If the protests and the Instagram posts didn’t deliver the severity of the current Black Lives Matter movement to white women, they sure got the message this week when it came for the Vanderpump Rules cast. I don’t mean for that to sound facetious, but for a certain group, this news has lit up group texts in a way nothing else has over the last two weeks. The movement is hitting home in places it never has before, but places it needs to most.
If you’re reading this, you likely know the news already. Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute were fired yesterday from Vanderpump Rules, a show they’ve both been main cast members on since its inception in 2012. Reports surfaced that the two women, two-thirds of the show’s Witches of WeHo clique, called the cops on Faith Stowers, a woman who has appeared on the show over the seasons, namely for sleeping with Jax Taylor, to falsely accuse her of a crime: a racist action which was also paired with racist remarks on social media and podcasts. The behavior, for any regular viewers of the show, is maybe not so surprising. That they were actually fired, though, is very surprising. Bravo rarely takes such drastic measures with their talent, a good chunk of whom seem to be consistently apologizing for messing up on- and off-camera. Like, consistently. (Just Google the words “Kelly Dodd” right now and a slew of inappropriate comments, justified vitriol from viewers, and halfhearted apologies will come up.) That Bravo swiftly got rid of Stassi and Kristen sends a loud, loud message. It’s also one that should’ve been screamed through megaphones earlier this year when it was uncovered that two new and very unimpressive cast members to the show, Brett Caprioni and Max Boyens, also made racist remarks on social media in the past. No action was taken at the time, but Bravo also announced that they won’t be returning to the show. Good riddance, my guys.
Yes, I know that it’s literally the job of these castmembers to stir up trouble and create drama. But as a friend wisely pointed out in my own discussions of the news this week, “You can still stir up drama without being racist.” Duh, but also DUH. Gossiping to waitstaff is one thing. Gossiping to law enforcement sure is another. Point blank, their actions are inexcusable and Bravo 100% did the right thing. Though…there are other “right things” Bravo has yet to accomplish.
Andy Cohen addressed the Vanderpump Rules firings on Wednesday during his Radio Andy show, saying, “I absolutely support Bravo’s decision. I think it was the right decision,” while also reminding people that he’s not a producer on shows such as Vanderpump Rules and Southern Charm (which is by no means an innocent little dove of the network) and therefore has nothing to do with programming or casting those series on the network. One hopeful note came in the form of him revealing that when it comes to the way Bravo will be handling this moving forward, Andy said, “There is a lot more to discuss and we’re already having those discussions,” also adding, “I had a great, very long talk with Kandi two days ago, she had some really fantastic suggestions for how we can move forward and we’re all ears.” Of course Kandi Burruss, a cast member of The Real Housewives of Atlanta and an incredibly smart businesswoman herself had great ideas! It’s the “all ears” part that is the most hopeful here.
Kandi’s castmate Porsha Williams has also been a wonderful voice in this time, one of the first to get involved with Atlanta protests, as well as participating in both an Instagram Live conversation (that many viewers rightfully argued should’ve been aired on the network in the first place) as well as a two-part Watch What Happens Live special this week to share her moving perspective. If you weren’t already Team Porsha, you sure as hell better be now.
Many Bravo fans are still demanding more from the network and Andy, saying they’ve stayed frustratingly silent throughout this movement. Their parent company Comcast has committed to spending $100 million to fight injustice and inequality, but what more will Bravo specifically do on the matter?
Well for one, it’s in their best interest to go ahead and cancel Vanderpump Rules. I watch every episode of this show, but I wouldn’t miss it if it went away or no spinoff came to be. There are so few people on that show that haven’t made blatantly homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and other problematic comments on TV or on the internet (sometimes both!) throughout the course of the show’s eight seasons. And the ones that are left, well, they don’t really scream “upstanding leaders” so much. There’s no point in holding on. This season was lackluster at best and that a reunion episode aired last night was just awkward — not to mention exhausting that there’s still a third installment yet to air next week.
Yes, we watch these shows because they are mindless and trashy, but that mentality could (and should) be shifting. There’s a way to still celebrate the flashy and the mundane while simultaneously striving to be socially conscious. There will always be a place for frivolous reality TV, but for the foreseeable future, we might have a little less time, patience, and interest in the lives of messy, rich, and often very white people. These shows, and our lives, can go out without problematic cast members. Even Lisa Vanderpump wrote in her statement, “The world needs to move forward with a kinder generation,” and that’s true. Just have an intern do a search through their old tweets before you put them on TV.
So while this news had viewers in shock, the real news to all of us, maybe especially Kristen and Stassi, is that it’s actually not about you right now (which will likely be especially hard to swallow knowing the latter’s birthday is fast approaching). Most of us have made choices we are going to have to be held accountable for in varying degrees, not in the very least by reflecting and working to be better, which is going to be harder than dealing with a lost razor sponsorship. Bravo has taken a step in the right direction, for sure, and many of the network’s viewers hope that they will continue to lead the way.