to ask Netflix, season 2 worked quite well, breaking viewing records. Viewers liked it too, of course. Plot-wise, it played off the classic romance trope of “enemies to lovers,” and included the always fun illicit love mixed with stubborn rich people. It ends happily. There are some butts.
The main storyline nodded to Hamilton’s Schyler sisters who will never be satisfied and very much played into our nostalgia for Regency cranky boys by dunking the white-shirted viscount in a lake à la Colin Firth in the Pride and Prejudice mini-series.
The plot most closely follows Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew—or 10 Things I Hate About You, if you prefer—in that there is a mean older sister as the smart but headstrong lead (named Kate in all iterations) who is softened by love, and a pure younger sister, gate kept by the elder, who is the object of mens’ desires. There is much fire imagery and wild, long hair blowing in the breeze from atop a horse. Good stuff, if a little on the nose for fans of Regency romance.
Jonathan Bailey as Anthony carried the team well and Simone Ashley as Kate was as worthy a sparring partner as her shrewish Shakespearean namesake. People watched it immediately, quickly, and repeatedly. So why wasn’t season 2 as well done?
My opinion? The good people at Bridgerton manipulated us gentle viewers and our need for anticipation and payoff and went too far into the land of cringe. The couple in season 1 married and therefore had significant amounts of sex by midseason, breaking the tension and allowing for a third act conflict and resolution. This season, all we had was anticipation. Season 2 took advantage of season 1’s success and reused tricks both from original Recency plots where marriage is the goal and, more egregiously, from season 1’s uniqueness.
Here’s the moment they used us: in season 2 episode 5, after assuring us over and over and over and over that he is a gentleman and therefore would never act on his longings, Anthony says to Kate, “Do you even know all the ways a lady can be seduced? The things I could teach you.” She says, breathily, “I did not ask for this.” Executed differently, this scene could be played as much more predatory. And here’s the rub.
Season 1, episode 5 is the wedding and episode 6 begins sexapalooza. Season 2 draws out the foreplay another two whole episodes. But that’s not the actual problem. The problem is that the conflict and resolution of season 1 banks on Daphne being innocent to the ways of sexytimes. Her character transformation goes from too pure to too powerful (let’s not let her off the hook for that rape scene) and then onto an equal footing with her husband. It is satisfying as sex with the duke.
Conversely, Anthony and Kate’s love is based on the fact that Anthony, to his dismay and later delight, sees Kate as an equal. They are well-matched in competitiveness, sense of duty, and hotness. When he informs her of all the ways he can make her give it up, he shifts the power dynamic right back into that of season 1, which does a disservice to our “they’re a love match because they’re alike” plot.
The next two episodes are a tortuous display of lust, not love. There’s sniffing, stares, and it’s implied the viscount walks around in the company of his mother and seven younger siblings with a constant semi. It’s not sexy to have a secret desire that your mom knows about.
The season redeems itself a bit at the end with some high quality “acty shit,” as my college acting professor calls it, from Bailey as he ushers his Anthony into a man capable of love. When the couple finally get fully naked in the penultimate scene, Kate bones her husband repeatedly, telling him with tongue and butt cheek that she’s doing it because she’s “dutiful.”
Taming of the Shrew is considered a “problem play” by modern standards because of the ending: once headstrong Kate gives a speech about why women should always obey their husbands. This doesn’t play for comedy nowadays. 10 Things improved upon the ending, but still, the shrew is tamed and the woman becomes a dutiful partner. Season 2 wants to play with this idea and whiffs it midway only to pretend in the end they had a strong female protagonist all along.
Bridgerton has wonderful moments of love and lust and has our number in a way no other show ever has. We will, in fact, keep coming back for more. Next time, however, when Benedict takes the spotlight and we’re hopefully (please oh please) not still in a pandemic panic, we may not be as forgiving if the show toys with us. Dear reader, I, for one, hope the team at Netflix heeds this warning and are up for the challenge.
Image: Courtesy of Netflix
When Bridgerton premiered back in December 2020, most of us were expecting another failed Pride and Prejudice replica. I mean come on, it was a Regency-era show about a (probably too young) girl looking for love and finding it in all the wrong places. Still, at that point (over 10 months into the pandemic), we were so tired of being stuck in our GD homes we would have watched sourdough rise for fun (oh wait, we did lol). Luckily for us, however, Bridgerton proved to be anything but a revamped Jane Austen. Sure, the show had romance and accents and corseted dresses that make the waist trainers of today look amateur. But more than that, it had sex. So. Much. Sex.
And it wasn’t just like, the couple kissed and fell on the bed and a shirt came off and then it cut to the next scene. We’re talking kiss, shirt off, nipples out. Oral sex! Vaginal sex! Sex on stairs and sex in chairs! Bridgerton season 1 was basically one giant romp-fest, which was great. After a year of isolation and a history of sex scenes that weren’t exactly written for the female gaze, Bridgerton gave us horny bitches the #content we deserved.
Then, of course, Netflix dropped Bridgerton season 2. And it’s not that season 2 of Bridgerton was bad or anything. It still had costumes and accents and torrid love stories. But the one thing it was clearly missing was the graphic sex we came to associate with the series. Sure, some people said they watched the show for the plot, but the thing is, they’re liars. We watch Bridgerton for the sex, dammit, and season 2 was like one very long, very cold shower.
But don’t worry. If you were burning for an erotic season 2, you’re not alone. And the good news is there are still ways you can get off to the much more watered-down season. No, it’s not as good as watching Simon (Regé-Jean Page) eat Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) out on a ladder, but if you’re trying to get off to the next installment, these eight options will keep you from having a fully orgasm-less season.
1. Watch All the Lingering Gazes on a Loop
Since most of Bridgerton season 2 is fingertip grazes and lingering glances, you might as well use the sexual tension to your advantage. In episodes 3, 4, and 5, it’s all “I hate you, but I clearly have the hots for you” spars between Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), and in episode 6 they finally (FINALLY) have a fiery kiss.
Granted, it’s just basically seven whole episodes of will-they-won’t-they-but-we-know-they-will-so-just-f*cking-do-it-already scenes, but maybe think of it as foreplay? It’s a recipe for a pretty much full blue ball (or blue clitoris if you will) watch, but as long as you drown all the repetitive dialogue and“we can’ts” out with your loudest vibrator, it’ll get the job done.
2. Watch Episode 7, Then Watch it Again
After an entire season of *almost* sex, Anthony and Kate finally do it in the only real sex scene of season 2 during the second to last episode. Unlike the first season of Bridgerton where pretty much every other scene included a graphic hookup set to quartet renditions of Taylor Swift, season 2 is more like every other show where you sit around for a while before you get to the real masturbatory material. Episode 7 is that material.
The ego-crossed lovers finally get their freak on in a gazebo-type structure. Even though it’s totally unrealistic (who gets completely naked when having sex outside? At your family’s house? And then FALLS ASLEEP?! This isn’t camping, folks!), it’s still hot in a “this would never happen” kind of way. There’s undressing and moaning and some clear cunnilingus for the only time in the season, so grab your toys and get at it. Repeated viewing suggested.
3. Search Thirst Traps of the Cast Instead of Paying Attention to Episodes 1-6
Since this season lacks the sexual allure of the past, you’re already on your phone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still lean into the Bridgerton vibe. Since pretty much everyone in the show is a millennial, that means the Bridgerton cast posts thirst traps for validation just like the rest of us. Reap the benefits of their shirtless pics, beach photos, and overtly sexual selfies.
No, it’s not the same as like, seeing their characters strip down and bang it out in a canopy bed, but the writers of the show didn’t confer with me when creating the script, so we gotta do what we gotta do. And what we gotta do is follow the cast and add all of their vacation pictures to the “💦” folder on our phones.
4. Write/Read Some Fan Fiction
Nope, fanfic isn’t just reserved for vampires and Harry Styles! There’s fanfiction of literally everything out there, including Bridgerton. Since the characters’ very slow burn isn’t exactly cutting it for you or your libido, take matters into your own hands—or er, keyboard. Maybe Kate, Anthony, and Siena (Anthony’s ex from season 1) have an epic threesome full of untied corsets and verbal jabs. Or perhaps the Viscount and Ms. Sharma turn up their obviously flirty attacks by indulging in a little BDSM. Come on—Kate as a dominatrix is content you’d be viscerally obligated to watch.
So go on, write your own sex scenes since Netflix decided to hang us out to dry. And if your creative juices—much like your vaginal ones—aren’t quite flowing, there’s plenty of Bridgerton fanfic already written out there that you can read instead. Why do the work when someone else already did it for you, ya feel?
5. Listen To The Season 2 Soundtrack While Watching Season 1 On Mute
Watching season 2 of Bridgerton was good for two things: Fans of the book who were eager for a sexless, slow season, and string renditions of throwback hits and modern jams. While season 2 clearly lacks that in-your-face-sex almost all of us tuned in to see, what it does have is a solid soundtrack. We’re talking Nirvana, Madonna, Rihanna, and Miley—just to name a few. Since season 2’s music was better than season 1’s offerings (just barely though), why not combine the two for a viewing worthy of your attention?
So, go on. Blast the season 2 soundtrack while watching the entire first season on mute. You already know the premise of the story, and seeing Simon and Daphne hook up on their honeymoon to “Wrecking Ball” is better than anything you’ll see in the newest installment of the show. Bible.
6. Name Your Vibrator After Your Fave Character
If you’re bummed that your favorite character didn’t get laid enough in Season 2, whip out your favorite sex toy and give it a rebrand. Try taping a picture of your Bridgerton crush (*cough* Siena *cough*) on the buzzy part of your vibrator and imagine them as season 2 plays in the background. If you squint at the screen, you’ll still get the costumes and the wigs, but this way you can sort of pretend something exciting is happening, it’s just simply too fuzzy to make out.
If you find yourself wanting to scream in either ecstasy over the vibrations or in anger over the fact that there’s only one sex scene to enjoy, simply shove a spoon in your mouth! It’s hot, it’s a fun season 1 throwback, and it’ll keep your roommates/partner/parents from hearing you and encouraging you to up your therapy frequency for taking your Bridgerton season 2 disappointment a little too far.
7. Shoot Your Shot Via DM
Hear me out: Stranger things have happened! Celebs get together with common folk all the time because hi, we’re cool and chill and aren’t going to hook up with our movie co-stars when we jet off to a tropical location for work. Since season 2 didn’t provide you with the sexual material you deserve, make it happen for yourself IRL.
While the chances of any Bridgerton stars responding to (or reading) your thirsty DMs are pretty much zero, you might as well try. At worst, you’ll end up with a restraining order. But this way you’ll probably get their autograph (people sign restraining orders, right?), and they’ll know how pissed you were about the lack of sexy season 2 content. And at best, you’ll get laid by a Bridgerton cast member who didn’t take their shirt off nearly enough. Honestly, there are no downsides.
8. Write a Strongly Worded Letter to Netflix
Ah, complaining. Few things give us as much of a rush as chewing someone TF out for something minor, like having a different creative vision for a show. But since the writers of Bridgerton decided to take the vibe of season 2 in a totally different direction, why not write them a little something of your own? Round up all the receipts of the cast members saying there’d be plenty of sex in season 2, get 200 of your closest Facebook friends—including your eclectic aunt Shirley—to sign it, and demand Shondaland reinstate the old Bridgerton vibe for season 3.
Yes, it’s pervy and pointless. But that pretty much describes all of our hobbies anyway. It might not change the fact that you wasted eight hours of your life for a few minutes of season 2 sex, but one voice can make a difference. One voice can ensure season 3 involves a little more butt action and a little less back-and-forth banter. A hero? No, you’re just out here being the Lady Whistledown of our generation and for that, we thank you.
Images: Liam Daniel / Netflix
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2022 is the year of the tiger, but, based on the current trend of penises on TV, it’s looking more like the year of the one-eyed snake. Seriously. If you want to see an on-screen peen, you don’t have to look too hard. Pardon my French, but what’s with all the dicks?
First, there’s Euphoria, everybody’s favorite high school dramedy, which seems to relish its ability to let the dongs out. Season 1 brought us that locker room scene, complete with plenty of dicks flopping about in the background. This year, season 2 (finally) came out, and for anyone hoping for a barrage of male genitalia, you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of penises—including one seen dangling over an open toilet during a mid-house party dump and another that’s been bloodied and mangled. If you ask me, that’s the most unrealistic part of Euphoria. I went to high school for four years, but I didn’t see nearly as many wieners.
In the recent Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That, two penises were shown in a single episode. That might not seem too shocking for a show about sex, but when you consider that not a single dick made an appearance over the course of Sex and the City’s original six-season run, it kind of is.
Not to be outdone, Hulu’s 2022 series Pam and Tommy featured a talking penis. (You read that right, the cock in question spoke.) And in HBO Max’s new comedy, Minx, the pilot episode alone had a whopping 20 dicks (yes, I counted. For, uh, research.)
Other recent shows with full-frontal men include White Lotus, Sex Education, Scenes from a Marriage, and Sex/Life. While the continued rise of streaming services (which don’t have to cater to FCC regulations) is partially responsible for this sudden influx of dick, it’s not just TV serving up steamy penis scenes. Movies like Don’t Look Up, Nightmare Alley, The Worst Person in the World, and The Power of the Dog had fully nude men on screen. Although both Don’t Look Up and The Power of the Dog had limited theatrical runs before being released on Netflix, the willies weren’t censored for the cinema.
Seeing a dick on the big screen isn’t exactly new; back in 2014, Ben Affleck showed (part) of his peen in Gone Girl, and the internet promptly lost its goddamn mind. It’s worth noting that the film also featured a topless Emily Ratajkowski, but that split-second side shot of Matt Damon’s other half (and his other half) was far more titillating for moviegoers.
Affleck wasn’t the first actor to let his pecker loose for a role (see both Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Hangover), nor was he the first major movie star to whip it out (see Richard Gere in 1980’s American Gigolo.) But it was still a rare enough occurrence that it garnered a mass amount of attention.
Over the last five years, the on-screen peen has steadily increased in popularity. Which begs the real question: why? Are they simply there for shock value? Or are they intended as a way to even the playing field? Is showing a dick on TV a feminist statement of sorts in this post-#MeToo world? What exactly are these penises (talking or otherwise) saying?
Whether or not this advent of mainstream male nudity signals gender equality in Hollywood is beside the point. Because what actually matters is whether or not tit-for-tat is equal. Sadly, the answer is typically no.
For one thing, when men flash their dicks on screen, more often than not, it’s a prosthetic. With the exception of Lily James in Pam and Tommy, this is rarely the case for women. When an actress goes topless in a movie, the audience probably sees her real breasts.
People tend to give one of two arguments as justification for this disparity—that boobs aren’t the equivalent to male genitalia, or that penis size is more personal to men than breast size is to women. Neither is particularly compelling.
Sure, in terms of reproduction and biology, boobs aren’t the same as penises. But considering that the vagina is internal, I’d say breasts are a fair comparison. Not to mention that the list of female actresses who’ve gone full-frontal in a film far outweighs the list of male actors.
As for the argument that it’s more embarrassing for a man to have a small willy than for a woman to have itty bittys, I’m not buying it. Personally, I know plenty of men who are quite proud of their packages, but I have yet to meet a single woman who is genuinely happy with how she looks naked. And besides, why are we so willing to accommodate the possible embarrassment of male actors while dismissing the comfort level of actresses?
Women are expected to bare their real breasts if a script calls for it, whereas if a man goes fully nude on screen, sans prosthesis, he’s lauded for his bravery. Countless articles have already been written about Bradley Cooper’s decision to bare all for his latest endeavor, Nightmare Alley. Oscar Issac and his lack of a prosthetic penis went viral on social media even though his Scenes from a Marriage co-star, Jessica Chastain, appeared nude alongside him. Even the discussion of her nakedness centered more on him, as she’d only agreed to do it if he was also expected to go full-frontal.
Another big difference is how nudity is used. When women are naked on TV, it’s almost always sexualized, intended to arouse (either another character, the audience, or both). A naked penis, on the other hand, isn’t there to turn you on. It’s there to make you laugh or prove a point (like, that the show is progressive and boundary-pushing).
So, while the uptick in on-screen dick is progress, we still have a long way to go before tat is genuinely equal to tit.
Images: Erin Simkin/Hulu; Eddy Chen/HBO; AMANDA MATLOVICH/NETFLIX
It’s easy to get bummed about being single when you’re watching most classic sitcoms and popular dramadies. These shows are supposed to be about doctors, or twentysomethings figuring it out, or rich people in New York City. And yet, the central theme to most television is love, love, love! Preferably a love triangle that can keep viewers hooked for at least five seasons or until they hit syndication. The will-they-won’t-they dynamic is great for moving the narrative, but it’s given us all some warped ideas about relationships or longing eternally for someone you can’t quite have. Because we need a good season finale cliffhanger.
It’s time to take a step back and see these TV couples for what they are: toxic as hell. Don’t let NBC or anyone convince you that being single is worse than being in one of these horrible pairings. Instead, sit back, enjoy having a glass of wine alone, and the freedom to binge watch your favorite show without anyone trying to take the remote. Here are some of the most toxic TV relationships to remind single people they’re living the sweet life.
Emily and Gabriel
My favorite hate-watch, Emily In Paris, wants the audience to root for Emily and French chef Gabriel so badly. Sorry, no. Cheating is bad. The girl code exists for a reason. Do not give a girl a nice pan if you’re cooking in someone else’s kitchen. Even if Camille miraculously gives these two her blessing in some future season, it’s pretty hard to build a healthy relationship when you know your boyfriend is the type to sneak around seasoning other people’s iron.
Big and Carrie
This one is maybe too obvious. Carrie and Big eventually came together on a bridge in Paris, got married, and lived a few decades together before “John” got the ax in And Just Like That…, but c’mon. That ending was fan service. The real pinnacle of their relationship was the day Carrie threw a Big Mac at her horrible boyfriend’s head and realized he was never going to change. Because, honey, in real life they never do.
Eve and Villanelle
A serial murderer and a detective make a passionate pairing, especially with actors as compelling as Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. Fans of Killing Eve love watching these two dance around each other, ratcheting up the danger and desire with every episode. Personally, I don’t know if the juice is worth the squeeze here. It’s exciting to be obsessed with someone, but would you want to be worried about them jumping out of your closet with a knife after a long day at the office?
Issa and Nathan
Issa ends up with Lawrence, the man she began Insecure with. There is plenty of debate amongst fans about whether or not this was the right choice, but at least they both showed some growth and character development that would justify their reunification over the series. Part of Issa’s journey included her time with Nathan, the elusive barber who was also a big fav with viewers. Yes, he was hot as hell, and sure, people make mistakes—but if someone ghosts you for months, please know it’s not romance. It’s a cry for help.
Catherine and Peter
This is the rare dysfunctional relationship on TV where the people in it know it’s dysfunctional. Catherine the Great and her husband Peter are often trying to kill one another. Isn’t it nice to not be in an arranged marriage with a deranged king? I’d choose going stag to a holiday party over that anytime.
Kimberly and Nico
The Sex Lives of College Girls is a parade of relationship dysfunction, probably because that is the college experience for most people. But the lies Nico tells Kimberly to make sweet love to her over and over will really make you appreciate the fact that you will never be invited to a frat party again.
Joe and Pretty Much Anybody
If there’s a show out there that will convince you never to date again, it’s You. Sickeningly, Penn Badgley is devastatingly attractive and it’s easy to see how these women get charmed by him… at first. Before long, they’re ignoring their instincts that something is not quite right with old Joe Goldberg, and by then it’s too late. Even if the person you’re dating isn’t a psychopath, we’ve all experienced the ole bait and switch. Never again! Until next season!
Sookie and Bill
True Blood was the classic two-men-love-one-woman show, except the two men were undead. While no one is giving Eric Northman any awards for sanity, Sookie’s first love, Vampire Bill, ends the series on the most deranged note possible, coercing his former girlfriend to put a stake through his heart inside the grave he digs for himself. Is this the ultimate expression of love? Or only something a controlling weirdo would do?
Daphne and Simon
Okay, I know Regé-Jean Page is unbelievably dreamy and that Phoebe Dynevor dated Pete Davidson, so there’s a lot of loyalty to these Bridgerton characters and their (eventual) happy ending. But if you are in a relationship that involves stealing someone’s sperm, it’s not a healthy situation. I don’t care if it’s the imaginary 1800s. Communication comes before cum thievery.
Nate and Maddy and Cassie
Pretty much all of season 2 of Euphoria is about these three having sex, not having sex, finding out about sex, screaming and crying and driving while under the influence. While I would like to kiss all their beautiful faces, you couldn’t pay me enough money to be in a relationship with any one of them. Growing up and getting over histrionic drama totally rocks.
Images: Eddy Chen/HBO; Giphy (10)
When I think of my favorite television shows, most of them consist of over-dramatic, super-produced reality television. However, in the last few years I’ve been yearning for a show that isn’t over-the-top dramatic, something that I can relate to as a young Black person trying to figure this life shit out. ABC’s Abbott Elementary is what I’ve been waiting for. The series stars Quinta Brunson as Janine Teagues, a passionate, fairly new second-grade teacher who wants the best for her students, and is trying to figure out how she wants to approach her teaching career. Most of us know Brunson from her hilarious skits and her work with Buzzfeed (the iconic “he got money” meme), so of course, I was excited to watch Abbott Elementary. The show is the perfect example of representation done right and how you can have representation for Black people on TV without the exploitation of Black trauma.
I was drawn to Abbott Elementary because I love a good mockumentary. Shows like The Office, Parks and Rec, and Modern Family are my go-to comfort shows, however, I’ve never been able to really relate to any of them. Yes, there are Black characters on all three of those shows, but those characters are usually on the sidelines and aren’t given the proper screentime in order for us to get to know them. On top of that, the dialogue they were given was usually embedded in stereotypes, like Donna from Parks and Rec being the token “sassy Black woman”. Now, one could argue that representation in any capacity should be celebrated and that Black people are not monolithic; therefore, there isn’t any “correct” way to showcase Black people on TV. While there is truth to that, representation goes beyond just putting a Black person in a group of white people—doing that is just performative. It is also not just talent on screen that matters, but off-screen as well. When Black talent does not have anyone that looks like them behind the scenes, their characters and storylines aren’t given the love and attention that they deserve, and I notice one or two things that usually occur. One, either the Black character(s) are only surrounded by white people and are the butt of a lot of cringe race jokes (Stanley from The Office; Angela from Boy Meets World). Or two, the Black talent is forced to become the sounding board for white guilt and is presumed a “history teacher” to their white colleagues (Eboni K. Williams from The Real Housewives of New York City). That’s why watching Abbott Elementary is so refreshing. Not only do we have a predominantly Black cast, but there’s representation across the board, from the hair and makeup team to the production design.
In addition to the representation in front of and behind the camera, Abbott Elementary also does a good job of showcasing Black people on television simply existing. When I say existing, that does not mean that I expect to watch a show with a predominantly Black cast and not address some of the adversities that we as Black people endure; it’s simply not possible. But, I like the fact the show doesn’t feel heavy while still making me feel seen as a Black person. Sometimes, when I see a predominantly Black cast on television or in movies, there’s always a factor of Black trauma that is showcased, which can be incredibly triggering. Obviously, the struggles that we as Black people face solely because of our existence should be talked about, but I don’t want to always have to relive those experiences constantly, especially when I’m chasing some form of escapism. What I appreciate about Abbott Elementary is that it humanizes the Black experience. Brunson’s character, Janine, faces confidence issues, relationship issues, and attempts to connect with some of her co-workers, which at times doesn’t work out. These are things that I have faced before, as have many of my peers. To be able to relate to Brunson’s character has made me realize the importance and impact that representation on television can have, all while still feeling safe in my viewing experience.
Abbott Elementary has everything you could ask for in a sitcom: humor, bubbling romance, and a great chemistry between the cast. There aren’t any characters that feel unnecessary or make you feel uncomfortable, and everyone on the cast contributes to the show’s success. I love that I can relate to this show in a way that isn’t based on Black trauma, but rather, on my experience as a young Black person trying to figure my life out. My hope is that not only will the show continue to be successful, but that it creates an avenue for other Black creators to create original content.
Images: ABC/Gilles Mingasson
These days, there’s more pressure than ever to fit things into generational boxes. As millennials dig in their heels and fight the harsh truth that we’re no longer the youngest, most sought-after demographic, there’s a tendency to lash out at what we feel threatened by—namely, people under the age of 25 being talented and successful. But hard as you try to ignore the accomplishments of anyone born after 1996, I regret to inform you that there’s a new teen show on Freeform that your 30-year-old ass needs to be watching.
The show, if you’ve been living under a rock (or like, working full-time and raising a family or something) is called Cruel Summer, and thanks to every entertainment brand being owned by the same four corporations, it’s available on both Freeform and Hulu. So unless your ex just changed their Hulu password and your mom hasn’t had time to look hers up yet, you have no excuse not to watch. The show is nearing the end of its 10-episode first season, which makes now the perfect time to catch up.
So, what is Cruel Summer about? Before I explain, I’ll just say that it’s essentially the Gen Z version of Pretty Little Liars. There are popular girls, wannabe popular girls, ridiculous subplots that serve no purpose, creepy side characters delivering questionable dialogue, and of course, a juicy central mystery fueling the whole operation.
So, the plot: In 1993, a popular girl named Kate goes missing. While she’s gone, an unpopular girl named Jeanette becomes popular, starts hanging out with Kate’s friends, and dating Kate’s boyfriend. In 1994, Kate is rescued, and she claims that Jeanette saw her being held captive and didn’t tell anyone. Oh, and the kidnapper is the vice principal of the high school that both girls attend, naturally. In 1995, Kate and Jeanette are locked in a legal battle while the world around them is more or less going to sh*t. And no, none of that counts as spoilers, because each episode shows us what is happening on the same day of those three different years. It’s a lot to keep track of, but due to some hilarious wigs and over-the-top lighting choices, it’s actually pretty easy to keep track of which year we’re in. On top of the main question of WTF happened with Kate and Jeanette, there are approximately 100 side characters with their own mini-storylines, and the shocking reveals are introduced at a breakneck pace.
It’s been over a decade since Pretty Little Liars premiered (back when Freeform was ABC Family, feel old yet?), and Cruel Summer checks all the same boxes. Yet despite your ~advanced~ age, you don’t need to feel weird about watching it. If you’re a grown adult who can’t understand why you relate to Olivia Rodrigo so much, wait until you’re five Reddit threads deep about this objectively dumb show where each plot twist makes less sense than the one before. Sure, the main characters are in high school, but that didn’t stop you from watching Euphoria, did it? (But actually, if you haven’t seen Euphoria, go watch that—it’s way better than this nonsense.) You may not want to adopt the go-to Gen Z haircuts or styles of denim, but pretending your life is over because you enjoy their music or TV shows is just annoying.
Even as someone who enjoys critiquing a lot of the media I consume, I have to admit that sometimes it’s refreshing to watch something that isn’t really even trying to be good. For more than a decade now, we’ve been in an era of “prestige TV,” where every network and streaming service is throwing their weight behind whatever A-list project they think will inspire think-pieces and win big during award season. But as much as I appreciate the Mare of Easttowns and The Undoings of the world, we also need the Cruel Summers. Those shows have Oscar-winning actresses. This one has Olivia Holt, who’s best known for previous starring roles on Disney Channel and Freeform. Those shows have deeply layered explorations of the human soul, this one tackles the age-old question—does it count as cheating if you date someone new while your girlfriend is kidnapped? The best part about Cruel Summer isn’t the writing or the acting, and it’s DEFINITELY not the wig department; it’s the entertainment factor of watching a messy story being told in an equally messy way.
Image: Freeform/Bill Matlock
It started off so promising: a diverse cast, a glittering snowy paradise, a peek into Mormonism, a pastor who f*cked her grandfather. The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City had all the makings of what should have been a captivating first season, but 12 episodes later and I can’t seem to get myself to care much. What happened, and where do we go from here?
Maybe I expected too much from a first season of a Real Housewives show. Even my beloved Potomac had a clunky debut, initially pitched as an etiquette show and then later refashioned into a Real Housewives franchise. The drama that season was petty and low-stakes: Gizelle sitting in the middle of the table at Karen’s party, Ashley having the audacity to dance in public. It took five seasons (and a whole lot of pent-up animosity) for them to get to the explosive season that just concluded.
There were definitely some growing pains on RHOP as Gizelle, Karen, and Robyn—women who had known each other for years—got to know Ashley, and later, Candiace. Remember when Ashley was just some perky 26-year-old who took bourbon shots, much to Karen and Gizelle’s horror? This whole season of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City feels like that: a group of women who don’t know each other well and don’t have an affinity to one another just trying to fake it for the cameras. Heather and Whitney and, until she kept going after them, Jen are really friends, you can tell; so are Lisa and Meredith (though whether they are friends out of a genuine fondness or plain narcissism because they are the same exact person remains to be seen for me). But for a show that opened with a voiceover saying “our friendships define us”, the friendship of the group as a whole feels pretty weak.
There are the warring factions—Lisa and Meredith vs. Heather and Whitney, and everybody vs. Jen—but these independent groups feel loosely held together by virtue of being cast on the same show. Do Lisa and Meredith really care if they remain cool with Heather and Whitney? I don’t get the sense that they do, and still, this remains a conflict for multiple episodes. Plus, rather than sitting there and, as they say in other franchises, working on getting to a good place, many of the women literally walk away from fights: Jen at the prohibition party, Jen at the brunch, Meredith in Vegas, etc. Perhaps this is just a side-effect of all that Mormon conditioning, but 12 hours of television later and it just feels like none of these women really GAF whether or not they talk to their castmates after the cameras stop rolling. If there are no friendships to hold the group together, who really cares if they argue? It’s like watching two strangers get into an argument on the subway, only I don’t have to avert my eyes.
In particular, Lisa and Meredith act too above everything to engage with the rest of the cast. They seem like they would be perfectly content to never branch out of their twosome, except to go on double dates with their husbands. That’s very mature, but unfortunately maturity does not make for good reality TV.
Meredith, in fact, doesn’t really seem to want to be on TV at all. She leaves the room in Vegas when Jen’s behavior starts escalating (at least Lisa follows Jen to try to calm her down/remain on camera). She literally says “I’m not engaging.” Is it because, as she says, she won’t have someone tell her who she can or can’t be friends with, or because she doesn’t want the cameras to catch her cracking?
She also shuts down discussion of her marriage, the one plot point that, I’m sorry, makes her interesting. For all the talk about her marriage problems, they’re basically resolved in two episodes: in episode 7, the worst of it, Seth misses the Park City fashion show; by episode 9, they’re happily back together. From the previous, it seems she will finally talk about it in the finale, but that’s after many episodes of downplaying.
The two cast members who actually do have genuine emotions towards each other are Jen and Mary, and the emotion they palpably feel for one another is hatred. It starts in the very first episode, with “Hospital Smell-Gate” (a feud I still don’t get because it’s a fact. If you just left a hospital, you will likely smell like a hospital. Actually, same with F*cked Her Grandfather-Gate—also a fact). In any case, Mary and Jen’s dislike of one another is so real that they flat-out can’t be in the same room, which is a real shame. In episode 5, during Mary’s attempted brunch reconciliation, she and Jen immediately start arguing. Mary exposes herself when she tells Jen, “I don’t want to talk to you. Ever.” Heather tries to correct her by telling Mary, “you do, you want to talk to her,” but the truth is clear: these women won’t spend time together, good TV or not. Predictably, Jen leaves the brunch early. I’m sorry, but we simply cannot have a show where the only two people who have genuine conflict and bridge the gap between the separate friend groups will not interact with one another. It’s admittedly weird when the two people who are holding this group together, Jen and Mary, are also the most divisive ones. But that could also make for great TV, if utilized correctly.
Speaking of Jen, she seems to have two moods: crying or screaming. At first it was interesting to watch her fly off the handle, at least because nobody else was doing it. Now, it’s gotten predictable, and a little concerning. On top of that, nobody on the cast is capable of holding her accountable or getting a genuine apology (save Lisa at the aforementioned brunch in episode 5), and they all seem tired of trying. Even the hypnotist, despite repeatedly chastising Jen on her improper apology etiquette, can’t elicit a no-strings-attached “I’m sorry” from her. Jen also doesn’t seem to understand how reality TV works, because she won’t forgive and forget. She takes it as a personal affront that Meredith and Lisa forgave Whitney after her apology, saying “I’m not ok with her lying and us throwing everything under the rug,” refusing to realize that apologizing and then sweeping issues under the rug is literally how these shows go on. (Paradoxically, that is a point in her favor that their friendship is real—she is genuinely hurt, and not just for TV.)
The problem is, though, this is The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, not Everybody Hates Jen. Someone else needs to share the weight, and in order to do that, we need some stakes between everybody else. To her credit, Whitney did try to hold her own by bringing up the rumor of MereLisa saying they’re afraid of Jen to Jen at her husband’s birthday. It was objectively a bad time to bring it up, but Whitney seems to know that this is reality TV, and the worst occasion to bring up an issue in the real world is the single best time to do so to maximize impact. (That or she truly lacks tact, but I’m going with the former guess.) However, while noble, this is a short-term solution, because all Whitney would need to do to fix it is give a simple Ramona Singer-esque apology and admit it was the wrong place, wrong time.
What made RHOSLC so interesting from the beginning was how different it was from other Real Housewives cities, but in order to get back on track, we are going to need to follow the playbook from those other cities, at least for a few pages. The good news is that a solution is both easy and imminent: get these ladies in the same room again! At the reunion, which Mary will attend in its entirety, there can be no storming out or leaving the table when confrontation gets too direct. There can be no FaceTime games of telephone. Like it or not (and I don’t think Meredith or Jen will like it), but they will have to hash it out. And isn’t that what we’re all here for, dammit?
Images: Fred Hayes/Bravo
The Bachelor is the TV show equivalent of a f*ckboy. Every season I vow to stop dedicating hours of my life to an experience that gives me more aggravation than actual pleasure. But after the final rose, I delude myself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’ll be different next time. And as sure as an
unwanted appearance by Ashley I., I’m back. It actually is different this time, but not in the way I was hoping. My issue this season has nothing to do with the fact that Matt is a less-than-compelling lead. After all, this is a show built around mediocre men. The problem is with our villain. Coming off the literal garbage heap of Peter’s season where producers couldn’t even successfully produce a villain, this time they’re overcompensating by force-feeding us Victoria, a contestant so over-the-top, she’s practically a cartoon. Unfortunately, Queen V lacks all of the qualities that make for a truly great Bachelor villain.
She Lacks Complexity
Victoria is so outlandish, it’s hard to believe she’s anything other than a producer plant, sent to stir up drama and provoke the other contestants. This might actually be fine if it all didn’t feel so one-dimensional. Past villains like Corinne Olympios and Demi Burnett were so fun to watch because they had layers. At first glance, both women seemed like they were only there to seduce the lead and piss off the other women in the process. But as we got to know them, each woman gave us a softer side. Corinne had a sweet relationship with her former nanny, Raquel, who was a mother figure to her. Demi opened up about the struggles she faced while her own mother was in prison. Despite their villain-like qualities, each woman was vulnerable, which, despite being a comically overused term on this show, is key to not only winning the lead’s heart, but also being a good villain. Maybe we’ll get to see a different side to Victoria. But for now, waving around a crown and calling every person that you dislike “toxic” for no apparent reason feels more like the kind of shtick that should end in a night one elimination, especially given the targets she chooses. Which brings me to my next point.
She Chooses Unworthy Opponents
Almost immediately, Victoria gets into it with her roommate, Marylynn. She claims Marylynn is “toxic” and “psychologically disturbed”, even going so far as to tell Matt that Marylynn is bullying her. However, we’re given no actual proof of this being the case. On the contrary, Marylynn is sweet, docile, and seems to get along just fine with the other women. She seems genuinely shocked when confronted by Matt about the bullying accusations and tries to respectfully work things out with Victoria. Victoria, on the other hand, refuses to even hear what Marylynn has to say, steamrolling her with the “bully” narrative and finally bringing Marylynn to tears.
Targeting the mild-mannered Marylynn is like trying to kill a fly with an elephant gun. It’s unnecessary and, frankly, difficult to watch. Viewers enjoy a fair fight. Had Victoria been able to successfully spar with someone like Katie, it would’ve been far more impressive and entertaining, but she’s ill-equipped. Instead, she prefers antagonizing contestants who are unable or unwilling to fight back, which is why she then set her sights on Sarah.
Her Toxicity Has Infected The Group
We enjoy villains not only because they’re entertaining and spice things up, but also because they serve as a foil to the hero and ultimately provide a comforting vehicle for “good” to triumph over “evil”. What’s been remarkable about this season thus far is that it’s unclear who the “good guys” actually are. Aside from the real queen Katie, the rest of the contestants went from looking visibly uncomfortable around Victoria to piling onto her takedown of Sarah. As someone who wrote under the pseudonym Betchina George, I can usually appreciate a catty moment when it’s warranted, but things went way too far there. Sure, Sarah was needy, and it was wrong of her to steal the other girls’ time. But for the women to not only sit silently while Victoria mocked Sarah in the midst of her apology, but then gleefully join in on the bullying by threatening to make the rest of Sarah’s time in the house horrible was totally unacceptable, whether they knew about her sick father or not.
Unfortunately, even with Sarah gone, the cattiness continues. Victoria has a new henchwoman in Anna, with the two delighting in the vicious rumor that new girl Brittany is an escort and cackling like Cinderella’s stepsisters after Victoria calls Catalina, who by all accounts has done nothing to Victoria, “the dumbest hoe I’ve ever met”. Not a good look.
Victoria: I’m an empath.
Her Romantic Connection With Matt is Nonexistent
What’s made many past Bachelor villains believable is their connection to the lead. Krystal Nielson stuck around despite being extremely polarizing because it was clear she and Arie had actual chemistry. We even had a villain win an entire season, because Ben Flajnik was unable to hide his erection affection for Courtney Robertson. The same can’t be said for the connection between Matt and Victoria this season. He looks visibly pained calling her name at the rose ceremony week after week, and when they have had one-on-one time, the conversations we’ve seen have been totally superficial. Matt isn’t exactly shy about making out with the contestants he’s into, usually by attempting to engulf their entire face with his mouth. So far, he’s given Victoria the kind of half-hearted hugs I begrudgingly gave to distant relatives as a child.
Actual Footage of Matt and Victoria Interacting:
The chemistry is palpable.
It’s clear that this season is hitting differently when it comes to the usual villain trope. Maybe as we become savvier as reality TV viewers and the fourth wall breaks, it’s harder to suspend our disbelief and easier to spot the producer prompts and manufactured drama we glossed over in previous seasons. Or maybe we’re living in a political climate where we’re tired of the constant negative rhetoric and glorifying those who seem to be mean for its own sake. Whatever the reason, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to root for Victoria and almost all of the other women this season. I want to believe that she’ll surprise us and redeem herself in the coming weeks, but it’s The Bachelor. I’ve been burned before.
Images: ABC/Craig Sjodin; Giphy (2)