I was having a conversation with this guy while I was watching Real Housewives of Salt Lake City and he said he’d never seen it before.
That’s fine. There are a ton of things that I’ve never seen before because there’s just so much content out there. We find the things that speak to us.
He said he’d been at the circus when some NY Housewives were there and I jokingly said I want to be friends with one of them so I can become a big TV star.
He goes, “I would need more substance than they project on TV.”
My roommate loves anime. I do not. He watches a lot of anime. I do not. Does it speak to me as a genre? No, not really. Am I dismissive of it when someone else likes it? No, because that’s what they like. Can I find some entertainment value in it? Yeah, I can. There are a couple of his favorites that he’s had me watch and, while I wouldn’t sit down and choose to watch them alone, I enjoy them and I’m interested to see what happens next in the story.
My minor point here is, don’t yuck someone’s yum. If someone is telling you they like something, maybe you should err on the side of “Oh that’s not for me” as opposed to “That’s not worthy of my attention.”
And to piggyback: what are you watching exactly that’s so much better than the Real Housewives? Let me just give you a quick rundown of some of the current happenings across the franchises.
Orange County is Republican Trash, but let’s talk about it.
Those of us who live in liberal bubbles really can’t understand how the pandemic unfolded in Conservative areas, but there it is on Bravo. One of them is married to a Fox News reporter, says it’s just a flu, and refuses to wear a real mask while two of the cast members are laid up in the house with COVID and a husband is in the hospital. There’s a functioning alcoholic getting sober while coming to terms with her sexuality after 20 years of marriage and 7 kids; she’s now realizing she’s a lesbian. There’s a battered wife trying to decide whether to put her ex in jail because of what he did or let it go so their kids won’t miss their father. The new wife grew up in a religious cult where she was was beaten half to death and afraid she would be thrown under a bridge. You’re watching Meredith Grey die for the third time on ABC.
Salt Lake City is giving us a front seat to the usual dysfunction of rich ladies forced to interact with each other, but also a peek behind the Mormon curtain.
Quickly: name any other show on television giving you a crash course in Mormonism. The Church of Latter Day Saints is the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the country and I’ll bet the average person can’t tell you anything about it other than polygamy (no longer accurate) and Utah (it’s pretty much still a Mormon state). This cast has Mormons with lineage back to the founding of the church, a Jewish woman who converted to Mormonism, a Mormon woman converting to Islam, a Mormon woman who was kicked out of the church, and a Black Pentecostal prosperity preacher (a grifter for White Jesus). You’re watching an alcoholic Kaley Cuoco on HBO solve a murder mystery.
New York City is the only show on television where women over 50 (and Ramona is over 60) have the space to live full, sexual lives and not apologize for it.
Temptation Island has nothing on a night out with these women at Beautique. How do you even prevent hangovers after 30? I don’t know, but I’m trying to learn their ways. And they’re navigating real life as older women. What do you do as the poor (stay at home) ex-wife of a rich family when your husband runs off with your friend and you have to keep up a house and your kid in boarding school? How do you restart your life at 60 when you discover your husband in your home with another woman? And she’s gone from the show, but I have to remind everyone that the federal government did nothing for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria for months — Bethenny Frankel was the only one down there helping the residents and handing out supplies. What are you watching that’s so much more compelling? A redhead with wideset eyes playing chess for 8 hours?
Potomac, aka The Sisterhood of the Travelling Vanessa Williamses, is fascinating television, with a full roster of heroes, villains, and every shade in between.
A stay-at-home mom using her newfound notoriety to launch a business after saving her husband from the brink of bankruptcy. High school sweethearts remarrying after infidelity and financial ruin. First generation Nigerian-Americans reaching the pinnacle of educational achievement and setting examples for their children and the community. A new mom wrestling with (and avoiding the seriousness of) her sugar daddy’s repeated sexual harassments of men. A former First Lady of the Church rekindling a relationship with the pastor who cheated on her, is still cheating on her, and who her children do not like. And two women with volatile personalities coming to blows over rumors of infidelity, paternity, and betrayal. You’re watching a show that packed more than that into a season? I would love to see it. If it’s not Veneno, it’s not better than Potomac, I promise you.
Listen. You can say what you want about Nene or the lack of Nene, but The Real Housewives of Atlanta will always be compelling television. Beautiful, successful, engaging, intelligent, BLACK women on my screen will always be compelling television. Also, other than the Love & Hip-Hop franchises, where else are Black women so open and casual about their bisexual experiences? Have we seen Black women go through the fertility struggle and surrogacy process? Have we seen Black women (from the South no less!) treading the thin line between respecting your toxic mother and respecting your husband? Have we been able to ignore the Black people who acted like selfish assholes during the pandemic, throwing (potentially) superspreader events because white people were the ones who went viral for it? When we see Black women dealing with an emotionally abusive husband and navigating that relationship for the sake of her child, doesn’t Tyler Perry always write in a man to save her? And Porsha Luther King Williams. Nobody else on television got arrested multiple times this summer putting their body on the line for Breonna Taylor and protesting against police brutality. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is not better than this just because Amy Sherman Palladino packs 20 pages worth of dialogue into 5 pages worth of script.
The Real Housewives isn’t a documentary. It isn’t reality TV the way The Real World was reality TV 30 years ago. It’s “reality” TV. It’s a heightened reality. It’s a stylized presentation of real life. It’s real life that has been manipulated for entertainment value. Would you normally throw a glass of wine at someone? Probably not — you’d walk away. Would you have the same argument with someone you don’t like for weeks? Probably not — you’d stop hanging out with them. It’s a manufactured experience engineered to capture authentic reactions to slightly manipulated real life situations because it makes for better TV. But Ashley’s husband gropes men. Ramona’s husband cheated on her. Shannon’s kids do have COVID. Braunwyn is a lesbian. Karen is starting a business. Whitney got kicked out of the church. Mary is married to her grandfather. And Porsha did get arrested.
What are you watching that’s so much better?
Let’s retire the roast for RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Replace the roast with a Design Your Own Show challenge. I wanna see what I’m getting when I buy a ticket.
I’ll put the bias upfront so you can decide whether to read the rest of these rambling thoughts through that lens or not:
I love Utica. She was my Number Two when Meet the Queens videos came out (after Symone), and she has generally been my Number Three during the course of the season (behind Symone and Gottmik). I don’t think we have ever had a queen this visually talented across the board. There are better painters (Kim Chi), better glam make-up artists (Miss Fame), better fashion queens (Aquaria), and better tailors (reigning UK winner Lawrence Chaney), but there is no one queen who operates at such a high standard in all four other than Utica. She would be better suited to Project Runway than RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I’m excited to see where her career ends up after this.
And, I feel like I understand her. She’s a white queen from the middle of nowhere in a town with less than 500 people who grew up Seventh Day Adventist. My hometown was 409 people and I grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist church (cult, actually) around a bunch of awkward white kids. There was absolutely no way she was going to be able to roast anybody. Utica isn’t even sure of herself enough to say the same things on camera that she says to other queens, because she’s not sure how the “joke” will land, and she’s afraid of the rabid Drag Race fandom online. She’s socially awkward, unsure of herself, and isolated in the fields of Minnesota in a such a way that she’s excited about being around so many queer people. You tell someone like that to be mean and funny, and they will be mean and funny, but the funny won’t land because she’s only funny to herself. You’re just left with mean.
But everyone was a letdown. Because every RuPaul’s Drag Race Roast is a letdown. Because it’s time to let this challenge go and replace it with something else.
We don’t need jokes about the judges anymore.
RuPaul is old and she can’t sing. Michelle is a New Jersey whore who’s made of plastic (even though she got her boobs taken out, so why is that ever a joke anymore?). Ross is very gay and annoying. We got it. There’s nothing left to say about any of them that hasn’t already been said and none of the jokes about the judges have been funny in years. (Except, honestly, Utica telling RuPaul to stand up as a fashion icon, when everybody knows she has on sweatpants under the table, is my favorite roast moment in a long time). Any queen forced to do the roast from this point on should just completely ignore the judges.
Being mean and funny is hard, and it’s not a skillset drag queens need to keep cultivating.
I would never sign up to be roasted. I have thin skin and I take things very personally. I’m an emotional person, and pointing out my “flaws” to a large group of people, things that I’m embarrassed about or dislike about myself or am actively trying to change, is just traumatic for me. And that is why you don’t see me at too many drag shows when the queen fancies herself a “comedian.” Funny, to a drag queen, means there will be a point where the audience is involved and you may get read, even if you didn’t sign up for that.
The first time I ever went to a drag show was the first year I moved to NYC. I went to Barracuda with some friends, and Shequida was the drag entertainment. At random points, she would pull a guy up on stage, flirt with him for awhile, and then give him a drink ticket for being hot. I was sitting a little too close to the stage, and Shequida pulled me up. I was really feeling myself — I thought my outfit was cute, my afro was blown out to perfection — because I assumed she was going to flirt with me and give me a drink ticket. She started with “who does this bitch think she is, Diana Ross?” and proceeded to drag me for what felt like half an hour, but was probably a minute. The entire bar was laughing, she didn’t give me a drink ticket, and I walked past my seat and into the bathroom to cry.
It was years before I went to another drag show, and when I finally did, I made sure I stood as far away from the stage as possible. That strategy was working until I was at Kizha Carr’s show one Sunday and she decided to take the mic, walk the room, and tell everybody at Industry I looked like Lil Jon. I left, and I don’t mess with “comedy” queens. Roasting anyone should not be a challenge that determines whether you are America’s Next Drag Superstar, because we shouldn’t go to a gay bar for happy hour with the expectation that a drag queen will walk in and start tearing you apart for the enjoyment of the audience.
Roasting only works between friends.
I understand the concept of the roast and I think they can be funny to watch, but only if the roasters and the roastee(s) are all friends and all like each other. Comedy Central roasts are great. Experts in the field are making fun of people they like and who like them back. It’s all in good fun. Drag Race roasts are awkward because clearly not every judge likes every queen and vice versa. I can call one of my friends a whale in the same tone of voice that Utica used on Loni in rehearsal and it will go over just fine. Utica and Loni do not have that rapport. The line between roasting and being mean isn’t just “a roast has to be funny” — a roast also has to come from a place of respect. Loni doesn’t know if that comment is coming from a place of respect and fulfillment of the challenge, or if it’s coming from a place of fat-shaming from a skinny queen who doesn’t like big girls.
The format is forever changed now.
Once Loni clapped back at Utica, the roast as we previously knew it was dead and gone. For the most part, the roastees don’t engage with the jokes. They laugh, because they signed up to be insulted, so you don’t respond when the insult digs a little deep. Loni was still smarting over the rehearsal, and she had every right to feel that way. If Loni and Utica hadn’t gone into the roast with previously built up tension, she wouldn’t have commented on Utica insulting her career. Instead, we have Loni sitting there watching someone who just aggressively called her fat the day before now insulting her career. She’s a former electrical engineer who quit her job for a successful career in comedy, and someone who is mean and terrible at comedy wants to dig at a thing she’s actually good at? It would be like Tina Burner dragging Violet Chachki for her fashion or Symone dragging Monet Xchange for her singing voice. So Loni let her have it, and that opened the door for everybody to comment while they were getting dragged. Loni clapping back was funnier than the actual roast, so everyone wanted a chance to turn a dig against them into a funnier moment. That’s what the roast will look like going forward, which wouldn’t be a roast anymore.
Most people are not funny.
Ergo, most drag queens are not funny. You’re asking them to do a thing that experts in comedy shy away from because it’s the hardest thing in comedy to do successfully. Even the funniest queens at the roast are mediocre, and they’re usually only great in relation to how terribly everyone else is doing.
So retire the roast. The surprises at how well someone does (Gottmik) do not outweigh the absolute cringe of watching someone fail horribly (Symone) and it’s a boring challenge that shouldn’t be a factor in making a great drag queen anyway. Replace the roast with a Design Your Own Show challenge the way they do the Thailand finale. Let the girls put on a drag show from top to bottom any way they want, so we the viewers can understand what to expect when we go see them after the season is over. And if one of the queens decides that roasting is part of their show, let her take that risk solo, and I’ll be sure to buy a ticket to see someone else.
Hot Takes: Allen vs. Farrow
I always believed Dylan. Now I don’t understand how anyone could believe Woody.
Every HBO Documentary is good, so this is full of spoilers and it’s more “thoughts on the series” than it is bulletpoints about the quality of the production. So you can skip this Hot Takes entry if you don’t want spoilers.
1. I always believed Dylan from the first time I became aware of the story. However, I never actually went looking for much detail about what happened and I figured it was a He Said / She Said situation where his supporters simply believed him instead of her. I had NO IDEA there was SO MUCH corroboration of various parts of her story from so many people. I refuse to believe that all of the people who support Woody Allen actually know the details. I believe the misogynists and the basement babies and the members of the Woody Cult have the ability to read it all and still side with him, but I can’t wrap my head around so many people in the industry supporting him and knowing the details of what Dylan had to say and the statements by people around her.
2. Dylan isn’t super likeable. It is what it is. It’s much easier to disbelieve a victim you don’t like, and I think part of her uphill battle rests on that. We see it all the time. Likeable victims, The Perfect Victim — they’re more likely to see justice served.
3. Why does Mia have so many kids? And why are they all brown? Including the kids who have passed away, Mia has 14 children. The only white ones are the ones she gave birth to and Dylan. All of the children Mia Farrow adopted were brown, until Woody wanted a white girl baby.
4. Hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes flags are RED right in your face right in the present. When Woody told Mia he didn’t want any children and didn’t want to be a father to the gang of kids she already had, that should’ve told her he wasn’t fatherhood material. Since he didn’t want to have kids, she asked him if he’d be open to adopting a child, and he still said no. And then. He said he might be okay with it if she adopted a little blonde girl. Is that not a red flag???? The man you’re with, who has shown zero interest in any of your children and doesn’t want any children at all, says he’s fine if you adopt a child as long as it’s a blonde girl. WHAT!
5. If ten children say “Mia was a great mom” and two say “Mia beat us” which kids do you believe? What if one of those two kids was married to a child molester and the other was being financially supported by the child molester? I don’t know why people give Moses or Soon-Yi any airtime. They are clearly lying for Woody. Mia’s ten other children are not lying for her.
6. Woody Allen has 40 years of films that say “This old Manhattan twerp has a barely legal girlfriend” because he is an old Manhattan twerp who wanted a barely legal girlfriend. That movie where Mariel Hemmingway is 17? How do people watch that? And hold it up as a classic piece of great cinema?
7. I wholly support the prosecutor who declined to take the case to trial. I had this vague notion that he didn’t push forward because Woody was rich and powerful, but the fact that he didn’t want to put Dylan through a trial was the correct decision at the time. Sometimes all of the options suck, and in his case, he had no good ones. He could retraumatize her — likely to no effect — or he could let it go.
8. I’m glad people who worked with Woody are starting to come around and support Dylan. Unfortunately there aren’t enough of them, but some is better than none, and ten years ago it was none. Dylan’s determination to speak out is part of the reason there are more supporters now. She has contributed to a climate where we listen to women more and a climate where women are more likely to speak out against powerful men. Props to Dylan Farrow.
Hot Takes: Princess Meghan & Her Husband with Oprah
Meghan never said “they were racist” but we got it anyway.
1. Princess Meghan looks so cute pregnant — I loved her outfit.
2. Okay. I was tweeting all last night, so these are just more fleshed out observations to my gut reactions but basically it all boils down to the fact that Meghan Markle is a woman of color who was treated differently by the institution that is the monarchy (The Firm) because they’re not ready for brown folks in their dusty palaces. There are welcoming individuals in the family, but even they shouldn’t be given a pass because if you are warming to Meghan one-on-one but still allowing the antiquated “rules” of the British Family dictate your lack of response in defending her against the press, you are still at fault for what happened to her — I’m looking at you, Elizabeth.
3. The number of times Meghan (genuinely!) expressed her affection for Queen Elizabeth while she ain’t have say boo to say about anybody else? Yeah. She hates them. Phillip, Charles, William, Kate. She hates them all. But Meghan is way better than I am. The the British press said she made Kate cry, and nobody inside The Firm (what they call the institution of the monarchy) corrected them. In actuality, Meghan cried because of something Kate said leading up to the wedding. Everybody knew what happened, but nobody — including Kate — corrected the narrative for the press. Meghan wouldn’t say what the comment was to Oprah because she said Kate apologized, took accountability, and is a good person so this would only serve to damage her for no reason. I repeat: Meghan is better than me! I don’t care if you apologized later. If you let an entire country drag me for something you did, we are not on good terms, ever. I don’t care if The Firm told you not to say anything. I’m not protecting you to Oprah.
4. Meghan spent a lot of time not saying the thing we wanted her to say, that The Royal Family and/or The Firm treated her differently because she’s Black, but it all came out eventually anyway. This was the moment Black Twitter was ready to dump the rest of the tea in the harbor: the security detail. The royals get security detail, which makes sense. They’re vulnerable to wackos who want to kill them or criminals who want to kidnap them for ransom. Harry especially is vulnerable because he brought a Black woman to Buckingham, so his death threats were laced with racism toward his wife. While Meghan was pregnant with Archie, they told her Archie wouldn’t have security detail. This was essentially the conversation.
The Firm: Archie won’t have the title of a prince.
Meghan: Why not? Kate’s babies do.
The Firm: He just won’t.
Meghan: Well, I don’t really care anyway. That’s fine.
The Firm: And he won’t have security.
Meghan: What? Why!
The Firm: Because he’s not a prince, so he won’t need it.
Meghan: But he’s a member of the royal family and we are particular targets.
The Firm: Yeah but only princes and princesses get security, and since he won’t be a prince, he won’t really need that.
Meghan: Okay then make him a prince! Do the thing that gets us the security detail!
For some unnamed reason ::cough BLACK cough:: The Firm decided that Archie would not be a prince which not only canceled the security but also removed the need for other things Diana and Kate had done. When Meghan and Harry had Archie and didn’t do the whole “leaving the hospital photoshoot” the British press dragged her for refusing to do it, but she wasn’t even asked, because Archie wasn’t a prince. That photo-op is only for princes and princesses, but the Firm decided Archie isn’t a prince, so she wasn’t asked to do it.
Little things like that kept adding up. The Firm kept setting her up to be lambasted by the press but then refused to issue the most basic statements to defend her against criticism when The Firm created the situation for which she would be criticized!
5. The Firm is a jealous institution that doesn’t have the best grasp on its function in the modern age. The Royal Family only exists at the pleasure of the public. If public opinion in the UK ever dropped to such a level where there was widespread and vociferous animosity toward the monarchy, they would cease to exist. So, it would behoove them to try and be as popular as possible. The Royal Family needs to make people like them and its basically every member’s job to engender goodwill. They’re bad at it because of their archaic upbringing so far removed from the public. They can’t relate to regular people because of all the royal protocols that The Firm won’t revise because they’re more concerned with tradition than changing with the times to keep a positive relationship with the public.
Enter Diana. She was so naturally good at it and the Royal Family couldn’t take it. Charles was extremely jealous of the way the people responded to Diana and he tried to downplay her natural talents at relating to people. She would have wildly successful tours of the commonwealth and he would nitpick some inconsequential event that no one else cared about. Before Diana came along, Charles was seen as the most normal of the Royals and relatively well-liked, when compared to the rest of the family. Diana showed them what a popular Royal should be and they neither had the ability to thank her for making them popular nor the humility to follow her lead and seek her advice to make themselves more popular.
Enter Meghan. Same. Thing. Another “normal” person who was naturally warm and empathetic, who was not raised within the strict confines of an outdated institution, but she was also a marker of modernity: a divorcee with a career who wasn’t white. She was all over the press, so they kept her in the house for months at a time. They were warm toward her initially, and then she went to Australia on a tour and they saw how the public responded to her. Jealousy crept in and they couldn’t bear to be upstaged by a commoner who wasn’t an inbred white person.
6. The Diana parallels kept coming, but definitely when Meghan discussed contemplating suicide and how she felt like she couldn’t go to Harry because he had enough to deal with. She tried to seek help through the proper channels and she was denied. She felt like she should be a help to her husband, not a hindrance, and she felt embarrassed that she wasn’t strong enough to adjust to this new life or take the criticism from the press. It finally came to a head when she was to accompany Harry to an event and he said she wasn’t well enough to go. Meghan however felt she wasn’t well enough to be left alone, so they went, both of them holding on by a thread, white-knuckling it through the event with fake smiles plastered on their faces.
I’ve read, watched, and listened to so much about Diana (the single best series is probably by You’re Wrong About) and Meghan’s mental health struggles mirror Diana’s so closely. She too sought help and didn’t receive it. She was ashamed and no one was there for her.
The difference is Harry. Charles is a terrible person. Harry is the husband Diana hoped he would grow up to be. Diana went through it alone while her husband was having an affair with the true love of his life. Meghan went through it with Harry, who eventually gave it all up for her.
7. Harry said Charles stopped taking his phone calls. And that’s for the best because, I repeat, Charles is a terrible person. When Diana died, Charles forced Harry and William to walk in the funeral procession with him because Charles was afraid the public would boo him if he went alone. He used his children as human shields to protect him from a public who hated him. He’s never been a father to those boys and Harry will do better thousands of miles away from him. Harry also repeatedly stressed his admiration and affection for Queen Elizabeth — not a single word of praise for anyone else in the family. Oprah did her best to find out what was said and by whom on the topic of Archie’s skin color and how brown it would be, and Harry refused. This morning, Oprah said Harry didn’t tell her who it was, but he stressed that it was not Queen Elizabeth or her husband Phillip. So you know it was Charles, Kate, and/or William.
8. A lot can be said for marrying into a family and knowing what you should expect, but I believe Meghan when she said it wasn’t something she gave too much thought to, because she grew up in Los Angeles around celebrities. A lot of Americans figure the Royal Family is famous the way celebrities are famous, and it’s no big deal. Plus, celebrities don’t usually google each other when they’re dating, because they’re celebrities, and they know how gossip and tabloids are built on half-truths and outright lies. Harry was just another celebrity to her. Meghan would learn about and get to know Harry through Harry, not through what the public says about Harry, because that’s how she would want someone to find out about her.
Not until she was unexpectedly meeting Queen Elizabeth did she realize how wrong she was. Harry asked her in the car if she knew how to curtsy and she thought he was joking. Surely curtsies were for public appearances, and behind the scenes she was just Grandma Lizzy. No, she’s always The Queen. The Royal Family isn’t just a family that happens to be famous. They’re a thing wholly unto themselves that she really had no frame of reference for.
9. Meghan realized the bad press (with no correction from The Firm or the Family) would be her life from now on. The loneliness of being shut up in the house all the time because The Firm didn’t want her saturated in the press would be her life. The brand new treatment of her babies in contrast to Kate’s would be her life. So they asked to step down. There are Senior members of the Royal Family who work full time and Junior members who work part time. They still draw a salary and live on Royal properties, but they have a more private life and are only called upon when needed. As Meghan put it, “We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel” because the positions were already there and other people were living those lives, but she was seen as wanting new and special treatment. They weren’t allowed to be Junior so they left. What other option did they have? She fell in love with a celebrity, who happened to be an entirely different type of famous person in a family she would never fit into living in a country that hated her with a child who wasn’t even getting security. So they left.
10. Harry really loves her and they look happy and comfortable together. Good for them. Best wishes to them and their new baby girl on the way.
11. We stan Queen Doria Ragland in this household and I’m mad she wasn’t invited to at least say hey or something.
Let’s retire the roast for RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Charge the NRA with murder in Colorado.
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