Who is the "wokest" of them all?
"Vanderpump Rules is a show for geniuses" is the slogan of podcaster extraordinaire Lara Marie Schoenhals, host of the VPR-themed Sexy Unique Podcast.
She has a point. Vanderpump Rules, the reality spin-off from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, chronicles the life of restaurateur Lisa Vanderpump and her motley crew of employees at SUR, the sexy, unique restaurant. As the show enters its 7th season, it's begun to embrace the "personal is political" mindset and introduce a new set of thornier social justice issues into the mix.
The phenomenon surrounding the show's appeal isn't too hard to understand. VPR chronicles the un-aspirational lives of a group of unsympathetic characters. In past years, the show's central tension was largely economic. You were getting a taste of the luxury and exuberance of Lisa Vanderpump tempered by the relatable lives of her struggling waitstaff. These are people who live in shitty studio apartments, do their own makeup (poorly), and cheat on their fiancées after blacking out in Vegas. While the Real Housewives franchise is a glimpse into the elite lifestyle, Vanderpump Rules is a reflection of the worst parts of ourselves.
But as the once radical sentiment of "the personal is political" has wormed its way into the mainstream, VPR has also become subject to the drama of identity politics. In the past, the show existed in its own kind of insular bubble that hardly ever touched on social justice issues, spare for the annual Pride episode––which was really just an excuse to get drunk and wear colorful socks. Remember when the VPR cast rolled up to Pride decked out in '80s attire, without it ever occurring to them that the '80s were notorious for the gay community dying of AIDS as the government turned a blind eye? But now, as Trump's presidency makes it virtually impossible to exist in an apolitical environment, the show has started to broach more "woke" topics. There was Ariana's discussion of her hatred of her own vagina, the introduction of the show's first trans character, Billie Lee, and the gender politics surrounding DJ James Kennedy's drunken aggression.
Ostensibly a mindless reality show, VPR has grown popular among an unlikely demographic: left-wing twitter. More and more seem to be jumping on the bandwagon and indulging in the show's satisfying drama. Now, people are starting to ask, who's actually the most feminist character on the show? Let's take a look at the various cast members and what strains of feminism they most closely resemble.
Third Wave Feminism: Ariana Madix
Ariana is the show's most visibly "woke" character, or maybe just the most intelligent one in the gang. Madix portrays a more palatable, third wave brand of feminism. In past seasons, she's broached topics previously unturned by reality TV such as her aversion to her own vagina and the toxic relationships that rendered her uncomfortable with oral sex. Her focus this season has been mainly around her discomfort with people pressuring her to get married and have kids. Ariana is sick and tired of everyone asking her about when she's going to start a family, including the probing from her own boyfriend, Tom Sandoval. She's fed up with the heteronormative standards!
But when Tom Sandoval presents a compromise where he can take care of the kids in the future and let Ariana do her own thing, she's smitten again. Tom's progressive vision woo's her.
This season, Ariana and Lala had sex and instead of handling the situation sensitively, Sandoval got drunk and did some locker room talk with the boys about it, effectively outing his own girlfriend. Madix was rightfully pissed at Tom (and his stupid hats). Thankfully, her girl Lala honored girl code and kept her mouth shut until she knew Ariana was comfortable with the news getting out, in one of the few heartwarming moments of female camaraderie on the otherwise catty show.
Ariana wants everyone to know that it's her body, and her choices surrounding it do not concern anyone else. She's the show's most invariably woke character and probably voted for Hillary Clinton.
Sex Positivity: Lala Kent
Lala has been explicit this season about her relationship with Her Man (Randall) and the monetary benefits it's yielded. Ran is a hotshot producer who's behind some of Hollywood's most seminal works, like 2018's masterpiece Gotti, which racked up a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. From flying on the private jet (the "PJ" or "Peej" as she refers to it), to sporting pairs of Gucci slides, to getting a Range Rover the day after she let Ran "hit it on the first date," Lala is unabashed when it comes to talking about using sex as power. She's one of the youngest cast members and has always been candid about her sex appeal, especially compared to the other ladies' prudish attitudes toward their own bodies. Lala may not be woke in the conventional sense, like when she assured Billie Lee: "you're a chick, dude." But she does present one of the more viable, radical forms of sex-positive feminism. Her relations with Ran made her subject to ridicule by the other girls and even the guys, who poked fun at her for sleeping with a "fat man." But, while Lala may be the closest resemblance to a sugar baby archetype, she isn't one. She's happily engaged and she's done an effective job at normalizing using sex as power, teaching the other girls what it looks like to be confident and in control of your own sexuality. When she and her Man broke up (for approximately two seconds), she touted how easy it would be to find someone else to help her get on a peej.
But oh, Lala. She's been through it recently. After her dad passed away, she's been a little more unstable than usual, more emotionally fragile. As a result, she's taken her anger out on anyone who crosses her path. Unfortunately, that means attacking everyone from Billie Lee, who Lala calls a "snake," "trash," and "a lowdown ho" to the humanoid beauty-bot Raquel, who Lala loves to yell at and called a "Twat" and a "dummy" while pointing her acrylic nails dangerously close to Raquel's perfectly symmetrical face. We know Lala's hurting, but she's also consistently torn down the women on the show, which makes it difficult to call her a feminist. However, her inability to let anyone talk shit about her is pretty admirable.
All in all, Lala presents one of the most compelling forms of sex-positive feminism, and we love her for it.
Body Positivity: Katie Maloney-Schwartz
Let's just get one thing straight, Katie Maloney isn't fat. Katie, or as she was affectionately referred to in the early seasons for her penchant for drinking and calling people names (whores, specifically), "Tequila Katie" is all about embracing her body. Tequila Katie is happily married to human puppy dog Tom Schwartz and her central conflict this season arose when she fell victim to one of James Kennedy's drunken insult vollies. He told her to lose some weight, and that her shorts weren't flattering. In previous seasons, he asked her if she was pregnant when she wasn't. Katie faced yet another blow to her self confidence when Kevin Lee, a friend of Lisa's, saw her at an event and asked "What happened? You were much thinner than this. You gained a little bit of weight. You have to work on it. Seriously, I'm telling you as a friend. It's out of control now. I can tell."
At first, everyone sided with Katie because they too had fallen victim to James' slurred attacks. But once she couldn't let go of the insult, confronted Lisa about it, and made sure DJ James Kennedy was excluded from the trip to Mexico, some people (Tom Sandoval) started to turn on her and call her a bully. Katie has shown a malicious side in the past, yelling at her fiancée for having, uh, performance issues, and even getting squeamish when Lala takes off her bathing suit top off on a vacation around her boyfriend (she later called Lala a whore to her face). Is Katie only body positive when it's in her favor?
Is she a feminist for putting her foot down to Lisa and telling her that she refuses to "work in a place where that is tolerated?" Or is Katie a mean girl at heart? It's hard to say at this point in the season.
Intersectionality: Billie Lee
Billie Lee, the show's first trans character whose been both tokenized and sensationalized this season, is a refreshing addition. She's played a hand in educating the cast on buzzwords such as "cis-privilege," which many of them had trouble grappling with. She fights under the broad umbrella of "equality," but also has no hesitation when the time comes to accuse Katie of pulling "the fat card," and throws her support behind James––the show's most outspoken aggressor towards women (this season). Billie Lee, like all the female characters on this show, lives for petty drama. When she wasn't explicitly invited to participate in Girls' Night at SUR, she went on a multi-episode arc about how it justifiably triggered her as a trans woman. Her explosive reaction to this season's conflict surrounding "Girls' Night In" read to some as her blowing the situation out of proportion, especially when she went as far as to like tweets calling the other girls involved transphobic. But others suspected her of milking the fight as a strategic means of getting more air time and staying relevant. That's kind of empowering on its own, right?
Girlboss: Stassi Schroeder
Stassi is a tough case. Though she's reigned supreme as the show's queen bee for several seasons, she's also had her fair share of scandals because of the problematic things she's said on her podcast. However, Stassi is fully thriving this season. She has a new beau, named Beau, she bought a holiday (National Outfit of the Day Day), and she landed a book deal! Always impeccably dressed and armed with a silver tongue, Stassi is what some might call, a Girlboss. The somewhat loathed term is a half-baked form of feminism that usually refers to women climbing the ranks and asserting their dominance in the workforce. It usually neglects more nuanced visions of feminism and appeals to the variety of "yas queen" platitudes. But "Girlboss" really is an apt description for Ms. Schroeder, who stands for certain feminist principles, but doesn't really get the whole schtick. She's quick to cackle behind a screen while pulling up Scheana's bridal two-piece and showing it to Kristina Kelly, or using an elaborate insult to tear someone down (especially if it's her birthday or she's drunk).
Stassi may not necessarily stand for women across the board, but if there's one thing that's certain, it's that Stassi stands for herself. Since exiting her relationship with mansplainer/manbunner Patrick, she's fully learned how to love herself and how to accept the love she deserves. She's what a Girlboss might refer to as "killing it."
Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Kristen Doute
It turns out that Kristen, who is known for getting too drunk, chain-smoking, and her many vendettas isn't thrilled with her deadbeat boyfriend, Carter. Until now, Carter's been kind of an unremarkable dude, with no redeeming or offensive qualities. That is until Stassi spills the beans that Carter doesn't pay rent, yells at her, and basically sits at home playing video games all day. Kristen wants her friends' support during this turbulent period of her relationship, the same that she gave to Stassi when she was in a rut with Patrick, or when Schwartz cheated on Katie. But she's not really getting anything this season except a caricatured portrayal as Crazy Kristen. It feels sort of like punching down to pick on Kristen because she's had it rough. But, she does have her t-shirt line! To play devil's advocate, it could be argued that Kristen, by pulling the financial weight in her relationship is breaking her own glass ceiling (stucco, probably, by the looks of the apartment).
Suffragette: Lisa Vanderpump
Lisa Vanderpump is many things. Restauranteur, dog lover, real housewife, and odd transatlantic accent owner, but is she a feminist? Well, she has made it abundantly clear that SUR will not tolerate sexism, transphobia, or racism. She's been vocal about uplifting the gay community in West Hollywood. But despite Lisa's good intentions, she's more concerned with espousing the politics of mainstream wokeness than actually doing a whole lot. Lisa is of the older generation of feminists who are all about "girl power," without necessarily applying it to her praxis. Sure, she knows how to do a hot pink furry float come pride month. But when it comes to uplifting a woman like Kristen, who probably suffers from alcoholism, Lisa seems to have no interest. She's got a soft spot for James, giving him several chances to redeem himself before finally putting her foot down this season, but effectively banned Kristen from every SUR event and establishment from a fight that happened over 4 years ago. Her inconsistency in maintaining her woke values is most glaring in this case.
So who is the most feminist of them all? Tom Sandoval.
Sara is a music and culture writer who lives in Brooklyn. Her work has previously appeared in PAPER magazine and Stereogum.
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Using a Black dialect isn't a meme—it's cultural appropriation.
As Black Lives Matter protests have rightfully taken the world by storm over the past couple of months, we're long overdue for thorough evaluations of just how often aspects of Black heritage have been co-opted by white audiences.
It should be obvious that much of fashion and music as we know it today was invented by Black people. We (hopefully) all know by now that we can no longer accept Blackface and use of the n-word by non-Black people as the norm—and Internet users have tried "canceling" offenders in the public eye, with varying degrees of success.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the most recent season of Vanderpump Rules was action packed and emotionally charged—to say the least.
It culminated in an explosive two-part reunion show, with confrontations, allegations, name calling, screaming and lots and lots and LOTS of tears.
Now the dust has settled—well, kind of anyway—Popdust sat down for an exclusive interview with Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix to get the inside track on all the drama, including what REALLY went down in Miami; Stassi Schroeder’s sex tape; “delusional” Kristen Doute; and, if they think Tom Schwartz and Katie Maloney will ever actually make it down the aisle.
Popdust: The biggest bombshell of the reunion was the revelation about Stassi’s sex tape. If she didn’t want anyone to know about it, why was she the one to bring it up? And why is she blaming it on Scheana Marie?
Tom: I think Stassi doesn’t like Scheana and will use any excuse to bully her. There is nothing justifiable behind Stassi’s hatred for Scheana. She just thought she was better than everyone else. Whatever kind of tape it is, I don’t know. She accused Scheana of having something to do with it and she didn’t. She likes being pissed at someone. She loves a good apology and she wants her ass kissed.
Ariana: She thought we were talking about the sex tape all season but it was just getting edited out. However, we truly weren’t talking about it. No one cared.
Popdust: Katie stood her ground this season and was adamant about not being friends with Stassi about the way she treated her over going to Miami. However, on the reunion Stassi changed her tune. Do you believe Stassi is truly sorry?
Ariana: I think Stassi lives in a bubble. I don’t think Katie holds any sort of grudge, but I don’t think Stassi lives in the same world as everyone else. She disposed of Katie.
Tom: I’ve known Stassi for a long time. I’ve seen her talk so much shit on people. She likes when people kiss her ass and as soon as they stop doing so, she snaps her fingers and is over it. We didn’t film much this season together because she is so about herself and I personally can’t deal with that. If you give Stassi a foot, she takes a mile.
Ariana: I think she’s justified in not wanting to hang out with him, but she went to such great lengths to not film with him. A lot of it she has built up in her mind. She’s taken it way over the top. I think with time and distance it should become less of a problem, but with her it’s become more in her mind.
Tom: It’s only since she’s been with this boyfriend that she acts this way. Part of the deal when she came back this season was that she needed to film with everyone even though she wasn’t working at SUR anymore. However, she refused to show up to filming multiple times. I had to film with my crazy ex-girlfriend and I obviously wasn’t thrilled about it, but Stassi felt she was above the rules.
Popdust: Jax was adamant all season that something happened between you and “Miami girl”. On the reunion though he completely changed his tune. What are your thoughts on that?
Tom: I know exactly what happened and that’s all that matters.
Ariana: Jax was sitting at a table of people (Kristen and her posse) who would love to hear something negative about Tom, so that’s what he gave them. If it benefited him to tell people I was a heroin addict, he would tell them that. He says whatever, to whomever, in any situation that will result in attention. You learn to ignore him.
Tom: The problem with the Miami situation is that it’s not something I can explain in three sentences. I get cut off every time I get to talk about it and they cut to Kristen or James. People think I’m guilty because I get so frustrated, but it’s really because I never got to fully explain myself.
Popdust: Okay, so tell us what really happened in Miami.
Tom: The girl is fucking crazy. She charged hundreds of dollars to Jax’s card in the room. Jax was with her friend and we were waiting for them to get back and we had to kick them out. It’s bullshit. She tried to say she had text messages between us, which conveniently never made it on the show because they don’t exist. There’s no texts. There’s no selfie. This girl was pissed because Jax took her laptop because she stole so much money from him. She refused to pay him back so he wouldn’t give the computer back.
Popdust: What happened exactly before he took the laptop?
Tom: These girls came up to us while we were doing an appearance in Miami. Jax and one of the girls disappeared for a while. They, including Anna Marie, stayed with us while we waited for them to come back.
The girl Jax was with didn’t have a phone for whatever reason so she took Anna Marie’s and they waited with us while she was out with Jax. The bar we wanted to go to was closed so we went back to our hotel. Keep in mind that I was talking to Ariana the entire night. I was calling Jax the entire time asking where he was and he told me he lost her phone and was going to buy her a new one. He felt bad, and because they were checking out the next day, he told them they could keep their luggage in our room until they caught their flight later that night.
Schwartz and I said they were shady. We hid all our stuff and I told Jax no one could come in our room. Schwartz and I left for a while. When we came back, Jax was at the pool with them. Once I got there I knew something was up because Anna Marie wouldn’t look us in the eye. I thought she stole something.
Once they finally left we realized her laptop was still in the room. Jax went to checkout and saw she charged hundreds of dollars to his card, so he said he wasn’t giving the laptop back. Meanwhile, he gave them money for dinner and for their cab. She tried to sell the story about Jax to the tabloids and it wasn’t interesting enough. So, that’s why she targeted me.
It’s fucking bullshit. It just pissed me off that they never gave me more than 30 seconds to tell what really happened. I mean, at this point, what the fuck else can people say about me?
Popdust: There’s no denying that Kristen is insane when it comes to your former relationship. However, on the reunion, she seemed rather tame in comparison to her past standards. Is she finally leaving you alone, has she managed to move on?
Tom: It’s so obvious that she’s delusional from everything that comes out of her mouth. However, she was on damage control at the reunion. I was way more reserved at the reunion than I should have been. I used to stress so hard about Kristen’s actions when we were together. I would always have to talk to her about the binds she’d put herself in and now I don’t. James is now seeing what happens when someone isn’t there to babysit her.
Ariana: I think she’s trying to rehab her image and it’s bullshit. She should have never even gone down that road.
Tom: She acts like she has all these reasons to have beef with Ariana. I have way more reason to have beef with James.
Popdust: Katie and Tom went through their fair share of drama this season. Schwartz took a lot of heat for his actions. Do you think they’re in it for the long haul?
Ariana: I think he is the guy she wants him to be. They’re doing really great and possibly better than ever. I think he needed to find himself. Because of things they’ve gone through in the past—and not having Stassi being a huge influence in their relationship and voicing her opinion all the time—Katie’s opinion has really come to the forefront, which has helped them really rediscover their compatibility.
Tom: I think that Schwartz now doesn’t have to deal with Stassi and Kristina Kelly chirping in his ear—Kristen too really. They were all major influences and third parties in his and Katie’s relationship. And Katie was in such a vulnerable position to have to listen to that. I would have ripped Stassi a new asshole when Tom took Katie flowers and Stassi went off on him. When people have a problem in their relationship, you don’t butt in. Stassi has no concept on what is appropriate for a friend to do.
Popdust: What are your thoughts on the season as a whole?
Tom: I really think the overall feel of the season is that a lot of us have grown into our own and matured.We’ve figured out what our priorities are.
The ones who haven’t are the ones being left behind—Kristen, Stassi, and Jax.