It’s a little odd that Southern Charm, a show as retrograde and nostalgic for the past as a fleet of MAGA hats, is the first reality show of the post-#MeToo moment. This first part of the reunion started out with Andy Cohen reading a statement from cast member Thomas Ravenel’s lawyer. Ravenel is currently under investigation for several allegations of sexual assault.
The statement reads, “Along with Bravo our client made the mutual decision not to attend today’s reunion taping as there is a pending investigation. Our client is fully cooperating with authorities with that investigation. He expects to be fully exonerated once that investigation is concluded. He sends his regards to his fans and his castmates.”
It’s amazing what a year can do, because it was just last season that Shep dragged Chelsea out behind a bar and tried to force her to kiss him after she told him he wasn’t interested. He was rewarded with his own show where he takes women out on dates around the country. Now, here we are, banning cast members from filming the reunion because of inappropriate behavior that happened off camera. Sometimes it takes a while for the right thing to happen, but I’m glad it finally did.
What I was missing from this moment was really Andy Cohen saying something along the lines of, “If the investigation does find that Thomas committed these acts, of course he won’t be back on our show,” which I think would go without saying but it would be still nice to hear. Instead he did something just as interesting and asked the people on the couches what they thought of Thomas not being there that evening. Cameran thinks it is the right decision, but she was the one who told Shep he was out of line last year. Kathryn says that, for the sake of her kids, she doesn’t want to comment until the investigation is complete.
Shep and Naomie, surprisingly, equivocate a bit. Shep says that there is 90 percent of Thomas that he loves but 10 percent that he hates, maybe acknowledging that he knows that Thomas can be predatory and abusive at times. Naomie acknowledges that he’s “volatile” but adds that he’s always been nice to her. It’s weird that one of the women who was really all about girl power this season wouldn’t say more about how we should believe the women.
To his credit, Andy also brings up Shep and Chelsea’s run-in last season when asking the guys if the #MeToo movement has changed the way they act. Shep says that he did take stock of everything he’s done over the last 20 years and now he really is thinking about how he should treat women. Hey, maybe this whole thing is working if we can get someone like Shep to consider a woman’s feelings and consent before trying to force her into a romantic embrace. We need a lot more than baby steps, but let’s take any progress we can get.
Andy does lean into that girl-power narrative of this season right after that. That’s when we get into a discussion about J.D., who was also not there, and his breakup with Elizabeth, which Naomie was very vocal about. All of the women, including Chelsea and Kathryn, acknowledge that J.D. had a bit of a reputation for philandering (though no one will come out with any specific allegations against him) and say that they had Elizabeth’s back on-camera when she was too scared to be there. They didn’t want J.D. getting the last word.
But there is still some evidence that the men are winning. Elizabeth is no longer talking to Naomie because she feels that she talked about her relationship against her will on-camera. Naomie says that she and Liz went over everything before she said it at that barbecue, but for whatever reason Liz now has J.D.’s back and has stopped talking to Naomie.
Or look at Craig, who literally says that all of the women on the show dated good guys and then they (meaning the women) turned into assholes. That’s what he believes happens. He sounds like someone posting on an incel board on Reddit. He says that he treated his ex Naomie “like a gem” and she treated him like trash. Then everyone reminds him that last season he said, “You can speak now, child,” to her. He says he didn’t. The editors, luckily, roll the tape for us proving him wrong. He lets out an apology that sounds like the air being expelled from a whoopee cushion sewed into one of his stupid pillows.
Usually I find Craig to be a bit of a loveable schmo, but he entirely lost it here for me. The anger he has over the fact that Naomie had the audacity to dump him after he lied to her and treated her like crap for years is astounding. He keeps saying that he is the best thing to ever happen to her, but did he really take any accountability for his own actions? Everyone on those couches knows that he’s a liar at least, which makes his assertion that he is a “good liar” completely laughable. If he were such a good liar, wouldn’t none of them be able to tell that he was fibbing about matters large and small?
But at the end of this hour we have some hope. Kathyrn talks about being able to finally find her voice and getting heard. She talks about her relief that people finally see that she was the one who was right all along in her fight with Thomas. She shows us how the “good old boys network” works, by mistreating women with their actions and then labeling them as “crazy” so that their allegations and complaints are dismissed. We all know that Kathryn wasn’t insane, she was just being manipulated by someone twice her age who had his own survival in mind.
The sweetest moment, of course, was when Cameran finally realized how maligned Kathryn had been for all of those years when the whole cast turned on her. We get a little montage of Cameran showing that she doesn’t support Kathryn, and then her apologizing for allowing herself to be manipulated by the men of the group into not believing her. Cameran says she sees Kathryn as a victim and now that she’s a mother has much more empathy for her children being taken away from her, and the awful things that Ashley said attacking her character.
But Andy also says something profound, which is that Kathryn isn’t letting herself be a victim. She’s taking ownership of what she did and casting a light on her mistreatment, but she’s not wallowing in it. After all, she needs to carry on for herself and her children. Because she is a woman in this society, after all. Not only do we expect them to endure all of this torture, both physical and psychological, at the hands of men, we then expect them to pick their heads up and carry on as if it doesn’t hurt them at all. Kathryn is handling herself marvelously because she needs to, because this experience made her stronger. But I pray, I pray to the gods of reality television and everything else we find holy, that no woman will ever have to go through what she did ever again.