Racial Microaggressions on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

I've always wanted to watch The Real Housewives shows (particularly the Atlanta, Beverly Hills and Potomac versions), and I never really got to because I don't have cable.


Yeah.

There are still people in this day and age without cable folks.

Don't judge me, I'm a "watch it online" kind of person.


Anyway, thanks to Hulu, I now have access to each of these three shows. I've just finished watching season 1 of the The Real Housewives of Potomac and season 1 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I am now trying to complete season 1 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.


I'm on the second episode of season 1 when I see this:



Pause.

What the heck was that?

Ugh.


Let me briefly list all the issues with the this scene:


1. The extended clips of the Black male model working out (what was it for? Like, how did it add to the narrative??? Obviously, since he's model, theoretically, he's supposed to be attractive. So what did we need the 'exhibit' for???)

In our current (western) society, working out is associated with fitness, which in turn is linked to class and expressions of masculinity in interesting ways. Check out these resources for details: https://asset-pdf.scinapse.io/prod/2028080551/2028080551.pdf OR https://www.lesmills.com/us/clubs-and-facilities/research-insights/audience-insights/history-of-health-clubs-how-gyms-have-evolved-through-the-ages/ OR https://petroleumservicecompany.com/blog/brief-history-fitness-industry/


2. The Black model, when introducing himself, and stating his perfectly pronounceable name, resorts to invoking corporality (which, in the western context, when talking about Black people's, immediately becomes sexual) by saying the name of a movie Shawshank Redemption.

So what he was communicating was: "My name is Shaw, as in SHAWshank Redemption." But why was that necessary???

Why did it happen? What was Shaw thinking? I'll tell you: this Black man was enjoying witnessing this white man's insecurity, and relishing (like a fool) in the historic stereotype of the Black buck (namely the aspects of criminality and virility in the caricature of the Black buck).


Yeah, Shaw, I get it: the white man came at you rudely, and assumed that you had bad intentions with his wife: but did you have to make a fool of yourself just to duel him?


Everyone in that room could see who the winner was (Shaw, of course). Why tussle with a dumpy, pasty, middle-aged man?


I'm sure everyone knows about the contents of the movie Shawshank Redemption, so I won't get into that. But for those of you who don't get the corporality comment, google the definition of the word "shank". A quick etymology survey will show you that this word means more than just something that prisoners stab each other with. You can start here: https://www.google.com/search?q=shank+definition&oq=shank+definition&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5j0i22i30l4.4234j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


3. Adrienne's husband saying: "But just do me a favor: be a good boy."

Yeah, we get what he means: "Don't do anything sexual with my wife." But, it was SO cringe, because a white man using the word "boy" at/with a Black man...???? Ugh. Check out a bit about the history of whites demeaning and infantilizing Black people with this term in the USA: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/11/02/417513631/when-boys-cant-be-boys


4. Adrienne's closing comments, which insinuated that she wanted 'payback'

Adrienne's insecurities showed when she talked about the type of women that her husband worked with. The argument was: "You 'get yours' often, I should 'get mine' too--at least a little."


For the record: we never saw any evidence of Shaw giving Adrienne 'a little attention'. Shaw was her co-worker. He has to be cordial because cordiality is a part of professionalism, especially in a field where they judge your primarily based on your looks and expressive behavior. So Adrienne's comments here seem a little...delusional.


But ultimately, what's troubling about this part of the scene is how closely this inclination towards 'payback' is linked to the history of white women weaponizing their femininity against white men (who have, by and large, shown themselves to be viciously insecure and vindictive) at the expense of Black men (and Black communities). Check out a bit about that history here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1367549420985852 OR https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/crying-shame-the-power-of-white-women-s-tears-20190820-p52iy7.html OR http://www.milwaukeeindependent.com/featured/untold-privilege-white-women-unmasking-secret-army-karens-american-history/


Maybe you think that I'm reading into #4 too much, but remember, Adrienne's husband threatened Shaw in this scene: "Be a good boy, you know, otherwise: we got problems." Such talk poses an interesting argument because IF his wife committed adultery, SHE would be in the wrong, not Shaw (who, as far as we saw, was not married). For a man of Adrienne's husband's means, this could easily translate into a threat on Shaw's livelihood (through his connections, Adrienne's husband could get Shaw blacklisted) and/or freedom (i.e. staying out of prison).



I'm gonna keep watching. However, so far, the characters of the Beverly Hills version of The Real Housewives franchise are proving themselves to be a little cringe...and racist too.