Ownership Culture


Our Daily Correspondent

The Real Housewives, owning it—or at least dwelling in it.

Those of you who were spared the three chapters of the saga that was The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills “Reunion” missed something. Well, you missed a lot of things—mainly people accusing Lisa Vanderpump of various machinations involving the rumors of Yolanda Foster having Munchausen syndrome. The last installment centered primarily on whether or not Lisa had said, on the way out of somewhere, “Why don’t you involve Kyle?” and whether this constituted throwing Kyle under the bus, and how long Kyle had known this information, and what it meant if it was true, and if Kyle is Lisa Vanderpump’s toady, and whether or not Lisa Vanderpump has a hard time apologizing, generally. It would be a good exercise in language proficiency to have to translate this entire situation to the proverbial extraterrestrial. Even by the standards of the Real Housewives franchise it was petty to the point of inscrutability—idiotic and exhausting. It combined the moral rectitude of the Weimar Republic with the elegant good taste of a Trump building. 

There’s one thing the housewives are very given to saying: “Own it!” And variations thereon: “Own your shit” is popular, also, “Own it and move on,” and, of course, “I own that.” In a world of naked acquisition, “owning” something is tantamount to social absolution. There is nothing so powerful as owning—owning your shit, owning your truth, owning your power. The show didn’t even need the montage of the women riding through a gilded Dubai mall in a bejeweled golf cart. Its fixation on ownership is no more grotesquely obvious than any other aspect of the show, which is not even funny anymore, unless you think Punch and Judy shows are hilarious. But it’s sort of interesting. I asked an economist friend about this, and she agreed that it was something. She obviously doesn’t watch the show.

Lisa Rinna, a daytime TV fixture with an unwavering belief in fame, is particularly fond of “owning” things. “OWN IT!” she screeches. And it’s true, anything but full ownership would not have the same landing power. “Lease it!” “Rent it!” “Borrow it!” “Let producers buy it for you on camera and then return it!” just don’t sound as rich. Even if it would be more appropriate to the situation in just about every sense. 

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.