Today marks the final episode of the Vanderpump Rules season eight reunion, and I would be lying if I said that I was not relieved to see the latest installment of the Bravo series come to an end. For some reason, this season of the reality show has been especially excruciating — perhaps signaling the necessary end of an era for the pop culture staple as we know it.
I've said it once, and I will say it again: Vanderpump Rules is no longer fun to watch. Unlike its sunny spinoff Summer House, each episode of the show has been increasingly annoying to sit through, marked by fake friendships, blatant hypocrisy, and endless bickering. The SURvers that you knew and loved are no more; though most of the OGs are years removed from their days as young hostesses and bartenders, they haven't actually grown up at all.
After more than a decade of putting up wit Jax Taylor's antics, Tom Sandoval has finally drawn the line in the sand and effectively ended their relationship. The Witches of WeHo, to quote Stassi Schroeder, are "donezo," and as it turns out, Scheana Shay's whole onscreen personality is a lie, thanks to the machinations of a show editor with a chip on her shoulder.
Oh, and to top it off, many of the people on this show are not-so-closeted bigots.
No one should really be surprised — since its debut in 2013, Vanderpump Rules has had an obvious diversity issue. Maybe you haven't noticed (you have), but despite the fact that folks from all walks of life are employed at Lisa Vanderpump's many Hollywood restaurants, and Lisa is a self-proclaimed champion of diversity, almost every single cast member of the show is white.
The treatment of one particular Black guest star underscores the toxicity and exclusionary energy of the Pump Rules cast. Faith Stowers, who used to work at SUR, was at the heart of the season six revelation that Jax had cheated on his then-girlfriend Brittany Cartwright. Faith and Jax were rumored to have had sex (in a nursing home of all places), and the infidelity was confirmed via an audio recording, pushing Brittany past her breaking point. Jax and Brittany ultimately reconciled and got married last summer, but it was Faith who was was on the receiving end of the group's fury.
Weeks ago, Faith shared shocking details from the aftermath of her scandal in a conversation with Floribama Shore's Candace Rice on Instagram Live. She said that she didn't get a chance to tell her side of the story and was painted out to be the heartless tramp as a result. But Faith also shared that Jax and Brittany's friends, namely Stassi and former friend Kristen Doute, took their hatred of her to the next level and had no shame in their game.
After learning of a news report requesting information about an unidentified Black woman who was accused of serial robbery, Stassi and Kristen took it upon themselves to falsely identify Faith as the suspect. They called the police on her several times in an attempt to turn her in, and when that didn't work, Stassi reached out to the military police to report that Faith had gone AWOL.
"They thought it was me because it was a black woman with a weave," Faith explained in the Instagram livestream. "So they just assumed it would be me, and they called the cops on me.”
In light of the sociopolitical climate that we're in right now, I don't think I have to break down just how dark-sided it is to call the police on a Black person just for shits and giggles. We jokingly label white women who sic the police on our community at will "Karens," but the implications of that kind of behavior are bigger, and often deadlier, than a meme.
Black people across the country and around the world have an understandably fractured relationship with the police because the list of Black lives lost to police brutality grows longer every single day — even as we take to the streets to protest police violence — so to intentionally place a Black woman in that position is absolutely predatory. Stassi and Kristen have since issued individual statements apologizing for the behavior, but the fact that they took pleasure in it is still disturbing. And even if the plan wasn't racially motivated, the lack of nuance speaks to their glaring white privilege; as white women, they don't have to fear the police. Faith does. I do. Black people do.
But Stassi and Kristen are not the only cast members who have a history of racist behavior. Lala Kent is a known culture appropriator known for putting on a "hood" aesthetic jacked straight from Black women. And a deep dive into the social media profiles of new cast members Brett Caprioni and Max Boyens revealed that the Vanderpump Rules stars had an affinity towards usage of the n-word. Boyens does identify as a Black man, revealing in the first episode of the reunion that his family is in fact Black, and that may explain why he felt comfortable using the word. Nonetheless, both newbies were sacked, along with OGs Stassi and Kristen.
On top of all the anti-Blackness, Vanderpump Rules also has a history of barely masked homophobia. While Lisa is a proud advocate of the LGBTQIA community — Hollywood's annual Pride Parade is basically a holiday for her — her employees have frequently displayed discriminatory behavior towards the queer people who are on the show. Jax is a repeat offender; just this season alone, he's made numerous disparaging comments about Ariana Madix's bisexuality, suggesting that her relationship with Tom is a farce because she "likes women."
Jax also allegedly mistreated Billie Lee, a trans woman whose run on the show last year was cut short after she quit due to "bullying." Billie called for the bartender to also be fired because she claimed that he had played an active role in the negative environment that didn't allow her to thrive on Vanderpump Rules.
@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
"What about Jax Taylor?" Billie tweeted last week, directly mentioning Bravo's official Twitter handle in the post. "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"
Don't forget the drama surrounding his and Brittany's pastor. Their Kentucky wedding went viral months before the nuptials even took place because Ryan Dotson, the pastor chosen to officiate their wedding, made a series of anti-LGBTQ comments on his social media accounts. The couple was slow to act even when the story blew up, and before they publicly denounced the words of Pastor Dotson, Brittany and Jax simply blocked anyone talking about it online.
Comcast NBCUniversal, Bravo's parent company, has committed $100 million towards a plan to advance social justice internally and externally. And Bravo is following that lead, taking time to amplify the voices of its Black talent in continued conversations about anti-racism and allyship. So how exactly does a show like Vanderpump Rules, which has a history of racism and homophobia in addition to rampant misogyny from its cast, fit into this new "woke" network?
Spoiler alert: it doesn't.
Fortunately, even with the bad press that Vanderpump Rules is getting right now, there is a way to save the show. People still care about the remaining OGs, many of the newbies still have interesting stories to share with fans, and Lisa has 36 different restaurants, bars, lounges, and cocktail gardens to cast from — four of which are based in Los Angeles. Change can be made, but without the effort, it's just not worth it.
Vanderpump Rules hasn't been the most positive series on television, and for a time, that was absolutely fine. No one was watching the Bravo show to feel good — we were tuning in week after week for the drama and for the mess. But in 2020, especially during a time where so many in this country are fighting tooth and nail for equity and justice, we can't afford to turn a blind eye to problematic behavior. We're far too old and know far too much about how society should be to keep subjecting ourselves to television content that doesn't reflect that or reality stars who seem to stand in total opposition of progress. We have to want better for ourselves.
As it is now, the show has no place in our changing world.