I have a very real obsession with Bravo’s always-problematic, ever-meme-able (see: @sirbanksalot11 for the funniest Bravo-related content ever) “Real Housewives” queendom. The “New York” crew–well, most of them (Ramona is insane)–have my heart. And I’ve grown to TV-love a few of the women from other franchises, too.
And then there’s “Orange County”
Just racist and Republican as ever. Some of its cast members espouse especially repulsive cultural views both on-air and on social media, likely a reflection of living in the conservative O.C. bubble. (For instance, Gretchen Rossi, an “O.C.” alum, seems to have fallen head first into a QAnon cult— allegedly!) Here are some other examples:
1. Kelly Dodd wearing a “Drunk Wives Matter” hat on social media–then doubling down after facing some backlash with the following defense: “My girlfriend bought it for me as a gift. It’s a play on words. Some people aren’t that smart.” Huh? She adds: “You know what, all lives matter.” Cringe. “People that can’t get a joke, go f–k yourselves.” Yeah, um, I think I might be one of those people, Kelly.
2. Let’s continue to build this Kelly dossier, shall we? Here, a video of her saying she doesn’t date or associate with Black men. Case closed.
3. Enter: Tamra Judge. An “Orange County” staple who was recently demoted from cast member to “friend” and is married to Eddie Judge, who is part-Mexican. In one episode, Tamra, who is white, called her husband a “beaner,” which is widely considered a racial slur against people of Mexican descent.
And now, a few disgraceful “Housewives” alum
4. Kim Zolciak, the only white (and former) cast member from the “Atlanta” franchise, denies racism is real in one episode of the series. Kim, like Dodd, doubles down on her declaration, saying that “this whole racism thing in this day and age is bullshit.”
5. In behind-the-scenes audio, former “New Jersey” cast mate Danielle Staub is allegedly caught saying, “Hey, you stupid moron, where’s the f — king [n-word] pot? You got the f — king [n-word] connection, you stupid f — king Mexican.”
Lord knows the context here, and it doesn’t matter. What possibly could excuse this language and the anger that seems to launch off it?
The root of this type of talk–and its origin ideology–can be traced back to the darkest corners of our nation’s story, a slave history so horrific that some American school districts still can’t navigate how to teach it. (#Amurikkka)
The words and actions of, say, a Tamra or Danielle are a byproduct of being unaware of one’s privilege, but also of implicit permission from the Bravo network (ahem, Andy Cohen) to be vile as hell. If they aren’t getting fired for making openly racist comments, then why shouldn’t we, the viewers — who are effectively paying them by watching them (except, #boycottOC) — voice our gripes about these very real issues?
The problem with ‘calling in’
My ears bleed when I hear people disavow the public for “calling out” problematic moments in pop culture. If someone’s words or actions echo the nature of violence that killed my ancestors–and even some of my contemporaries–don’t I, then, have the right to call out and condemn that venom, so that, maybe, those words won’t one day burst into violence? That kills someone? Kills me?
“Call-in” proponents want me to have patience with and compassion for these hooligans (many of whom in the Bravo universe are twice my age), and then educate them about why their actions endanger my life and the lives of people who look like me. But, wait: Don’t we all know it–that racism is wrong–even if some of you won’t admit it? Why is the onus on me/us to take care of you/y’all, when a route to clarity is just a click away?
The breadth of resources available on the internet and social media alone, which explain issues like systematic racism and implicit bias, makes ignorance about these topics a willful choice. And so we — who are brutally affected by both — have a right to respond to their purveyors how we willfully please. Sometimes, that response is going to be a call-out, because at this point, if you refuse to recognize the painful history of certain words or actions, you don’t deserve our grace, nor our patience or compassion.