Supercuts and a Cut Reunion: Engaging Racism on The Real Housewives
Diana Flores Ruíz
As a growing body of viewer-generated supercut videos attest, racism abounds in The Real Housewives since its inception. These videos help make the case that racism is not a new phenomenon on the Bravo staple, evidencing a range of racial epithets, stereotypes, and slurs made on camera, on a hot mic, or on social media. In doing so, they also offer a sense of the growing intertextual labor Real Housewives fans take on to question the limitations of the show’s formal editorial strategy known as the “Bravo wink.”1 Typically deployed after a cast member lies, speaks sanctimoniously, or makes hypocritical or ignorant comments, the “Bravo wink” uses ironic flashbacks, a change in music, and/or on-screen text to playfully signal to the viewer that the show recognizes the absurdity of the situation. The sheer volume and reprehensibility of the supercut remarks suggest how racism finds an alibi within the show’s broader, rewarded convention of wealthy women ‘behaving badly’ and producing moments for the show to lightheartedly critique.2 Although the show does not “wink” at every bigoted comment, season reunions offer an opportunity for viewers to directly push back and put pressure on cast members to reflect and respond to their actions.
Over the years, the function of the reunion has shifted from a dramatic retrospective to a serialized hinge between seasons. The conversations, arguments, accusations, receipts, promises, and confessions made on the reunion episodes set the stage for the next season’s storylines. When Bravo cited “scheduling challenges” to announce that there would be no reunion for season 13 of The Real Housewives of New York City, the network broke their social contract with viewers. Emerging details about the cancellation point towards external investigations on behalf of Eboni K. Williams, the first Black woman on the city’s full-time cast, and a crew member regarding alleged racist comments made by Ramona Singer.3 After a tumultuous season of Williams managing the white fragility of her fellow cast mates, the reunion presented an opportunity for meaningful confrontation, if not accountability or resolution. When it comes to representing racism, the reunion is structured around literal representations, playbacks of controversial moments that allow viewers to see cast members respond and react once again. Without a “next time” in the life cycle of the show’s serial format, Bravo backed out of a built-in promise of a racial reckoning. Viewer-generated critiques, like the supercut video above, exceed the scope and scale of any single reunion’s playbacks. In doing so, viewers flip the focus from a cast member’s potential defense of racist comments during a reunion to the larger cultural byproduct of structurally “winking” at racism.
1Emma Rosenblum, “The Natural: How Andy Cohen became Bravo’s Face,” New York Magazine, January 7, 2010, Accessed February 17, 2022, https://nymag.com/arts/tv/features/63010/
2Pier Dominguez employs the notion of the “melodramatic money shot” to characterize the affective work of these kinds of shocking outbursts. See “I’m Very Rich, Bitch!’: The Melodramatic Money Shot and the Excess of Racialized Gendered Affect in the Real Housewives Docusoaps” in Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 30, no.1 88(2015):155-183. ‘Bad’ behavior is also subject to different metrics for Black women on the show. See Kristen J. Warner, “They Gon’ Think You Loud Regardless: Ratchetness, Reality Television, and Black Womanhood,” also in Camera Obscura:Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 30, no.1 88(2015):129-153.
3 Erin Crabtree, "Bravo Investigates Alleged Racism After Eboni K. Williams Filed a Complaint About 'RHONY' Costar Ramona Singer," US Weekly, October 29, 2021, Accessed February 17, 2022, https://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/bravo-investigates-racism-...