‘Vanderpump Rules’ Is On Its Last Leg—But Here’s How It Can Be Fixed

For the better part of a decade, Vanderpump Rules has been one of Bravo’s most beloved, top-tier shows; one might call it The Hills of the 2010s. I mean, this crew had everything you would want in a reality show—complicated love triangles, constant gossiping about one another, and everyone was broke, which meant they were extra thirsty for camera time—and everyone loved it. But over the years, the show seemed to slowly lose its spark, and with the recent season nine premiere falling flat both ratings-wise and reception-wise, it’s time that we address how boring the show has become. There’s a lack of connection throughout the cast, the personal storylines are tired, and the whole show has a general lack of direction. On the whole, it’s incredibly stale, and just doesn’t live up to the hype anymore. So let’s get into why one of the most dramatic reality shows on TV went from iconic to basic, boring, and unoriginal.  

Listen, it’s no mystery that people now are streaming more than watching live TV, so I was expecting a bit of a decline in the ratings for VPR. However, I was shook when I saw that the show’s new season premiered with 637,000 viewers, compared to last season’s premiere that brought in 1.27 million viewers. But somehow, it makes sense. The show lost four of its main characters (deservedly so), and whether you loved them or hated them, they did have big fanbases that tuned in every week.  In addition, the promotional efforts for this season felt weaker than usual, which does affect ratings, and yet, I don’t blame Bravo. What exactly is there to promote? See, I, for one, was excited for the show to focus more on the cast’s personal lives instead of them pretending to work at SUR. I thought this would finally be what the show needed, but boy, was I wrong.

That’s not to say that no one’s personal storylines are interesting. I’m happy for Scheana and Lala and their journey with motherhood; it’s wonderful to watch, and I feel like these two have brought the most drama so far. But other than them, what are we getting? I love Katie, but she was the snarky voice of reason with her BFFs Stassi and Kristen, and without them, she kind of falls flat. Tom and Ariana, while a very cute couple, are boring to watch. James and Raquel are doing fantastic, but I just can’t get myself to care. The issue here is that this season doesn’t have the one asshole that we’re all used to hating on. Jax Taylor, while absolutely terrible, was a reliable source of drama for the show for eight seasons. Jax was so bad that he made everyone look like an angel in comparison. 

The feuds that we see this season are nothing new. VPR has always been a show where everyone gets into conflict in almost every episode. However, now that a sizable chunk of the cast is gone, those feuds are lasting way longer than they should be. I understand why; the cast probably wants to make a great show. But it makes me wonder—what exactly is the show about now? What made VPR stand out was the cast’s connection through SUR. Without that connection, it’s just another boring ensemble show set in Valley Village. The show has also hit a point where I don’t believe that this group would be friends in real life, without the obligation of filming together.  I usually wouldn’t mind that because most Housewives franchises are set up the same way, yet because there isn’t any explosive drama happening this season, there’s just not a lot of material to work with.  I can’t help but feel like we need someone to play the asshole on the show, someone who is consistently unbearable and makes everything about themself. Even though Tom Sandoval checks all of those requirements (he’s horrible, I’m sorry), I do not see him becoming the new Jax any time soon, because he seems to be a favorite of production.  All of this in mind, maybe the way to save this show is by bringing in new blood? 

I do know that there was apprehension with adding too many people last season, and rightfully so. But I think the reason it didn’t work out was that the newbies didn’t mesh well with the OGs. There was a lack of connection and just an overall awkwardness within the cast. Also, there were just too many damn people and too many disjointed storylines to follow. However, next season would be the perfect time to focus on new people, especially now that the OG cast, who was the show’s central focus, is largely gone. I feel like Vanderpump Rules is one of the shows that could do well if they had a consistent cast rotation, a consistent revamp. I think TomTom would be the perfect place for this to happen. Shifting the focus from SUR to TomTom is absolutely the only way this show could become interesting again. There are so many different characters at TomTom from the glimpses that we’ve seen in the past two seasons, and some of those people must be willing to get messy on camera. We could keep the two Toms and their partners, and then build a cast around TomTom. If Bravo wants this show to continue successfully, they need to introduce new people and new vibes. Otherwise, it may be last call for LVP and her motley crew.

Image: Randy Shropshire/Bravo

Bravo Is Not Well, Bitch—But We Have A Treatment Plan

As a dedicated Bravo fan, I can’t help but feel that over the past few years, Bravo’s decisions have become as questionable as Scheana Shay’s (previous) choices in men, and its content as boring as Teddi Mellencamp on screen. It’s no secret that the network’s come under fire for multiple problematic cast members and its lack of diverse representation… also, after confusing viewers’ requests for juicy content with Lucy Lucy Apple Juice content. And what has this resulted in? Low ratings for even the network cornerstones like RHONY and RHOBH. No bueno, Bravo. But I’m not here to sh*t on the network. After all, Bravo’s given me endless laughs over Sonja’s shenanigans, defined “real friendship” for me via the Witches of WeHo, scared me sh*tless into never committing a crime thanks to Teresa/Jen/Erika, and has taught me everything I know about fashion through Dorit’s confessional looks. So instead of jumping on the boycott Bravo wagon, I’m here instead to use my PhD in reality TV to offer guidance and recommendations on how to reinvent the network and bring in a bigger, better, more engaged audience. 

Promote The Hidden Gems

As a die-hard Bravo fan who chooses to watch TV over having a social life, reading books, or generally bettering myself, I don’t sleep on any content. And because of that, I know Bravo has hidden gems that the average viewer is completely oblivious to, like Shahs of Sunset, Family Karma, and Married to Medicine. These shows bring it all: diversity in race, religion, and sexuality; messy drama; and heroes and villains that you both want to be and love to hate. But I can’t blame the viewers for not knowing what they don’t know. So my recommendation for Bravo is to promote the sh*t out of this content. Viewers are begging you for diversity, reckless casts, and something fresh to pass the time with. It’s not like you have to start from scratch to build this… literally, all you have to do is reallocate your advertising budget. 

Pick A Star and Build Around Them

In the early days of Bravo, the network would often pick a star and build a show around their personality, friend group, and/or vocation. Exhibit A: The Millionaire Matchmaker with Patti Stanger. Exhibit B: Vanderpump Rules with Lisa Vanderpump. Exhibit C: The Rachel Zoe Project with Rachel Zoe. This formula completely put Bravo on the map in the ’00s—by finding someone who had either the glam, aspiration, knack for confrontation, or chaotic family/workplace dynamic, the network was able to build an empire around stars like the Manzos and Bethenny Frankel. Now, don’t get me wrong: as a dedicated Housewives fan, I’d never be able to live without my ensemble casts that bring together a bunch of messy, middle-aged women who take lavish trips, get dressed up for game night, and live by the motto “everyone is jealous of me.” But my suggestion to bring back this old formula, pick a star and build around them, would be a fun alternative to punch up the current ensemble staples. 

Copy The ‘VPR’ Formula

Vanderpump Rules was the sh*t in its early days. The concept of filming a broke, IRL friend group that had zero expectations for the show created the perfect hurricane of messy AF drama that you seriously couldn’t dream up. Need I remind you about Jax sleeping with Kristen, Laura Leigh (no elaboration required), and “suck a d*ck Diana”? Using early VPR as a case study, my expert recommendation is this: find an unknown group of friends who happen to work at the same establishment and who have less than 1,000 Instagram followers each. Let them be their petty, scrappy, desperate, and jealous selves and the show will write itself. Make note that this cast doesn’t have to work at a bar/restaurant (although the element of late nights and alcohol definitely helps fuel the fire). Whether they’re at a retail location like Very Cavallari or a real estate firm like Selling Sunset, the most important thing is to cast the right people—the location/industry is simply a backdrop to the drama. So what’s next? Bravo has announced a show featuring Kandi Burruss’ Old Lady Gang restaurant is in the works, but why stop there? How about building a show around Southern Charm star Leva Bonaparte’s new restaurant/bar… I mean, the crossover opportunity is built in. 

Stop Leaking Sh*t To The Press

You used to be able to expect the unexpected when it came to storylines and conflict. Think Kim Richards v. Lisa Rinna in Amsterdam, Scary Island, Brooks faking cancer, or Manzo v. Manzo v. Manzo. There was a sense of intrigue and anticipation for a new season or episode to premiere, because besides the season trailer, you literally had no idea what madness was about to ensue. But now, thanks to social media, leaked news stories, and cast members spilling tea on podcasts, the element of intrigue that made (nay, forced) you to tune in in real time to watch an episode has been minimized. For example, before RHOA premiered, we already knew that someone allegedly hooked up with a stripper on a cast trip. And, before last year’s RHOP, we already knew the main conflict was going to be Monique and Candiace’s fight, and that it ended in police reports and the group being ripped apart. Sure, having some idea of the conflict can get viewers excited, but it also dulls the element of surprise. So this leads me to my next recommendation: lock down the content. And I know this seems like an impossible task in today’s current media landscape, but hear me out. There’s stuff that fans generally don’t care is “leaked”, like reunion outfits or where the cast goes on their annual filming trip. So continue not giving AF if the ladies post or podcast about that. BUT, when it comes to major feuds and main storylines, I’ll stand firm on (a) stopping the cast and crew from leaking information (The Bachelor franchise’s tight NDAs prove you can prevent people from spilling the tea); and (b) having the cast and their family/friends refrain from engaging in social media back-and-forth that gives away who is pissed at whom, and from speaking on podcasts that give away details before the season airs. And trust me, if fans can’t can’t get their content from social media or the gossip headlines, they’ll put down TikTok on a Tuesday night to tune into RHONY for 43 minutes with no questions asked. 

Retire—Or Replace—The Sh*tty Franchises

It’s time to retire the sh*tty franchises. I’m looking at you, Dallas and Orange County. Why? Well, we’ve reached a new level of Housewives saturation because Bravo’s failed to trim the fat—AKA, get rid of the boring/problematic franchises – and some viewers are suffering from Housewives fatigue. And sure, I get it, if you’re a diehard Housewives fan you’ll take PuppyGate and the RHOD crew road-tripping to Oklahoma over no content at all. BUT, this is about Bravo upping its ratings and engaging the casual viewer… which can only happen if the content isn’t a dumpster fire of controversial cast members, repetitive plotlines, and the same old tropes over and over again. Let me take a step back. You know how each friend in your crew has a role? For example, there’s the one who can do makeup, the one who has the hot guy friends, the one who acts like the mom of the group, and so on. I use this friend group analogy as my litmus test to see if a franchise is worth keeping or not. IMO, each franchise should bring its own unique twist to the network… like how RHONY brings fast-paced entertainment, RHOBH brings aspiration, RHOP brings spicy drama, etc. etc. But others, like RHOD and RHOC, bring less to the table than Teddi Mellencamp did in season 10… so retire them quicker than Rinna turned on Denise. Now that Heather Dubrow is coming back to Orange County, they get one more season to turn the ship around, but that’s it. And even if Bravo does retire a couple franchises, they have Miami and Nashville (allegedly) in the pipeline. So, fingers crossed that these new groups of ladies bring the same unfiltered theatrics and enjoyably out-of-touch ego that the early New York and Beverly Hills ensembles did, before self-producing became a thing. 

Images: John Tsiavis / Bravo

The ‘Vanderpump Rules’ Cast Has Been Feuding All Summer

As the season turns from summer to fall, it’s still very unclear what’s happening with the future of Vanderpump Rules. In a normal year, the Vanderpump crew would already be finished with filming, but the pandemic has created a major delay, due to the flimsy premise that the show is about waiters at a restaurant. But a lack of cameras doesn’t mean it’s been a chill summer for our favorite group of degenerates—far from it.

As you probably know if you’re reading this article, Stassi, Lala, and Brittany are all currently pregnant, which is exciting for them, I guess. Personally, I have no interest in seeing any of these people have babies on my television screen, but whatever. I don’t make the decisions over at Bravo, despite making many demands via DM. I’m sure the ladies are all heartbroken that their pregnancy journeys aren’t being documented by Bravo, but they’re still having all the usual events, and they’re causing plenty of drama.

Lala and Randall held their gender reveal a couple weeks ago (it’s a girl), and Jax and Brittany did their reveal last weekend (it’s a boy). I’d like to use this platform to say once again that gender reveals are unnecessary and outdated, but that’s not why we’re here today, so I’ll keep it moving. While much of the VPR cast was present at both of the gender reveals, including Stassi and Kristen, who were both fired from the show back in June, there were a few important absences, and they didn’t go unnoticed.

First of all, Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix were conspicuously missing from both of the gender reveals, and Ariana addressed the situation this week on Twitter. In response to a question from a fan, Ariana stated that “we have not nor would we expect to be invited to any of those things.” LOL. It might seem shady that they weren’t invited, but judging from Ariana’s tone, she has no interest in having anything to do with “those things.”

we have not been nor would we expect to be invited to any of those things.

— Ariana Fancy As F*ck Madix (@ariana2525) September 28, 2020

Last season on VPR, we witnessed the lengthy demise of Tom’s friendship with Jax, and throughout the season, he and Ariana were the only ones who really seemed committed to holding Jax accountable for his many f*ck-ups. They certainly weren’t in a good place at the reunion in May, and Ariana’s tweet makes it clear that things haven’t improved over the summer. Honestly, without production forcing them to do things, I’m not sure why Tom would even want to be in the same room as Jax.

I am, however, a little surprised at the implication that Tom and Ariana were also not invited to Lala and Randall’s gender reveal. They’ve never been like, best friends or anything, but it seems like the kind of thing where you would just expect the whole group to be invited. Clearly, that’s not the case, and I would personally like to know more about WTF happened between these two couples. Ugh, every time I’m ready for this stupid show to be canceled, these people reel me back in with some drama that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

The other recent Vanderpump Rules drama revolves around Scheana, because of course it does. Scheana was present at Jax and Brittany’s reveal over the weekend, but didn’t make the guest list for Lala’s reveal. In a recent episode of her podcast, Scheana revealed that she wasn’t invited to the event after she and Lala had a falling out a few months ago. According to Scheana, the issue stemmed from when she had a miscarriage earlier this summer, saying, “I needed and she wasn’t there because she had dinner with celebrities.” The celebrities in question are Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox, who just finished shooting a movie with Lala’s fiancé, Randall. Scheana also added that her boyfriend Brock was out playing golf during this difficult time, so she was at home alone.

Lala, who has never taken kindly to having her name thrown around, responded to Scheana’s comments in a heated Instagram story. She said of Scheana’s story, “In her mind that’s how it happened,” but suggested that she focus on “the fact her man said he was working, turned his phone off and went golfing that day.” Yikes. But despite saying that she was “not trippin too hard” about Scheana’s comments, Lala did not stop there.

In regards to the idea that she chose celebrities over Scheana, Lala accused her co-star of “capitalizing off banging John Mayer 100 years ago,” which I have to say is an epic read. In case you forgot, Scheana recently told a story about how she used to be in a throuple with John Mayer and Stacie Adams (Stacie the bartender from The Hills). Lala also said that Scheana “has a way of making everything about her,” and said that she never actually asked her to come over during the miscarriage situation.” Whatever the exact truth of that day may be, it’s clear that there are some major issues between these two, so it makes sense that Scheana says they “haven’t really talked” in the last few months.

I hate to say it, but it’s a shame that cameras haven’t been rolling to capture any of this drama. I don’t need to see anyone’s babies, but I do need to see Lala yelling at Scheana about banging John Mayer for clout. What can I say? I love mess.

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Images: DFree / Shutterstock.com; ariana2525 / Twitter

Can ‘Vanderpump Rules’ Survive The Latest SURver Drama?

Coming off of season eight of Vanderpump Rules, it’s fair to say that the future of the show is more than a little uncertain. The show has almost always filmed during the summer months, but with the ongoing pandemic shuttering the restaurants at the center of the show, that timeline obviously wasn’t going to work. We still don’t know when filming for a ninth season will commence, but more than that, we don’t even know who will be on the ninth season, or how the show will move forward after the extreme controversy of the past few months. (Or if it should move forward, depending on who you ask.)

As we all know by now, season nine, if it goes forward, won’t feature Max, Brett, Stassi, or Kristen, who were all dropped from the show in June following renewed attention on their past problematic behavior. That controversy feels like it was a year ago, but there’s never a dull moment with the Vanderpump crew, and now there’s fresh controversy surrounding another one of last season’s newbies, Danica Dow. On the show, Danica, an assistant manager, was dating SUR bartender Brett Willis (different Brett), and throughout the season, there were numerous references to the couple getting in major fights and arguments. At one point, Danica was even suspended from SUR for fighting with Brett at the restaurant.

They’ve since broken up, and their tumultuous relationship is now playing out in the legal system. Earlier this month, Danica received a restraining order against Brett, after she claimed that he “broke into her home and cut up her clothes.” But Brett quickly filed his own restraining order against Danica, and his version of the events are drastically different than Danica’s. In his filing, obtained by TMZ, he says that Danica “was pissed he wouldn’t clean his dish until after a 90 Day Fiancé episode ended,” and she ultimately grabbed his neck, “digging her nails deep and pulling hard enough to scratch off some skin.” He also alleged that another similar attack happened several months prior, and she also bit his arm, drawing blood. Brett’s restraining order was granted, and they’re now required to stay 10 feet away from each other when they’re working together at Pump (which is open for outdoor dining), and 100 yards otherwise. Yup, they still work together, which doesn’t sound unsafe at all.

Perez Hilton recently published a photo of the alleged bite mark that Danica left on Brett’s arm, and it looks f*cking serious. Obviously, these two should not be around each other, but Danica’s abusive behavior could, and should, cost her a spot on Vanderpump Rules. We’ve already seen flashes of Danica’s aggressive tendencies on the show, like at the TomTom anniversary party, where Lisa kicked her out after she got into a fight with Vegas Scheana Karrah. According to Perez’s source, given the recent developments, many of the VPR cast members “do not feel comfortable around Danica,” saying that she has “anger issues.” On a show like this, there’s a fine line between being messy in a fun way and being a toxic liability, and it seems likely that Danica falls into the latter category. Vanderpump Rules already has a complicated history of giving a platform to abusers and all-around problematic people, so hopefully the decision-makers avoid going down that path this time.

Okay, so Danica’s future on the show is uncertain, but is season nine even happening? Pump and TomTom are now open for outdoor dining, but SUR is still closed completely, and it’s unclear when that will change. But Lisa Vanderpump recently spoke to Entertainment Tonightand though she said timing is up in the air, another season is definitely happening. She confirmed that “there are new cast members,” and that we can expect more diversity in the cast. According to her, the main reason the cast has been almost exclusively white is because her BIPOC employees just aren’t interested in being on camera. She said that “our companies are like the United Nations” but that “it’s really up to people that want to be front and center.” Uh… okay, sure.

Lisa also told ET that if it were up to her, Stassi and Kristen would still be on the show. She said that she is “not into just kind of getting rid of people, because they get it wrong,” and that she wishes they had a second chance on the show to “have a better understanding of where they went wrong.” Well, sadly for them, they won’t have the reality TV paycheck, but hopefully they’re still just as committed to owning their sh*t.

Moving down the list, Scheana Shay has been making big moves this summer. Last month, she announced on Twitter that she was moving to San Diego with her boyfriend Brock, which naturally raised a lot of questions about her future on Vanderpump Rules. Thankfully, she quickly cleared up our concerns, clarifying that the move makes sense now because she doesn’t have a reason to be paying rent in LA, but she’ll definitely come back once “work opens”, which is obviously code for “once I’m getting paid to pretend to work on camera.”

Y’all just bc I’m moving now, does NOT mean I’m quitting the show. I love my job!! We aren’t filming right now. SUR/LA is closed. I’m wasting so much $ on rent and I’m lonely all the way out in PS. It just makes sense. Once work opens/picks back up, I will too have an apt in LA!

— 🏳️‍🌈Scheana (@scheana) July 21, 2020

Honestly, good for Scheana. She seems happier in San Diego anyway, and at this point, she has enough money that she can just get an apartment in LA for the four months out of the year that she actually needs to be in LA for filming. (I just Googled condos in San Diego, and sadly, I am not rich enough to do this. Maybe by next pandemic!)

As for Jax Taylor, for a minute there, it really seemed like he was going to be fired along with Stassi and Kristen, but somehow it appears he weathered the storm. Last month, an “insider” told Us Weekly that Jax “definitely plans to return” for the upcoming ninth season. Great. Who wants this? Jax has spent his summer between LA and Kentucky, where he and Brittany hung out with Kristen and Summer House alum Stephen McGee. Sounds fun. Jax also recently posted his negative COVID results on Twitter, sharing that he has “piece” of mind now.

Piece of mind. pic.twitter.com/CBSsz2uyVn

— Jax (@mrjaxtaylor) August 14, 2020

So, where does all of this information leave us when it comes to a ninth season of Vanderpump Rules? We’ll definitely be seeing Scheana and Jax, and we’ll hopefully be seeing more of this diversity that Lisa is bragging about. We definitely won’t be seeing Stassi, Kristen, Max, or Brett, and it seems pretty unlikely that they’ll risk having Danica around for another season. And of course, we have no f*cking clue when any of this will actually be happening. Isn’t 2020 fun?!

 

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Images:Chris Haston/Bravo; scheana, mrjaxtaylor / Twitter

It’s Time To Cancel ‘Vanderpump Rules’

Amidst the canceling of Karens everywhere, Vanderpump Rules’ Stassi Schroeder, Kristen Doute, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni were all fired from Bravo’s hit show after racist words and actions from their past came back under public scrutiny. Lisa Vanderpump put out a statement, loosely condemning their actions, but not calling out any employees by name. Andy Cohen said he supported the decision to fire them. And it’s good that as we as a nation are finally reckoning with racism, Bravo is also taking some action. But let’s be honest: Vanderpump Rules has been trash for years, and it’s not just Stassi, Kristen, Max, and Brett who are problematic. Let’s not put a Band-aid over this gaping wound of insensitivity. Instead, they need to just cancel the show. Burn it to the ground, because it cannot be redeemed. 

Stassi Schroeder was arguably the biggest star to come out of Vanderpump Rules. Before she lost it all, she had a well-known podcast and subsequent live tour, a NYT bestselling book, and a reported net worth of $2 million. Still, her 2020 cancellation was a long time coming. In 2018, she came under fire for posting a picture in which she described her outfit as “Nazi chic”. After Twitter came for her, she posted a meme that called everyone too sensitive, before eventually backing off. Before that, in November 2017, she lost podcast sponsors for posing the question that the #MeToo movement is a “Male Witch Hunt”. Though, for all the times she’d get herself into hot water off-screen, for the most part, she was able to keep her problematic beliefs from showing up on camera. Maybe that’s a reason she stayed so long after so many repeated offenses.

But there was one episode in season 6 where the mask slipped. Billie Lee, VPR’s first (and only) transgender woman, was filmed appearing as a guest on Stassi’s podcast. In an emotional post on her website, Billie wrote, “My first big scene with Stassi was her podcast interview. I thought that the focus would be about my trans experience. However, it quickly turned into a dramatic meltdown about Stassi being accused of being racist.” In the scene, Billie brought up to Stassi that Ariana had warned her about Stassi’s previous comments about race and #OscarsSoWhite on her podcast. Stassi’s immediate reaction was to call Ariana’s comments “a whole other level of vindictiveness”. Predictably, the scene ended with Stassi crying and Billie having to console her and reassure her, “that’s not my perception of you”.

And then, of course, there was Stassi and Kristen’s attempt to call the police on Faith for a crime she didn’t commit, although they weren’t the only cast members to treat her horribly. Lala Kent, who believes the spirit of Tupac lives inside her, would plant things in her apartment to see if Faith would steal them, according to Stassi in the now-deleted Bitch Bible episode. Faith has also alleged Brittany Cartwright made racists comments towards her, which Brittany vehemently denied. There’s also just the general observation that despite Faith and Lala emerging on the show at the same time, and Lala being pretty outwardly not liked by the rest of the group (Katie hated her for going topless in front of Tom, Brittany didn’t like that she flirted with Jax), it was Faith who ultimately got pushed out. Why?

But the problems continued. As season 8 premiered, Vanderpump Rules ended up in the news once again for all the wrong reasons when newbies Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni were exposed for racist tweets from their past. They both apologized at the time, and Lisa Vanderpump said to Us Weekly, “I do not condone any of the heinous comments made in the past by Max and Brett and I am glad they understand the severity of their offenses and have shown utmost remorse and contrition. I embrace a community of diversity and do not tolerate bigotry of any form within my workplace.” Still, neither Max nor Brett were edited out of Vanderpump Rules that season—or even in the episodes that were released right after the tweets surfaced. Bravo knew that Max and Brett had skeletons of racist tweets in their closets—if not during casting, then shortly after the show started airing—but only chose to act months later. At this season’s reunion, the tweets were brought up, but briefly. Max and Brett apologized again, and everyone moved on.

It’s good, I guess, that Bravo decided to finally take a stance of some sort, after clearly trying to skirt the issue for as long as they possibly could. But only firing four of the cast members feels like that meme of trying to plug a hole by slapping some duct tape over it. Because, actually, the Vanderpump Rules cast have long been problematic and insensitive towards marginalized communities. It’s not limited to these four cast members, and while racism is a big issue among the show’s stars, it is not the only one. Did we all forget that Billie Lee, a trans woman, was bullied so badly that she abruptly stopped filming midway through the season? 

Following Stassi and Kristen’s dismissal, Billie Lee spoke out about Jax Taylor, the Number One Guy In The Group show’s own version of Donald Trump, for transphobic behavior, and now, finally, people are starting to clamor for Jax to be fired as well. Billie Lee wrote on Twitter and in a post on her site that Jax refused to film with her because she is trans. She wrote, “His exact words were, ‘I’m not gonna lose all I have worked hard for something stupid I may say or do to offend her. Are we all supposed to tip toe around her because she’s trans?’” 

@BravoTV what about Jax Taylor? He refused to film with me because I was trans and called him out on his white cis privilege. Stop celebrating his disgusting actions. #canceljaxtaylor

— Billie Lee (@ItsMeBillieLee) June 10, 2020

And even though he hides behind his friendship with Lance Bass (which looks like it’s on the outs now anyway), Jax has shown he’s really only an ally to the LGBTQ community when faced with immense pressure, from the public and those close to him. I don’t need to rehash the pastor drama with you all, because we watched it, and we saw how Jax was more angry at the fact that he had to actually do something about his pastor than he was at his pastor for posting homophobic remarks.

He’s not the only one, though—Lala also mocked the concept of cis privilege on camera in an episode and literally silenced Billie when she tried to explain how Lala’s actions made her feel as a trans woman, saying, “you’re dismissed”. The whole Girl’s Night debacle in general was a complete mess, and what could have served as a teaching moment about cis privilege devolved into the people who have cis privilege denying it exists.

Throughout all this, the only semblance of a moral compass the show had came in moments that were few and far between that had little to no effect on the people called out. Things like Ariana side-eyeing her cast members when they’d say something problematic, or calling it out in her confessionals, or (in the case with Stassi’s podcasts) bringing up issues that are only shown through brief flashbacks, not direct confrontations. Things like Sandoval challenging Jax’s decision to only fire the pastor days before the wedding on camera and then getting dog piled by the rest of the cast at the roller rink, or Katie objecting to an insensitive prank involving the police and then getting publicly berated by her own husband. 

From the small issues like being friends with Scheana and choosing not to ostracize Lala for supposedly dating a married man in season 5, to the big issues like understanding cis privilege and not being cool with an openly homophobic pastor officiating a televised wedding at which multiple LGBTQ people would be present, the show operated on a toxic hive mind that pushed out people who disagreed. Faith was cast out and dragged for being “the other woman” while Jax, the actual cheater, came out unscathed; Billie Lee was bullied off the show; Ariana and Tom got trashed by Jax in season 8 for being “on their high horse”. And everyone involved with the show let this happen.

There’s something to the show being called Vanderpump Rules, too. Its namesake, Lisa Vanderpump, is more vocal about dogs being abused in other countries than she is about Black humans being murdered in the U.S. We all have our causes that we’re passionate about, sure, but in both words and in actions, Lisa makes her priorities clear. For instance, in her most recent statement, the strongest she gets to condemning Stassi, Kristen, Brett and Max’s actions is to say, “I love and adore our employees and I am deeply saddened by some of the lack of judgment that has been displayed” (this is her “freely speak from the heart”).

Lisa has said she “does not tolerate bigotry of any form” within her workplace, but the show is, to an extent, her workplace. She, along with Bravo, allowed Max and Brett to keep their jobs. And even if Lisa truly was “previously unaware” of Stassi and Kristen’s vendetta against Faith, we can presume she knew about Stassi’s racially insensitive comments from season 6, since it was used in a scene, but she did nothing then. She definitely knew about Jax and Brittany’s history with homophobia, since she had to personally intervene days before their wedding, on camera, to get them to finally do something other than hem and haw. But most importantly, her employees from marginalized communities—Faith and Billie Lee—are saying that they were treated poorly by other staff members, and it went unchecked, which is all the evidence we need. Billie Lee even claimed Lisa threatened her when Billie spoke publicly about problems she was facing on the show. 

I’ve said it before, but Vanderpump Rules was fun in its beginning seasons when we were watching young people behave badly and really only fucking up their own relationships. But then we gave them a platform, and a ton of money, and now we’re realizing they’re not just terrible to each other—they’re terrible in a deep-seated and decidedly not fun way.

In that scene with Billie Lee, Stassi says of being called a racist, “It’s a really serious thing to say about someone, it’s not just like ‘oh she’s a bitch’, it’s like a really fucked up thing to say about someone.” What’s also serious? Endangering someone’s life, or at the very least their livelihood, because you had a bone to pick with the girl who slept with your friend’s boyfriend and wanted to play armchair detective—but that doesn’t cross Stassi’s mind when she’s worried about being called racist. Similarly, Jax’s alleged comments about not filming with Billie Lee boil down to him not wanting to do so so he doesn’t have to worry about getting caught saying something transphobic on camera. And in those heated discussions about Girl’s Night, the ladies seemed more angry that Billie would publicly insinuate that they were transphobic, rather than being upset with themselves that they did something that a trans person deemed transphobic (which means it’s transphobic). It’s fascinating, because they possess just enough awareness to know that what they are doing can be perceived as wrong by the audience, but not enough to want to actually get to the root of why it is wrong so they can stop doing it.

It’s not just the cast members as individuals—it’s producers who gave Stassi, Kristen, and Jax more screen time; continued to make Max and Brett’s dumb love triangle a cornerstone of season 8 even after their racist tweets came to light; didn’t make moves to diversify the show aside from throwing in one Black and trans person and throwing up their hands when they didn’t last. It’s the editors who were instructed to give Stassi a special hero edit this season. Despite what they claim, Bravo is willing to continue to give problematic people a platform until we, the viewers, raise such hell that they can’t in good faith do it anymore. And by “in good faith” I mean “for their pockets and image”. So for that reason, it’s ultimately on us as viewers, me as a recapper, because we continued to tune in week after week, season after season, even as the show got harder and harder to watch and the cast got harder to support without a whole lot of cognitive dissonance. And maybe before we could try to divorce the cast members on-screen personas from their public opinions, but now, as social movements urge us to think critically about where we spend our money and devote our time, it doesn’t feel right to continue doing these mental gymnastic justifications anymore. Perhaps we all drank a little too much of the Pumptini. Well, I don’t know about you all, but I’ll take a pinot grigio I’m starting to feel sick.

For obvious reasons, the idiom “a bad apple spoils the bunch” has been making its way around the internet right now (we all like to forget the second half of that phrase, which exists for a reason), but even if apologists want to dismiss these individual bad apples, the fact remains that at least half the apples on this show are bad. That’s a lot! I’m sorry, but Tom and Ariana being well-adjusted people does not a TV show make. Give the decent people a spin-off, maybe, but the whole tree is poisonous, so let’s root it out. Plus, we don’t need the ghosts of these problematic people casting a weird shadow on subsequent seasons (Beau is threatening not to film without Stassi, which like, good luck with that campaign). And, be honest: What are we losing if we get rid of the show anyway? Peter’s pirate mustache? Raquel struggling to blink? Dayna telling a stand-up joke or two? The Maloney-Schwartzes saying “bubba” every other word? We all complained that Vanderpump Rules is a shadow of its former glory, so let’s just let it go. Cancel that shit entirely. It’s not worth saving. 

Images: Tommy Garcia/Bravo; ItsMeBillieLee / Twitter

UPDATED: Stassi & Kristen Are Finally Facing Consequences For Calling The Cops On Faith

UPDATE: On Tuesday, it was reported by Variety that Stassi and Kristen have been fired from Vanderpump Rules, along with Brett and Max. According to a statement from Bravo, “Bravo and Evolution Media confirmed today that Stassi Schroeder, Kristen Doute, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni will not be returning to Vanderpump Rules.” On Monday, Stassi’s agency and PR firm both confirmed they will no longer be working with her.

Last week, we saw Lea Michele get called out by her Black costars for her problematic, racist behavior, and her subsequent non-apology. But racism certainly isn’t confined to the Glee set, and with the tide of anti-racism that’s growing right now, I’m sure there will be more stories like this in the coming days and weeks. In fact, one old story about Vanderpump Rules has gotten renewed attention over the past week, and it’s about time: Faith Stowers reminded Bravo fans of Kristen and Stassi’s racist behavior towards her, and now Stassi and Kristen are facing backlash and consequences for their actions.

Throughout its eight-season run, diversity in the Vanderpump Rules cast has ranged from slim to none, with most seasons landing at none. Faith Stowers, a Black woman, was brought on as a recurring cast member in the fourth season, but her contract wasn’t renewed, and there hasn’t been a woman of color on the show since. Faith famously reappeared in season five, during the cheating scandal with Jax, but she was never able to tell her side of the story, and she’s said producers refused to pay her to appear at the reunion that season.

It was around this time that Kristen Doute and Stassi Schroeder went on a gross public smear campaign against Faith. On a 2018 episode of the Bitch Bible podcast, Stassi told a story about her and Kristen calling the cops on Faith. They had seen a Daily Mail article about a woman wanted for robbery, who they said looked just like Faith (she didn’t). Stassi excitedly described her and Kristen’s amateur detective work, which included screenshotting surveillance footage and checking tattoo placement in photos. They then proceeded to repeatedly call both the regular police AND the military police (Faith is a veteran) to report her, even after the police didn’t take their reports seriously. If that sounds too cruel and outrageous to be true, it’s not. At the time I’m writing this, Kristen hasn’t even deleted her tweets about it:

hey tweeties, doesn’t this ex #pumprules thief look familiar?

someone put her on mtv & gave her a platform for press. I didn’t wanna go there but I’m going there. https://t.co/4682a7jyzG

— kristen doute 🦒🤟🏽 (@kristendoute) April 26, 2018

and she’s wearing Logan’s jacket!

PS it was his favesies and he would really like it back. https://t.co/SnxmJdcHIo

— kristen doute 🦒🤟🏽 (@kristendoute) April 26, 2018

Stassi had A LOT to say about Faith during this podcast interview: she said Faith was “homeless” during filming for Vanderpump Rules, and accused her of stealing Jax Taylor’s car (with seemingly no evidence). She also said that Lala Kent used to “plant things in her apartment to see if Faith stole it.” Basically, they made Faith’s life a living hell, and not only did they not think what they were doing was completely wrong, they had no problem publicly boasting about it.

At the time, Faith threatened to file a lawsuit against Stassi for what she said on the podcast, but it’s unclear what ultimately came of that. But on an Instagram Live last week, Faith talked about her time on the show, and how poorly her fellow cast members treated her. She specifically brought up the police incident with Kristen and Stassi, saying that having the cops called on her was what “made me really want to run for the hills.” She said she was “invited” to come back on the show after that, but declined. Given the abhorrent treatment she received from her fellow castmates, I don’t blame her.

 

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Ex-cast member Faith talk about her racism experience on reality tv shows Vanderpump Rules and MTV’s The Challenge on Candace Instagram Live. (📹 @thisiscandacerenee @kingfaithhope) #PumpRules #TheChallenge

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While this story has always been incredibly f*cked up in general, it’s particularly awful in the context of the relationship between the Black community and police. Calling the cops is never something that should be taken lightly, but if you call them on a Black person, you are quite literally putting their life at risk (looking at you, Amy Cooper and Svitlana Flom). Stassi and Kristen acted like total Karens when they called the police on Faith based on a few hunches. Also alarming is how they bragged what they did (Stassi said on the now-deleted Bitch Bible episode, “We are like, we just solved a f*cking crime”), and Kristen went so far as to try to send her Twitter followers after Faith.

After Faith’s IG Live last week, Kristen and Stassi started getting a lot of heat on social media, and someone even made an “Accountability for Stassi” Instagram page. For Stassi specifically, this isn’t her only brush with being highly problematic. Back in 2017, Stassi talked about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, a response to all 20 acting nominees being white, on her podcast, saying that she was “really sick of everyone making everything about race,” adding that she didn’t understand why it was “always just about African Americans.” In 2018, she got criticized for an Instagram story where she described her outfit as “Nazi chic.” In the same photo, she labeled Kristen and her friend Rachael’s outfits “Tupac chic” and “criminal chic,” which also seem problematic. Stassi took down the photo and re-uploaded it with a different label for herself, but she should have just quit while she was behind.

So far, two of Stassi’s podcast sponsors, Ritual and Billie, confirmed to Page Six that they will no longer be working with her after learning of this situation. In addition, Glamour Magazine, which was running a bridal column by Stassi, told Page Six that they have “no plans to continue at this time.”

After keeping quiet about the situation for several days, Stassi and Kristen both spoke out on Sunday, posting written statements on Instagram within minutes of each other. Their apologies aren’t identical, but it definitely feels like they were written looked over by the same crisis PR team. Here’s Stassi’s:

 

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First things first: as a white person, these apologies are not mine to accept. But given that we are all learning, and it’s not the job of Black people to educate us, I wanted to try to unpack their apologies so we can all do better.

Stassi addresses Faith directly, and specifies that she does not expect forgiveness; she apologizes for what she did, not for how Faith felt as a result; and she vows to work to do better in the future. Overall, this is better than, say, Lea Michele’s “perceived” bullsh*t, but there are still a few issues, one being that if she didn’t apologize to Faith in person, this is performative. Another thing: Stassi starts her statement by acknowledging the “racially insensitive comments” that have resurfaced. But this situation went much further than comments, it was really about behavior.

And here’s Kristen’s:

 

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Doute keeps it a bit more to the point, also apologizing directly to Faith and promising to learn and do better. But one part of her post stuck out to me as not quite right: “Although, my actions were not racially driven…” We’re all learning right now, and one thing that’s important to understand is the concept of implicit bias. Racism isn’t just KKK rallies and white supremacist Twitter trolls. Racial prejudice is all around of us, and our society teaches us racial bias in ways we don’t even realize.

Another thing that bothers me in general about these statements is the vague suggestion that all of this happened a long time ago, and that Kristen and Stassi have learned since then. But this didn’t happen a long time ago, it happened in 2018. By any measure, that is RECENT. Not only were Stassi and Kristen adults at the time (Kristen was 35 when she sent those tweets), they were already famous people with platforms and hundreds of thousands of followers. Of course, I hope they really are as dedicated to learning and doing better as they say, but it’s worrying that they thought this was okay just two years ago.

Should Kristen and Stassi be held accountable for their actions? Absolutely. Whether that means losing sponsors or getting fired from Vanderpump Rules, who knows, but they need to know that what they did was not okay. Apologizing is the place to start, but they still need to show actual progress.

Images: DFree / Shutterstock.com; kristendoute / Twitter; omfgrealitytv2, stassischroeder, kristendoute / Instagram

Kristen Doute Opened Up About Her ‘Hard Season’ On ‘Vanderpump Rules’

On this week’s season finale of Vanderpump Rules, we were left with an emotional look at the journey we’ve all taken over the past eight years. We’ve been through a lot with this chaotic group, and this has been an intense season to say the least. This week on the Mention It All Podcast, we chatted with Vanderpump Rules OG Kristen Doute about her relationships, her thoughts on the where the show is at now, and her brand new book, which comes out next month.

Over the course of season 8, we’ve watched Kristen’s bonds with Katie and Stassi disintegrate, all while she struggles to figure out wtf to do about Carter. To put it simply, Doute said, “this season really sucked.” She continued, saying that in her friendships with Katie and Stassi, as well as her relationship with Carter, “we just couldn’t get it back.” Things with the Witches of Weho are still rough, but Kristen told us that she and Carter were “immediately done for good” after filming ended last year, and that she’s much happier now. (Check out her new boyfriend on Instagram if you want proof.)

Adding to an already difficult summer for Kristen was the arrival of a whole new set of cast members. From a viewer’s perspective, it seemed like the cast wasn’t very well integrated, and Kristen has no problem making her thoughts known. On top everything going on, she said, “we had 55 new cast members who I didn’t care about. I just didn’t care enough to get to know a lot of people that were thrown into my life when I had all these momentous moments going on.”

Speaking of momentous moments, Kristen can still appreciate her time on Vanderpump Rules, despite going through some particularly rough stuff in the past year. Asked what she enjoys looking back on most, she said, “it’s all the fun moments. Just being in friend-love with each other. That’s why the last few minutes were so gut-wrenching. Watching those montages and those flashbacks, it was really sad but also so wonderful.” Damn, why am I crying in the club right now?

But even though we all cried (no? just me?) at the season finale, we’ve still got a Zoom reunion to look forward to, and Kristen promises that it will be top-notch: “there were some tears, there was definitely a lot of yelling… it was interesting.” Specifically, she teases that there’s “a little nugget of truth” that becomes public, and it sounds like whatever it is will cause some major fallout in the group. Count me in.

To hear the full interview with Kristen Doute, check out the latest episode of the Mention It All Podcast:

Images: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

I Asked 7 People Why They Were Blocked By Jax Taylor

Vanderpump Rules’ Jax Taylor is many things: a cheater, a liar, a manipulator, the Number One Guy In The Group. He is also one of the most notoriously sensitive people on social media, second only to Jonathan Cheban. And he’s fully aware that he can be extreme when it comes to blocking, telling Us Weekly“I’d rather block them, because they think they’re being cute, so I’m just going to block them. They want to say something and see what they can get away with, so I block them.” Jax is so quick to block people who call him out, in fact, that his behavior has inspired an Instagram account and “Blocked By Jax on Twitter” T-shirts and other apparel. When it comes to blocking, Jax does not discriminate. He has blocked his own cast mates including Kristen and Tom Sandoval, fellow Bravolebrities like Below Deck‘s Captain Lee, and many a random internet hater.

So I decided to speak to a few of those aforementioned internet haters and chat with them about the circumstances—and the offending tweets—that caused them to get blocked by Jax on Twitter.

Evelyn M, a member of the Bravo by Betches Facebook group, says she was blocked in March of this year after tweeting a reaction to a Vanderpump Rules marathon. In a bold move, she tagged Jax, which earned her a swift block.

Lmao all this #VanderpumpRules marathon proves is that @mrjaxtaylor has not changed

— Ev (@eviemacs) March 24, 2020

Amira A, another Bravo by Betches group member, said, “Jax blocked me on Twitter because I said Stassi dodged a bullet that Brittany has to deal with.” She didn’t even tag him directly, she said: “I tagged #vanderpumprules.” Upon finding the tweet, she said, “he proceeded to cuss me out and block me, along with whoever else was in the thread.” She recalled, “it wasn’t a good episode for him, and people were letting him have it I believe,” clarifying that it was the episode when Brittany famously told Jax to rawt in hail after finding out he had sex with Faith.

Twitter user and @bravobybetches follower @Lynn_S_A was blocked just last week, after tweeting some opinions on the Vanderpump Rules OGs. She tweeted in reply to Kristen Doute revealing that she went to Sandoval’s pool party because Jax had uninvited her to his, and was one of at least 170 replies to the tweet. She did not tag Jax, nor did she even write out his full name. That he was able to sift through so many replies to find the tweet is nothing short of impressive.

blocked by Jax

But Mr. Taylor does not only direct his ire at individual Twitter users—he’s blocked more than one meme account on Instagram after being the subject of an unflattering post. Steve, the creator of the popular Faces By Bravo account, revealed to us that he was blocked by Jax in December 2018 after posting this meme:

 

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🦀💎🦀💎 #VPR #pumprules #vanderpumprules #engaged #crabs #congrats #jaxtaylor #brittanycartwright

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While making a joke about passing an STD onto his then-fiancé may not have been exactly nice, it’s far from the worst thing someone could say about Jax, and even far from the worst true thing one could say. However, this word play made @facesbybravo the lucky winner of a blocking.

@lucyontheground, another pop culture meme maker, was blocked by Jax on Instagram as recently as Tuesday night. She told me via DM, “I am so confused… it must have happened last night because I haven’t watched for weeks.” She elaborated, “I called him a man child last night and said he and Brittany just like to complain and be unhappy,” but added, “I don’t even tag him… he had to come looking.” A subsequent meme on her account poking fun at being blocked has racked up comments from other users who have also been met with the same fate.

Perhaps most perplexingly, @twobravosisters got blocked by Jax for sharing his now-wife, Brittany Cartwright’s before and after pictures with Kybella, an injectable treatment that decreases fat cells beneath the chin. Two Bravo Sisters put it on their Instagram stories back in 2018, which was when they got blocked. The perplexing part is that Brittany having had Kybella wasn’t some secret Two Bravo Sisters exposed—the very plastic surgery group Brittany used posted her before and afters on Instagram, and then @twobravosisters shared that post on their stories. They told us they were “confused” by Taylor’s reaction.

 

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Our beautiful patient @brittany received 2 sessions of Kybella injectable treatment to decrease the fat cells beneath the chin. The active ingredient in Kybella mimics the naturally occurring deoxycholic acid molecules in the body, which aid in breakdown and absorption of dietary fat. The best part is that once destroyed, these cells can no longer store or accumulate fat! 🙌🏼 #kybella #kybellabeforeandafter #kybellainjection #kybellatreatment #injections #face #neck #beforeandafter #medspa #plastic #plasticsurgery #plasticsurgeon #beverlyhills #beautiful #glow #neckfat #doublechin #allergan #vanderpumprules #reality #beforeandafter #realresults #liposuction #coolsculpting @vanderpumprulesoffical @bravotv @bravoandy

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From big to small accounts, from individuals to faceless meme-makers, no one is immune to Jax’s wrath. And while sometimes Jax just blocks and moves on, other times he starts all-out wars, and then blocks. This is what happened to Kaye, the creator of the original “Blocked by Jax” apparel, which she sells on her Etsy shop, Gold Half Moon.

In 2019 he announced that he intended to produce “blocked by Jax” merch via Kristen Doute’s clothing company, before promptly getting dragged for ripping off a small business—Gold Half Moon had been making “blocked by Jax” apparel for a while.

“I did have IRL beef when I made the blocked by Jax sweatshirts and he claimed I stole the idea from him and I was selling ‘cheap fakes’ that disintegrated in the wash,” she told me.

 

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* UPDATE 11/22 – Magen, co-owner of JamesMae, reached out via DM with an apology and to say that she didn’t know the sweatshirts existed before she RTed Jax’s announcement from BravoCon, and that they were “hold off on making the shirts” (verbatim) on producing them. In a follow-up comment she confirmed they are not making the shirts. Sharing her DM on my stories and in a highlight (JamesMae) with her permission. Thank you everyone for your support, comments, shares, kind DMs, etc, I am so so so grateful. Jax, if you’ve somehow unblocked me to read this: you’re still a dick. ✌🏼 ——————- Just putting this here for posterity to remind J*x that not only did he take my idea, he also spread lies about the quality of a product he’s never owned and called it a “knockoff” when as of now, “his” t-shirt doesn’t exist, all because he’s salty he didn’t think of it first. Please note the time stamp, this is after Ariana bought it earlier this month, then wore and shared it when she wore it at BravoCon (Tom too). Not surprised J*x would to try to profit from his shitty behavior AND fuck my business, but man, I’m disappointed.

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Despite Jax coming for her products, though, Magen, the co-owner of James Mae, quickly reached out to apologize for Jax’s remarks, explain that it was never her intention to go after Kaye’s business, and promise not to make the shirts. Despite James Mae and Gold Half Moon kissing and making up, Jax didn’t seem to have gotten the memo, and at least in November 2019, still had her blocked.

Nobody has to tolerate negativity or trolling, and everyone can do whatever they want with their personal social media accounts. But it’s one thing to block trolls who invade your comments, and another thing to personally go looking for any mentions of your name. It’s nothing short of hilarious to imagine a 40-year-old man spending his days trawling the internet for people who talk sh*t about him, who aren’t even in his mentions, just so he can block them. Jax can’t take the heat, but he also can’t stay out of the kitchen. Even better, he will go out of his way to look for any heat, so he can burn down the kitchen in a towering inferno of self-righteousness.

Oh, and I forgot one more person who’s blocked by Jax: me, surely, after this article goes live.

Image: Bravo / Contributor