Reality TV could use a little less heteronormativity.
If you're a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fan, you know that one of the juiciest story lines in the show's history is just beginning to unfold.
The Daily Mail reported back in November that cast members Denise Richards and Brandi Glanville had a romantic and sexual affair that lasted several months. Apparently, another RHOBH cast member spilled the tea during a cast trip to Rome in late November, resulting in Denise storming away from set.
The plot thickens, given that the Daily Mail reports that Denise had told Brandi she was in an open marriage with husband Aaron Phypers. But apparently "Denise and Aaron were not actually in an open marriage, and Brandi was 'upset' her friend lied to her. In a February Instagram comment, Denise wrote that she's '100% monogamous' to her husband."
When the news of all of this broke, Brandi tweeted:
I just got “Denised”— Brandi Glanville (@Brandi Glanville)1577610492.0
1-blackmail is illegal 2-I have no skeletons in my closet (they’re all on the internet) 3-slut shaming is soooooo last year— Brandi Glanville (@Brandi Glanville)1577667155.0
Denise's only response to the media frenzy was in an interview on Entertainment Tonight in March, when she said, "The subject matter that seems to be in all the tabloids of late is... I don't know," she said. "I think it's kind of disgusting that they even talk about it. But that's something they choose to, and I've had worse things said, so you know, I can rise above it."
Last night, during the premiere of the show's new season, Denise told a waiter off for bringing her the wrong kind of tequila. Brandi quickly took to twitter to share her opinion on the exchange.
Im sorry but their is a way to say to your waiter (I've waited a lot of tables) that you think your drink might be… https://t.co/YauRLO9OAQ— Brandi Glanville (@Brandi Glanville)1586998588.0
Of course, the only way to find out what happened between the two women is to continue watching season 10 and wait for the drama to be revealed. But amidst the usual chaos that surrounds this kind of reality TV show scandal, there is one detail that few people are mentioning: This particular scandal is about a possible same sex romance.
While we've culturally come a long way in accepting the LGBTQ+ community, there are few spaces that remain as heteronormative as trashy reality TV. RHOBH has, historically, been a notable example. Even Andy Cohen, a self-professed fan of RHOBH, has spoken out about its poor treatment of gay men. As Time writes, on RHOBH, "The gays, even those who get speaking roles, exist on the show in order to observe drama and comment upon it — with sass, if possible." Of course, RHOBH isn't the only reality TV show to ignore, minimize, or fetishize the existence of the LGBTQ+ community. Think of the heavy gendering of shows like The Bachelor, which seem to exist in a world entirely devoid of gay people. Or Big Brother, which rarely features gay cast members and even more rarely shows gay romances, despite showing at least 3-4 in-house romances a season. Of course, there are reality TV shows like Rupaul's Drag Race, but these exist outside of mainstream reality TV and engage with entirely different audiences. Meanwhile, popular scripted TV shows like Euphoria, How to Get Away With Murder, and Atypical have all begun to include LGBTQ+ characters regularly and sensitively. So why hasn't meaningful LGBTQ+ representation made its way onto reality TV?
One can postulate that the lack of representation is due to the audience's who consume the programs. According to CivicScience.com, 36% of people who watch a lot of reality TV (more than 5 hours a week) are 55+ years old, which is 20% more than the general population. Obviously, this demographic is more likely to be uncomfortable with LGBTQ+ people. After all, according to PRRI, "younger Americans are 17 percentage points more likely than older Americans to say they support laws protecting LGBT people from various forms of discrimination." But things are beginning to change.
While its possibly damaging for RHOBH's first real example of LGBTQ+ representation to be a cheating scandal, one also can't help but to think that this would have been an unimaginable plot line even as little as ten years ago. The fact that viewers are taking sexual fluidity for granted and entertaining the possibility that two apparently straight women might have an affair with one another is, in a bizarre, twisted way, actually a sign of immense progress. The possibility of a same sex affair would have been simply out of the question in earlier incarnations of the show.
Whether you hate reality tv or love it, there is no denying that its a peek into our collective psychology, and the Denise Richards and Brandi Glanville scandal is, actually, good news for the normalization of the LGBTQ+ community.