I was reading a Literary Hub article the other day about the most recent The Bachelor controversy and how we might never have a truly ethical reality-television program. In the closing paragraphs, it mentions Vanderpump Rules, a dog-rescue charity but for Labradoodles who moved to L.A. to become famous, as the best example of an ethical reality show currently on television. In dubious suspicion, I cocked one eyebrow so high up that it leapt off of my forehead, landed on my desk, and flapped around writhing for about five minutes like a caterpillar that just got dosed with LSD.
But then, in this episode, we get a really good lesson on the #MeToo and #TimesUp of it all. It all starts when Jeremy, Ariana’s brother and a busboy-type at SUR, asks Billie out on a date. Yes, they’re co-workers, but he seems appropriate enough when he asks her out at work and just kind of says, “Hey, want to get a drink some time?” For a place like SUR, where they’re all sharing the same strain of HPV, this is practically chaste.
The trouble comes when Billie tells Stassi and Kristen about the date and Kristen says, “Oh, I hope you’re going someplace public,” and Stassi says, “Oh, he’s creepy.” Now, in their defense, Jeremy does look like a manager at Payless Shoes who spends a little too much time staring at the customers’ feet. But they actually have evidence to base this on, too. Stassi says that at Katie and Tom’s wedding reception, Jeremy was aggressively hitting on her and several other women in a way that made them uncomfortable. To underscore her point, we see footage of him giving her a way-too-intimate hug and saying, “I’m done hitting on you. We’re good.”
A lot of drunk guys do this. We probably all know a dude (even gay ones) who gets liquored up and then starts aggressively trying to put his tongue into every available human within a ten-foot radius. As Stassi points out, this is not acceptable behavior. Is it acceptable to hit on people at a wedding reception? Of course. Is it alright to keep doing it when it’s clearly making guests fear for their own safety, run into their rooms, and eat all of the Toblerone from the mini bar? No. Also, we all know that guy is a guy who tends to behave the same way every time he gets drunk, whether it’s at a bar, a wedding, or tea at Buckingham Palace if he can suck down enough mimosas to get himself a buzz. Someone needs to put a stop to that dude.
So, Stassi and Kristen try to warn Billie that Jeremy might be too aggressive. I think that is commendable behavior. The problem comes when Billie tells Lala and Scheana about what Stassi and Kirsten said and it gets back to Ariana. No one wants to hear that their brother is a creep, and considering how well she knows him, she probably doesn’t think that he is a creep.
When Lala brings the topic up at “girls’ night,” I think it’s a case of everyone handling the situation wrong. Katie, who wasn’t involved in this discussion in the first place, describes Jeremy’s behavior as “predatory.” Was he being like Harvey Weinstein? No, but that doesn’t mean his behavior was at all appropriate. Still, it might be a bit of a harsh word that’s meant to win Ariana to their side. Ariana, of course, doesn’t want to hear anything bad about her brother, especially when Katie says that Ariana should “maybe be an advocate for those who can’t be an advocate for themselves.”
While Katie might have been wrong about her tone, she is right about her message. If multiple women at the reception said that Jeremy was getting out of line, Ariana needs to sit him down and say, “Hey, this is what they’re saying. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I know you meant nothing bad by it, but this is not an acceptable way to behave.” Of course “that guy” will keep doing what he has always done because he doesn’t think it’s a problem. Ariana has had her own bad experiences with shitty boyfriends in the past, so maybe sharing some of those with her brother would correct his behavior in a way that would be beneficial to everyone.
What is not beneficial to everyone, though, is what happens next. Ariana is upset about the way the girls were talking about her brother and complains to Tom Sandoval. Then Sandoval goes over to Katie and Tom Schwartz’s house to tell Stassi and Kristen to stop talking shit about Jeremy. He alludes to Jeremy “having been through a lot,” but we don’t know what that exactly means, so it will remain mysterious. And when the girls challenge Tom about Jeremy’s behavior, he won’t even listen to them. “This is bullshit and it’s not true, so you better watch yourself,” Tom says to them.
This is exactly why more women don’t come forward when men treat them badly: Not only do other women not believe their allegations, but men threaten them when they decide to call out bad behavior. I’m not saying that Sandoval is a bad guy who hates women, but we are all programmed by society, the media, our parents, locker-room culture, and the patriarchy. Some of us don’t even realize when we’re propping up terrible behavior when we’re protecting someone we care about. Sandoval needs to listen to what the women have to say rather than just reflectively defending another man. It’s up to all of us to stay vigilant. It’s up to all of us to examine our motives and behavior. It’s up to all of us to smash the patriarchy so that we can all feel safe to get as drunk as we want at a wedding reception without the fear of someone pulling an unwanted advance. In this particular debate, there are good people on both sides, but there is obviously some bad behavior that needs to be called out.
I will say this for Jeremy, though: He did make me tear up during this episode, which was as surprising and suspect as Literary Hub putting the words “ethical” and Vanderpump Rules next to each other in an article. When Jeremy and Billie go out on their date, Billie says that, being trans, she’s always a little bit worried about meeting new people and being accepted for who she is. Jeremy’s response is so perfect, it’s like something out of a Head & Shoulders commercial that airs during Pride month. “You’re a woman now and you deserve to be acknowledged as a woman and everyone else can fuck off,” he said, giving her a crooked-tooth grin that melted my heart into a little pool of brown butter and made her giggle a cute kind of giggle that I hope every girl gets to experience on a first date.
There is some other bullshit in this episode — James’s uneventful meeting with his father (who appears to be a background artist from the movie Snatch), Ariana getting laser hair removal (as part of her quest to love her vagina), and Brittany telling her dad that Jax cheated (while just about everyone on the cast of the show tries to set her up with another dude so that she’ll leave Jax for good) — but most of it is inconsequential. I do need to pause on two things, though.
One is Jax’s tiny drum kit, which makes him look like a grown adult sitting at the desk of a kindergartener. The drum kit itself isn’t that odd, but what is really odd is that rack for his baseball caps in the living room. Who has that many baseball caps and why do they need to be on display where all the company can see them? Can’t he put them away somewhere in the closet or something? We all know Jax is shit at keeping secrets, but I’d rather not stare at his sweaty lids when I go over to marathon the new Queer Eye with Brittany.
The other thing is Scheana’s delusions about her relationship with Rob. Yes, I know, we’ve been over it a million times before, and she goes over it again with Jax at his Hooters birthday party, which is so surprising they should make a Geico commercial about it. When Scheana is trying to get Brittany to bone the new bartender Adam, she says, “I know what it’s like to lie to yourself, to wake up every day and tell yourself that you’re happy.” Um, yeah, Scheana, because you’re doing it now! Did she not learn anything at all from the debacle of marrying that rotted sea prawn Shay?
That just leaves us with Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz, standing with his cold toes in the middle of the construction site that is going to be Tom Tom. Schwartz is always wearing sandals because he knows putting his little piggies in danger turns on Sandoval on. He takes one good look at those furry digits and Sandoval presses his body up against Schwartz’s. He pushes him up against the wall and Sandoval places one hand over Schwartz’s shoulder and leans into him, like they’re on the cover of a romance novel about construction workers called Bone Improvement. As they continue to swirl their tongues around each other in an intricate dance of ecstasy, Sandoval grabs Schwartz’s belt and pulls their hardened groins together. “Say it,” Sandoval says, almost growling, as he nuzzles into Schwartz’s neck and bites on his earlobe. “Say the thing that turns me on the most.”
Schwartz lifts his head as if his passion is the entire globe pushing down on him like Atlas. Schwartz parts his lips to moan and then says those magic words in one giant exhale: “I consent.”