The Real Housewives of Orange County
There is a concept that I learned from the guidos on Jersey Shore, the most important sociological experiment of our time, called “both wrong,” and it is something that I talk about often in these pages. The concept, as the guidos outline it, is that in some — nay, many — fights, both parties are wrong. That means that both sides of the argument are canceled out and that the aggrieved parties must give up their positions and move on.
We see two great examples of “both wrong” in this episode of The Real Cake Sniffers of Butthole Gulch. However, these women are a much different breed from the guidos, so the rules of “both wrong” do not apply. Instead, the argument must be carried on indefinitely, even if both sides apologize. Instead of “both wrong” being an ending, like it is in a guidos’ fight, it is sort of like a snake eating its own tail. No, it’s more like an eddy that turns into a tornado that turns into a whirlpool that turns into a black hole that eats us all and destroys the space-time continuum. That is not just “both wrong”; it is all wrong.
The first example of both wrong happens at the birthday party for Queen Victoria Denise Gunvalson Jr. the Second, first of her name, queen of the Andals and the first men. Both Tamra and Shannon are very excited for this party, which has a “tea party” theme but really has nothing to do with a tea party. Vicki is dressed up as Queen Victoria but, as Braunwyn points out, she is not really dressed up like an austere, stern Victorian. She is dressed up like either Marie Antoinette, complete with a slice of cake in her wig, or Queen Elizabeth, with white makeup and tiny little lips. Then Tamra is dressed up like a southern belle, even though the South is known more for its sweet tea than tea parties. Shannon is dressed like a broad from Orange County who really loves costumes even when they don’t make sense. Gina is dressed as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland’s tea party, but she is the only one actually dressed for a tea party and the rest of them are dressed for grown-up princess cosplay.
No one bothered to call either Emily or Braunwyn to tell them about the costume policy so, unlike the hellacious ’80s Bunco party that Tamra references, not everyone is dressed appropriately. Emily and Braunwyn show up in big hats and floral dresses, in accordance to what one would actually wear to a tea party, not whatever insanity it is that Vicki and Tamra have cooked up for this absurd occasion. Costumes are always a danger for these women. Just like at the Bunco party, when they start fighting they look even more ridiculous because they’re getting in red-faced arguments while wearing ornate finery and polyester wigs.
The first fight is between Gina and Braunwyn. Gina is having some trouble with her daughter Sienna, whose motor skills are a little bit undeveloped. When she gets a call from the therapist at the party, she sits down and opens up about her daughter and the struggles that she is going through as a single mother (who is still sleeping with her soon-to-be ex-husband, but that is not relevant to this fight). Braunwyn tells her, “I have kids who are the full range from great to messed up and as long as you love them and watch out for them, they’ll be fine. Are you doing public school?”
That last question is what sets Gina off. She says that she doesn’t think that Braunwyn is the funny kind of snob. They start volleying back and forth about whether or not Braunwyn is being snobby and if her kids go to public school even if it’s a charter school they had to “audition” for. Finally Gina yells at her, “It’s not about you, Braunwyn,” and Gina has never regretted wearing a purple wig in front of a camera more.
Gina, in this scenario, is wrong. Braunwyn was trying to say that it is good if Gina’s kids go to public school because her kids in public school were helped a lot more than those in private school. Braunwyn was trying to offer her support and advice but Gina, who is already on edge, only heard, “You’re a bad mother and also too poor to afford private school.” That is not Braunwyn’s fault. Gina is wrong.
But Braunwyn is also wrong in that she’s always kind of wrong, in the way of someone who drones on about how hard it is to cook for a household that has vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free people, and those allergic to nuts. She’s always wrong in that she says she’s allergic to both Champagne and wine and asks for tea, but then says, “Are there any milk alternatives?” her voice going up at the end like a bottle rocket and exploding in sparks of entitlement. She’s always wrong like a person who says to Gina about getting back with her ex, “Good for you for making bad choices, because it makes me feel less alone.” What are Braunwyn’s bad choices? We’ve never seen her be anything less than upstanding, even when she’s making out with Tamra in a San Diego family restaurant.
As Emily tells us in a confessional, Gina has been annoyed with Braunwyn for a long time for being an obnoxious snob and she blew up at her. That was wrong. However, Braunwyn being a snob is also wrong. They are, in this instance, both wrong (even though Braunwyn was trying to do right). They should just end it there, but this is a boil that will go on festering.
The real difference between the two is that Gina is a good Housewife and Braunwyn is just mediocre. Gina not only erupts when she gets frustrated, she also punctuates it with an arch, “Happy Birthday, Queen Victoria.” When Gina is challenged, she corrects it by getting mad. When Braunwyn is challenged, she shuts down. She cries, dabs her eyes with a napkin corner, and then gets up to go cry in front of the bathroom. That is natural behavior, not Housewives behavior.
Then we get to the fight between Vicki and Kelly, who isn’t even in attendance. Tamra called Kelly while they were all getting ready and told her that she should come to the party. Vicki had invited her, since the two made up at the Miraval vacation a few weeks earlier. Kelly told Tamra that she was driving to L.A. and that she didn’t want to celebrate Vicki. “The only time I want to celebrate her is at her funeral,” Kelly says. It’s a joke. Not a very good one, but Kelly was obviously joking, though her distaste for Vicki still stands.
Though Tamra tells Shannon about this during the party, she keeps her mouth shut about it to Vicki. As the party ends, they smoosh birthday cake in each other’s faces and leave the table at their “classy” tea party looking like a bunch of otters came over for a game of croquet. Vicki, Tamra, and Shannon all get in the car. Tamra lets Kelly’s comment slip and Vicki starts to cry, her tears washing away crumbs of chocolate cake and liqueur-flavored buttercream.
As Vicki is upset about Kelly’s comments, Shannon reminds Vicki of all the awful things that Vicki has said about Kelly. At this point, they are both wrong. Kelly, though joking, shouldn’t have made light of Vicki’s death. Vicki shouldn’t have spread all of those awful rumors about Kelly. At this point they could have canceled each other out. But Vicki makes the blunder she so often does. “But I didn’t say about when she threw her mother down the stairs,” she says, both drawing attention to her restraint and destroying it at the same time. That’s when Vicki goes into being in the wrong all on her own. It’s retaliation for its own sake, once again smearing Kelly’s reputation when Kelly just made a dumb joke. The only thing worse than Vicki having this gruesome, tear-filled moment in costume is that she had to do it with mess all over her face too.