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On Tour With the Kid | Brutal Reality


I have a confession to make. Something I’m not proud of, but it is nonetheless true. My name is Chloe, and I watch reality TV. Not just The Block like regular people. I watch several of the Real Housewives franchises. Orange County, Beverly Hills, Atlanta, New York and the spin-off Vanderpump Rules. There was an Aaron Sorkin show called Studio on the Sunset Strip, in which this kind of show was referred to jokingly as “illiterate programming.” As much as I would like to consider myself above it, sometimes I don’t want to read or eat my vegetables! I just want to lose myself in someone else's drama for an hour at a time.

 

I watch these shows like an episode of Days of Our Lives. I invest in the storyline but not the people. I’m certainly not commenting on their Facebook pages or sliding into their DM’s to tell them how much I love/despise them. Despite the ‘reality’ tag, having worked in and around the industry for a long time, I understand that while they are real people, this is by no means reality. They are in set-up situations that would never happen organically, and it is a producer's job to draw out the drama.


It’s not like you are watching a fly-on-the-wall nature documentary where things are naturally occurring around you. It is known as the observer effect. Whereby the very act of being there changes the event itself. Reality TV is this concept taken to a whole other level.


This brings me to the most recent season of Vanderpump Rules. For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s a bunch of 20 and 30-somethings all working in a bar together and following along with the drama that comes with being that age, gorgeous, having too much free time on your hands and lots and lots of alcohol.


A long-time couple on the show, Tom Sandavol and Ariana Madixx have been together for nine years with no kids but a house and a dog. Their friend James was engaged to a young 20-something beauty queen named Raquel, and the engagement broke up. At some point, Tom and Raquel began having an affair that lasted for seven months before the whole thing came out because Tom had, without Raquel's permission, taped her during a very adult Facetime call, and Ariana subsequently found that video on his phone. I feel like I have lost brain cells just explaining this story to you, but now you are all caught up.


So the entire season was a build-up to this being revealed in the final episode and then the confrontation of the betrayal in the three-part reunion special. There had been an entire press campaign in the lead-up. It even had a name, Scandavold. If you have ever been cheated on, you had picked a side. After the cast had a chance to discuss her, Raquel walked on stage, obviously nervous and ready to apologise. The cast let loose with a tirade of insults.


What was never discussed was that the show was verging on being cancelled, and this drama had brought it back from the dead and that everyone (including the network, the producers and certain cast members) was profiting from this scandal because it brought new life to the show and their brand. There is a reason for them to protect the realm at all costs. The illegal nature of her being taped without her permission also never rated a mention.


These things were said to her on national television. “You’re nothing”, “You are rotten like a mouldy piece of fruit,” “Go f*%$ yourself with a cheese grater,” “I wish nothing but the worst things that could ever happen to a person on you,” and “You are ugly.”


This girl ended up spending three months in a mental health facility and is not returning to the show, which also became public fodder. This girl has received death threats and online abuse.


These are real-world consequences for a girl in her 20s who made a mistake. To quote a line from Ted Lasso, “I wish all of us or none of us were judged by our worst day.” There is a difference between punishment and abuse, which has well and truly crossed the line. I am not sure I can consider this guilt-free TV anymore. Let's hope the kid never wants to be famous.

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