The Review’s Review: Real Housewives Edition


The Review’s Review

Season 5, episode 3 of Selling Sunset.

One of my favorite lines of reality TV dialogue belongs to the Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kenya Moore, who once told an adversary, “I’m Gone with the Wind fabulous,” snapped her fingers, twirled the tail of her peach-colored chiffon dress centrifugally like a tipsy Wonder Woman impersonator, and eventually spun out of the scene on a dime. Presumably, this was a nod to Scarlett O’Hara, the quintessential Southern belle, a prototypical Georgia peach. Ever since the episode aired in 2012, the line has been memed to death by pop culture nerds and reality TV obsessives, probably with much the same fervor that movie buffs have parroted Rhett Butler’s famous closing quip to O’Hara from the 1939 film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel. (When O’Hara asks Butler what she’ll do with her life if he walks out on her, he replies, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”) I love how ridiculous the reference is, especially in the context of a petty poolside skirmish. I dig the layers of racial commentary in the comparison, whether intended or not. What does “Gone with the Wind fabulous” actually mean, on a scale of style? Does it speak to a propensity for overwrought fashion, melodramatic flair, Southern grandeur? A tendency to leave devastation in one’s wake? If that’s the case, then maybe it’s Butler, not O’Hara, to whom Moore alludes when she sashays away from her rival. Viewers of the scene are left with the image of the sway of silky fabric, and her winsome Miss USA wave—the gesture reminiscent of a done-in O’Hara, who clutches a large plantation doorframe as her man storms out.

—Niela Orr, contributing editor

Faced with the stress of releasing and promoting a book this fall, I needed a stupid new distraction for my downtime. This is how I began watching the incredible, probably unethical Bravo reality show Vanderpump Rules, the spin-off Real Housewives series best known for its low-rent setting and the gleeful promiscuity of its cast. Other writers have already rhapsodized about the timelessness of its emotional arcs, which blend the savagery of I, Claudius with the camp of, well, the Housewives franchise, but what kept me watching solidly for the last month and a half is its startling darkness: rarely has a reality show starred quite so many genuinely cracked and frightening people, with Jax Taylor, a self-described “number-one guy,” being the most cracked and frightening of all. Taylor, a steroidally buff model-turned-bartender with the cold gaze of a shark, may be the most obvious sociopath in reality TV history; a philanderer and gaslighter par excellence, he is even better at lying than he is at finding reasons to remove his shirt. (If a fan video of him overlaid with Patrick Bateman’s opening monologue from American Psycho does not currently exist, this is a grievous oversight.) It shouldn’t feel like sinking into a warm bath to watch the televisual equivalent of bear-baiting, but then maybe I’m a little bit of a dead-eyed sociopath, too. Additionally, Vanderpump Rules features some of the best dialogue ever committed to the screen. Even Shakespeare did not think to have Macbeth exclaim that seeing Banquo seated at the table was “like seeing a ghost, but like, a bitch ghost—like a ghost that’s a bitch”—but then again, Shakespeare never worked a shift at SUR

—Philippa Snow, author of “Dawn Kasper’s Death Scenes

My favorite scene in reality TV is from season five of the real-estate melodrama Selling Sunset, when Chrishell bets her boss and then boyfriend, Jason, that she can fit through the doggy door in a house they are trying to sell. If she can slip through—which she does—she gets to set the price of the house: $10.495 million.

—Fiona Alison Duncan, author of Exquisite Mariposa

I loathe reality TV, but I am sometimes nostalgic for the period when the genre hadn’t yet become itself—when people were still confused about how to perform ordinariness, and about how to portray themselves attempting to appear ordinary. Obviously, they mostly failed, and it was often that failure that was the point. I’m unlikely to ever watch The Real World, The Simple Life, Laguna Beach, or America’s Next Top Model again, but in a twisted way I’m happy I did, if only because it brought me one step closer to understanding Tyra.  

—Maya Binyam, contributing editor and author of “Do You Belong to Anybody?”