Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Should You Be Watching?

Having debuted on the heels of a catastrophic, yet incredibly captivating season of the original Southern Charm, the Savannian counterpart of the franchise seems to lack luster. Its ratings reflect that too, but there is a contingent of devoted fans, including those who watched Season 1 last year, who are committed to seeing Season 2 through to finale.

While I tune in weekly to Southern Charm Savannah (reneging on a previously tweeted resolution not to), it is with a mix of emotions. My favorite cast member, Ashley Borders, was demoted from main character to one with a select few cameos this season. Allegedly, (and according to several inside sources) this demotion was due to the fact that one stuffy “main” made a stink, stubbornly refusing to film with her.

Borders incurred the wrath for being more offbeat than the others during Season 1, and after interviewing her and meeting in person, I can attest to how kind, sweet and personable she is IRL. Since then, we have kept in touch and viewers have contacted me to relay that they are “bummed”, thinking she would have been an interesting individual to follow up on.

Watching the show last year, I took issue with one major theme: Southern Propriety that demanded keeping what’s unconventional closeted….Or, making it a struggle for the characters who feel harshly judged. Then again, that is in fact the backdrop of the Southern Charm franchise: young people – white people at that, let’s be real – navigating modern life while struggling internally with antiquated, austere and unspoken Southern rules, and concerned about perception.

Many viewers were surprised that this show was granted a second season after the first one seemed to fall short, but since I’m tuned in, I wanted to provide you with my thoughts on why you might want to check it out and why you might not:

The Good: Hagood

I like this new cast pick for Season Two with her peaches and cream complexion. She somewhat resembles actress/model Brooklyn Decker and when I say “like”, I mean that she hasn’t offended my sensibilities thus far. Hagood Coxe is somewhat vanilla and benign. There is this though: She’s great at pulling a prank when she convinces Brandon to drink “wild boar’s blood” or so he thinks.

Truthfully, I preferred Ashley’s flash and bohemian vibe and the fact that Ashley had a cool Persian friend, a jewelry designer, who we saw briefly last season (and who I think added diversity and should have been made a main cast member).

It also helps to know that Ashley’s group of friends who weren’t featured on the show are an incredibly diverse crew. Diversity is something that Southern Charm Savannah lacks, which is not reflective of the city itself.

Hagood does seem to have all the qualities of a delightful debutante on paper, but desperately needs to rebuff her mother’s incessant nudging and bossiness. Mom wants her to focus on her artistic pursuits rather than wasting time brewing sake (which Hagood pronounces “sah-kay!”). But lay off, Mama Coxe! – Hagood is an adult now.

She grew up a huntin’ and a fishin’ and her dad owns a farm, which he hopes to bequeath to her some day. Oh, and she may have dabbled in witch craft. Yes, you read that correctly: She got kicked out of camp when she was young for being a “witch” – no word on if that camp was headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692.

Hagood also confessed, during a truth or dare-style game (minus the “dare”) with a few of her cast mates, that she has dipped into the lady pond. Her boyfriend hasn’t been shown on camera yet, but the footage has highlighted Hagood’s confession more than once – perhaps in an effort to make her seem more interesting? Perhaps to explore some sort of mini bisexuality storyline in future episodes? We’ll have to stay tuned, but so far, Hagood seems intriguing enough for a new addition. She’s also eye candy.

The teasers haven’t been exceptionally tantalizing, but I’m hopeful. I should mention that it’s a little strange that Hagood’s roughly a decade younger than her cast mates (She’s in her 20s, they’re in their 30s). But, well, that fits the OG Southern Charm template when you consider Kathryn Dennis.

The Bad: A Ban on Borders

I am not alone in expressing the sentiment that Ashley Borders was the most interesting character last season. I think Haymaker has left us hanging because I doubt Ashley’s cameo appearances will do her the justice she deserves after being slut-shamed for golfing in a one-piece last season. You’ll have to take my word for it that there’s more to this philanthropy-conscious mother, the daughter of a noted pediatric surgeon, than meets the eye. She did make it known last season that she’s one Savannian who didn’t vote for The Donald. So, there’s that.

The Good: Brandon

This season we have an openly gay cast member whereas last season, fans speculated on the sexuality of a man who identified as straight. Which was kind of rude. However, it was also kind of inevitable because it’s what viewers do…..(I’m not excusing it.)

The thing about interior designer Brandon Branch is that he is the sole Savannian featured who is in a healthy, steady, committed relationship. Viewers have expressed their delight about seeing a gay married couple serve as an example of the healthy relationship that the other single cast members should aspire to have.

Brandon possesses snide wit, scoffing and calling out his close bud Catherine Cooper while being affectionate towards her. He’s so truthful that it can be biting, but to his credit, Brandon Branch doesn’t beat around the bush.

The Bad: Brandon Branch can be overboard obnoxious

I enjoy Brandon Branch. Hell, I had a great tweet exchange with Brandon Branch last night because I tweet about all the show characters I find entertaining.

However, I’m not a fan of the slut-shaming statements uttered by Brandon Branch about Ashley Borders last season. And I could forgive that – You know, it was before the whole #MeToo shift in this country – but I didn’t like his line in Season 2 previews about the newly single Savannian. It was something about how there was a stripper pole in front of them but no Ashley. Sorry, Ashley is not a stripper and Brandon recently declared his affection for women, how he relates to them, in light of the fact that he grew up with sisters and always had female friendships.

If you’re reading this Brandon, that was not a statement about Ashley that reflects a priority of female empowerment. That was entirely uncool. Save for that, I like this new cast member. If he takes my constructive criticism to heart, I’ll like him even more.

The Good: Daniel, My Brother

So Daniel Eichholz is a “member of the tribe” (my tribe, that is – Jewish) and last year he had to deal with some insensitive statements addressed to him as the lone Yid in the group. He also wondered if he couldn’t be a part of a certain exclusive club because he wasn’t Waspy. Who knows what the real reasons were for the exclusion, but Daniel was the odd one out being the lone Jew of the clique. Interestingly, prior to attending the overly-mentioned (last season) Savannah Country Day School, Daniel was educated at a Hebrew day school in his elementary years.

I love seeing someone on television who had similar schooling to me and I’ve also found myself subjected to curiosity in social groups of all gentiles. I’ve gotten the same weird questions he has fielded in the past, and when Nelson (who did not return for Season 2) made him uncomfortable bandying around a Yiddish semi-slur word….I’d been there too.

Dave Quinn of People magazine recently tweeted out his appreciation for Daniel’s fit physique. Daniel has an insanely intriguing workout that consists of push-ups and planks off of park benches and bathtubs. Because I’d kill to be half as muscly as Teresa Giudice, I may take him up on his tweeted offer of a workout walk-through. That would first entail a trip to Georgia. For now, I’ll continue Sweating to the Oldies with a retro Richard Simmons.

The Bad: These 3 Are Cool, But What Exactly are the Storylines?

So the 3 characters highlighted above are the ones who stand out to me most at the start of this season.

I want to whisk Catherine Cooper away from this show and cast the bubbly blonde with the OG Southern Charm group in Charleston.

Haymaker Productions is going hard on the storyline of Catherine not being as into Lyle as he is into her. She rejected his onscreen proposal last season, and a highly connected source informed me that she also rejected his off-screen proposal.

I get the sense that she’s with him out of habit (a long, albeit terse, relationship, can become similar to an addiction), fear that someone “better” won’t come along and concern about what others think.

I want Catherine to feel free to fly and I’d like to see her soar. Instead, she strikes me as stifled.

Stifled in Savannah actually sounds like a great name for a spinoff show for her. I, for one, would like to see her happy ending.

I’m not interested in Lyle or the relationship between Hannah, the fashion brand starter (I think that’s what her thing is at the moment), and Louis, the socktrepreneur. I can’t help how I feel. Hannah seems ahead of him maturity-wise and should probably be with an older man – on paper, at least – but the heart wants what it wants. Yawn. Who cares?

The truth is: I’m sticking around to see how Ashley Borders deals with a cast that acted judgmental and elitist towards her (while I realize she was only granted a few scenes this season).

I’m hanging in to hear more about Hagood’s romantic life and to see if she’s less concerned about what others think of her than I think Catherine is.

I’ll be back in front of my TV next week for Brandon: I want to hear his clever barbs and the way he tells it to everyone straight, without seeming embarrassed or possessing any sort of a filter. That said, I’m also tuning in for his apology to Ashley, which I’ll acknowledge as pure fantasy on my part — at this point.

Savannah may not stack up to the competition of Charleston, but I think it’s worth checking out. Perhaps you’ll even discover more to it that you think I should write about.

Southern Charm Savannah airs on Bravo, Monday nights at 10 PM EST.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Haymaker Havoc and What’s Ahead

Southern Charm Savannah returns tomorrow, Monday at 10 PM EST, and a number of its fans from last season are skeptical.

The show didn’t do spectacularly well in the ratings last season – with many complaining it lacked luster compared to the original Southern Charm.

Fans took to Twitter to say that Ashley Borders, who dealt with major life changes and adversity (especially from stodgier members of the more conservative cast), was the most interesting character on the show (definitely the bohemian and most liberal of the group) only to discover that this season she’ll appear in a few scenes. She’s an estranged “friend of” rather than a full time cast member.

According to Savannian sources, one of the other cast members had Haymaker Productions’ ear, made a big stink about Ashley’s potential return, and didn’t want to film with her. There was a bit of a tug of war behind the scenes as a fierce female Bravo executive advocated for Ashley, but ultimately was not triumphant due to the stubborn cast member.

Ashley Borders

In Ashley’s place, Haymaker cast a Brooklyn Decker lookalike named Hagood Coxe and made interior decorator Brandon Branch, who appeared last season, a full time cast member. Some fans regarded Brandon warily, the mean gossip who pettily maligned Ashley Borders to his good friend Catherine Cooper. We’ll get to know more about his personal life and greater insight into his character this season. I just hope he’s a tad more endearing because I wasn’t charmed by him in Season 1.

Last year, viewers saw Lyle Mackenzie propose to Catherine and she turned that down. One source says she also turned down an off-camera proposal!

In the Season 2 trailer, we see another cast member, Daniel Eichholz, plea to Lyle to rethink his relationship and question Catherine’s fidelity.

The very young Hagood, in her 20s compared to her decade-older cast mates, is said to struggle with some identity issues and is concerned about what others think. My sources say that Ashley Borders briefly spoke with Hagood during filming about being proud of who she is and not worrying so much about the rest of the cast’s judgement – which Ashley herself dealt with last season.

The offending Nelson Lewis (who threw out a Yiddish word that didn’t meet with positive response from Jews like myself and Daniel Eichholz, or black viewers) is not back at all for Season 2. Some fans regarded his faux pas of last season as falling under the Hanlon’s Razor principle – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

That said, Nelson is a smart man, but didn’t possess enough of the “Woke” World Smarts to help him outside of his select Southern circles. Daniel Eichholz was certainly offended, and he felt like the odd man out being a Jewish Savannian in this group in general. I am interested to see how that storyline plays out for Daniel sans Nelson.

I’ll be tuning in, but mainly to rage that Ashley Borders isn’t back – since she was my personal favorite – and to tune in for her select scenes.

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Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

An Abundance of Ashleys

Between the years of 1983 and 1988, “Ashley” was a top choice for American parents naming baby girls. It was, in fact, the second most popular girl’s name in the nation in 1985, which means if you are a Millennial, there’s a good chance you know an Ashley or two…or seven as I currently have programmed in my phone.

On reality television now, there are three Ashleys – within the aforementioned cohort – who have people talking. Perhaps there is a special formula for all Ashleys to crack (one I wish I knew!) because each of the three Ashleys I’m about to discuss have either had to overcome hurdles in the maze of reality TV, perception and reality, or are still bumbling through that complicated labyrinth.

Let’s begin with Ashley Iaconetti from The Bachelor franchise. This Ashley first came to our collective attention during Chris Soules’ season of The Bachelor. She was the emotionally overwrought Kardashian lookalike who seemed to cry on a whim. She also quickly became known to us for another more notable characteristic: being the virgin and was rapidly embraced by Bachelor Nation, the dysfunctional franchise-family that feverishly recycles favorites in spinoffs. So of course, Ashley appeared, and shed a ton of tears, on Bachelor in Paradise and later found lust on Bachelor Winter Games.

After many overly emotional scenes and plenty of loud sobs regarding being relegated to the “friend zone,” Iaconetti’s long-time pal and crush from Paradise finally started to reciprocate her feelings. She had cried over him in Paradise and had been encouraged to give up hope by their mutual friend (former Bachelor) Nick Viall. Years and too many tears later, after baring her soul to cameras ad nauseum, Ioconetti has been publicly vindicated, I guess: The object of her documented obsession, Jared Haibon, recently proposed. The perpetually pining princess will need to be recast as the fiance who turned her commitment phobic pumpkin into her prince.

Another Ashley who some of you are familiar with is Ashley Borders of Southern Charm Savannah. I wasn’t wild about the show, a sentiment not uncommon among Bravo fans, but I found this Ashley endearing even before I had the chance to meet her in person and confirm this.

A crowd of white, somewhat wealthy Savannians were introduced to us as a group of friends – except immediately, we got the sense that Borders was more of a free spirit. This was especially so when juxtaposed with the more traditional, snooty Southerner cast mates. They seemed stuck in the past and we witnessed how they were so bothered by Borders’ bathing suit-clad bod and the effect it might have on the taken men. It was clear that Borders was merely an on-camera friend to those who shunned her on the show, and we got a glimpse of the more liberal Savannians who accepted her, like the cute jewelry designer who appears in one episode.

According to one of my sources in Savannah, Ashley was demoted from a main cast member to a “friend of” for the soon to be airing Season Two. This was because the least likable, most stodgy and snobbish cast mates refused to film with her. Luckily enough, not all of them are total dicks, so although Borders will not get the redemption season she deserves after cast mates lambasted her last season, she will appear in a few scenes this time around.

Last season, while focused on her fashion career, she had a side gig with Delta airlines that afforded her travel opportunities. Her cast mates made a big deal about the side gig, calling her dishonest because she didn’t talk as much about it. In doing so, they unwittingly brought attention to their elitist and classist notions about career choices.

Ashley Borders’ liberal views and openness towards those from all walks of life, made her a breath of fresh air alongside this catty and cliquish crew. It will be interesting to see if she gets some redemption in her diminished role this season. Perhaps refraining from having to hang out too much with elitist cast mates is vindication enough for anyone.

The last of the Ashleys on my mind is the most talked about currently. Ashley Jacobs of Bravo’s Southern Charm (the original Southern Charm, as Savannah is a newer addition to the main franchise) is getting a lot of attention for her missteps on the show, as well as backfiring efforts to repair her image via social media.

Jacobs has had a really tough season and is in over her head as a reality television rookie. The hospice nurse attached herself to a paramour with a personal baggage, including the fact that he and his ex (the mother of his two kids) film together seasonally. It has not gone well for Jacobs who clashes on camera during the current season with Kathryn Dennis, mom to her beau Thomas Ravenel’s children.

While initially welcomed by the rest of the crew, they have taken several steps back from Jacobs and rallied around Dennis. The shifting allegiances, and the apparent disdain for Jacobs that has grown since cameras stopped rolling, attest to several complicated off-camera storylines.

The gossip blogs have played their own part in pitting the Charmers against one another.

While everyone loves a comeback and a redemption tale, many fans feel she is beyond reproach and that the influences behind her behavior, the motives and some of the individuals who nudged her behavior along (i.e. those bloggers), will never be revealed to the public.

To me, it would be a shame if we don’t get to see how bloggers contributed, how Jacobs’ relationship with Ravenel factored in, and whether or not Jacobs will acknowledge her bad behaviors after the upcoming reunion airs…Even more so, when ample time passes and realities (beyond reality TV) set in.

Whether Jacobs will have her opportunity to turn the tide and change the minds is something that seems more uncertain than what is likely for the other Ashleys. Her words seemed more astounding, more regrettable and her actions post-filming more shocking. However, when a person takes major initiatives to revamp their life and starts to see things differently, it’s a beginning towards healing all that has been greatly damaged. Having seen young reality stars mature and become more humbled by public reaction, who knows what could happen in the future after life changes offer new perspectives….In the United States of Amnesia, (to borrow the late Gore Vidal’s term) I’ve witnessed fans change their minds when it previously seemed impossible.

Perhaps there is some formula for all Ashleys to follow in order to become successful – especially in this arena of reality television. Or maybe you don’t believe there’s anything significant about a particular name. Rather, that the three Ashleys above coincidently had rough starts, and faced the challenge of being scrutinized by cast mates, viewers and the world of social media.

In the event that it’s not a fluke, here are Things To Know About the Name Ashley if you happen to be an Ashley yourself or know someone who is.

(The title of this post was inspired by the title of John Green’s novel, An Abundance of Katherines.)

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Bravo TV, Uncategorized

‘The Elephant in the Pahhhluhhr’: The Controversy & Intrigue Surrounding #SouthernCharm

(An earlier version of this ran on Huffington Post, June 13th, 2017. The following article is a revised and updated version.)

BRAVO TV, NBCUniversal

When Southern Charm began airing on Bravo in March of 2014, it took a while for viewership to make an impact for the network. By season 2 however, a rapt audience had tuned in to the drama that played out between privileged Southerners while a disapproving matriarch tutted about improprieties and a former Real World star begged the “Southern Gents” to settle down. The show, now approaching its 5th season, is currently popular enough for Bravo to have introduced a spinoff that just aired (Relationshep, about cast member Shep Rose, a ladies’ man looking for long term love – allegedly). The newer Southern Charm Savannah is another offshoot of the original. It premiered on May 8th, 2017 and Season 2 is filming now.

THE ELEPHANT

It is no surprise that shows about privileged white people in the South have garnered criticism and sparked wild rumors to make heads roll (a much-debated Page Six blind item referred to one Southern Charm costar’s “negrobilia,” a prized collection of artwork by black slaves. Of course, speculation abounds that the item was planted by a conniving adversary).

Many viewers have overtly stated in the comments sections of articles about the original SC – set in Charleston – that these people don’t seem to do very much for a living, yet have impressive wealth. The implication isn’t something that needs to be stated outright, though of course it is brought up periodically: Some of the cast members descended from plantation owners who kept slaves.

One female costar from a “prominent family” actually has an ancestor who was an outspoken slavery proponent and advocate. Despite her family name garnering respect in the South, her lack of riches as compared to the wealth of her cast mates, and her unconventionally rebellious ways, perpetually elicit scorn from the above-pictured matriarch. (Photo Source: Reality Tea)
WOKE?
Brought into question about the franchise is the question of: Just how “woke” are these individuals? If you’re not a Millennial or someone who keeps up with the Urban Dictionary, “Woke” is a political term of black origin referring to awareness of social and racial justice issues. The hashtag #StayWoke is a popular one. So where does Southern Charm fall on the Woke Scale?

Sexism and double standards for women have also been brought up by critics in connection with the franchise and thoughts on this vary today. Here we are prior to the start of Southern Charm’s Season 5 (and Southern Charm Savannah’s Season 2): Viewers hone in on specific words used, things left unsaid, issues that are ignored and political sentiments tweeted out by cast members (including a barrage of tweets by cast mate Thomas Ravenel, including one directed at Bravo honcho Andy Cohen that has since been deleted). A contingent has expressed feeling offended by certain cast members’ actions, yet manage to return and tune in each  season…despite protest. This attests to what we observe time and again with Bravo shows and those airing on other cable networks: the compelling nature of material that provokes ire.

A SHOW ABOUT PETER PAN PLAYBOYS

Both Southern Charm and its Savannah offshoot have struck viewers as exuding an “all boys club” vibe. While it is impossible to pin that on production, some insiders (who requested anonymity) have speculated that Haymaker executives (both founders who sit at the company’s helm are male)  http://www.haymakercontent.com/ – who originally packaged the show as Southern Gentlemen – have a “boys will be boys” mentality,

According to writer Amy Feinstein of Inquistr.com:  “Southern Gentlemen turned into Southern Charm when Bravo said that the show needed some women in the cast and not just as accessories and dates for the ‘gentlemen.’ So Cameran Eubanks, Jenna King, and eventually, Kathryn Calhoun Dennis were added in to round out the cast.”

bible thomas SC

The “Bible” for Southern Gentlemen. From Amy Feinstein of Inquistr.com: “Initially, Southern Charm executive producers Whitney Sudler-Smith and Bryan Kestner wanted to do a show set in Charleston that would highlight the life of an upper-crust Peter Pan in the Holy City. They put together a promotional video for a show that would have been called Southern Gentlemen. In the Southern Gentlemen video, Thomas Ravenel and Shep Rose talk about their life before Southern Charm.”

Feinstein is referring to the first season of the original Southern Charm in her quote above. However, viewers had a lot to say about the most recent seasons of that show and its Savannah offshoot.
SLUT SHAMING
On Southern Charm Savannah, Ashley Borders was essentially slut-shamed for golfing in her one-piece bathing suit. While cast mate Louis Oswald played too, his participation was minimized and given little credence by cast mates. Producers often get thrown under the bus for what we see on camera, but how much should we really be blaming on them versus the cast members they spotlight?
The answer to that may be subjective and personal as well as dependent on how real you consider reality TV to be. Despite Season One (of Southern Charm Savannah) airing as recently as 2017, we have a long way to go when it comes to the “blame game” and expectations for women versus men. Additionally, this is maximized by the old fashioned concept of Southern propriety and the notions attached.

While it would be nice for Haymaker and Bravo to bring Ashley back for her “redemption season”, the rumor (based on those who recently spotted the cast filming and captured photos) is that she will not be returning as a full time cast member.

KEEPING UP WITH KATHRYN 

The Twittersphere has often been abuzz with speculation about how Kathryn Calhoun Dennis, the ginger-haired vixen of the original Southern Charm, has been scrutinized for her “bad behavior” (a subjective term) much more so than cast mates Thomas Ravenel and Shep Rose. Neither gent has been depicted as an angel (Shep’s drinking and impulse control were issues brought up last season), but there’s the contention that the “playboys” get away with a mere slap on the wrist. The idea of having children out of wedlock is also likely seen as the most shocking of offenses for a Southern gal, but we have to wonder if matriarch Patricia Altschul remembers that Thomas Ravenel, who she is visibly fond of, fathered Kathryn’s children.

A PROFESSOR TAKES A SOCIOLOGICAL AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

Ned Rinalducci, Ph.D. is a professor living in Savannah and teaching there at Armstrong State University. As a Political Sociologist, he also researches and examines religious and ethnic political movements and cultural identity. He writes on Islam, religious politics, ethnic politics, and ethnic nationalism. Every summer he teaches a pop culture course that focuses on reality television and last year, he assigned his class a show that was filmed in their own city, Southern Charm Savannah.

He explains: “Even before I started watching Southern Charm Savannah, I gave assignments in a summer pop culture class where we examine race, class and gender through reality TV. What we note is that it’s always done in a stereotypical way to really drive the narrative they’re trying to deliver. A large portion of Savannah is actually African American so Savannah viewers said: ‘this isn’t about Savannah. This is about rich, entitled white guys.’”

“The majority of the population here is not represented by this show. There definitely are circles where the social hierarchies are stressed, but most people living here are not a part of that. It is very real though – I have been in Savannah for 18 years and I’ll never be a ‘Savannian’ because I wasn’t born here and my family is not from Savannah. Southern Charm does what so many reality TV shows do: There are story arcs and narratives about characters and the shows exaggerate things like gender stereotypes (we see that with the original Southern Charm, the greater expectations upon women to be proper), social class and race. On some level, this makes people connect to the characters and it’s disconcerting – It’s reality television, but it’s not real.”

“Last summer, I had my students really examine how race, class and gender were depicted on Southern Charm Savannah. They looked at signs of Southern culture and discussed whether it seemed authentic. My wife, who is a true Southerner, saw part of an episode where Catherine hosted a bridge party in the hopes of embracing an old tradition. She said to me ‘Nobody plays bridge anymore!’ I thought that was funny because my own mom, a Northerner, actually plays bridge!”

A PERSPECTIVE ON SOUTHERN CHARM FROM A BLACK, GAY AMERICAN MALE

Troy McEady of the podcasts Emotionally Broken Psychos (he has co-hosted with Molly McAleer) and EBP’s The Smush Room (which he alone hosts) admits that being a black, gay American male does not prevent him from watching Southern Charm and Southern Charm Savannah. McEady feels that bigotry stares you in the face with Savannah, whereas on the Charleston show there’s an “underlying sentiment.”

He elaborates: “Kathryn comes from a long bloodline of people that owned huge plantations in the South. We’ve been watching Charleston long enough that we’re almost used to it – as gross as that is to say. It’s not overt, but it’s still uncomfortable. With Savannah, they used it in a sort of ‘cutesy’ way last season. Catherine (not to be confused with Kathryn of Charleston) talks about how it’s uncouth to discuss where money comes from, but we know where that money comes from – owners of large plantations. It’s a weird thing to lightly dance around – because it’s embarrassing.”

One Savannah character from last season (who is likely also not returning — based upon cast trip photos that recently surfaced) used the Yiddish “S word” to joke around with Daniel. McEady observes: “In that case, it was social awkwardness and social unawareness when it comes to race. This is also a character who needs to be more self-aware. The statements came across as boldly racist. However, it was almost less offensive coming from him because he seemed not to possess the appropriate thought processes.”

McEady adds: “I’m hoping that things turns around with Southern Charm Savannah. It feels like those characters were uninteresting for the most part. The things Bravo used as filler (in Season One) were there because there wasn’t much to show. I’m not surprised that there’s an upcoming Season 2 because Bravo decided to give it another chance, but I doubt there will be a Season 3 unless there are major changes. Personally, now I’m invested so I’ve got to watch regardless. Unless they shake up the cast in some way, these people are uninteresting – with the exception of Ashley…and perhaps Daniel. While watching, I actually had to remind myself what was happening in terms of story lines. There didn’t seem to be too much there.”

THE “SWEET SPOT”
When it comes to that question of being “woke,” McEady has some thoughts on the entire franchise:“Bravo has found this sweet spot with Southern Charm – or what they think of as a sweet spot – to address the racism and sexism. ‘Let’s make it not seem so inappropriate that Thomas comes from a family of slave owners by putting cutesy music behind it.’ Patricia, the matriarch, comes across as a sexist woman. She dismisses what the men do and how they treat women while requiring women to be prim and proper. I really don’t think any of them are terrible people but it seems some (particularly the younger cast members across both Southern Charms) have been sheltered and are clueless.”
BRAVO HAS CONSERVATIVE VIEWERS TOO, OF COURSE
Fortunately for Bravo, there are many conservative viewers who are not harping on political correctness and are less sensitive about issues of concern to liberals (AKA “Snowflakes,” a beautiful phenomenon of nature that is supposed to be an insult?). Southern Charm Savannah‘s viewership was significantly smaller than the original, yet it still managed to rise steadily from week to week and it may be in part to those who are unfazed by things that “trigger” others.
LET’S ALL BREAK BREAD AT THE DINNER TABLE
“We live in a political climate where everybody has a voice,” says McEady, “You can relate to something and learn something about a black person without being a black person… Everybody has sat at a dinner table where someone of an earlier generation said something that resulted in flying tableware. There is a lot of weight added to things that people say today. It’s very heavy and it is scary to speak your mind – You just have to use discretion.”
And perhaps, that is where the viewers come in as well, the many “voices” weighing in via social media. Southern Charm is akin to that awkward Thanksgiving dinner where we all sit down hoping we can effectively see one another’s  perspectives. It is the reason why many of us keep coming back to the table. The right amount of controversy sparks discussion while an excess turns people away. Haymaker knows just how to walk this tightrope so we stay tuned in.
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