Updated: Mar 30
I've noticed an interesting trend over time in the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; the women in this show have been imbuing inanimate objects with profound meaning. The amount of airtime over objects and minutiae in this series has increased exponentially from season to season. They are taking abstract concepts and notions and expressing them in a concrete form, more so than any other program I have seen.
As if it was a bizarre way to study Physics, the feuds on Real Housewives used to be about the potential energy of the person in control of the object being set forth into motion. But as the seasons have progressed, they have become disassociated from the person, and more about the emotion and the thoughts imbued in the object. The plot now merely revolves around the kinetic energy of the object in motion itself.
Also, let us not forget that the unit in which to measure energy is a Joule e.g. a homophone for a housewife's favorite inanimate object (or at least Erika's favorite object).
The earliest instance of this I can recall is the bunny. Specifically, the first of the endless amount of “gates” in this series: Bunnygate. It does get a little blurry considering this happens during the same season as Pantygate, which I'll get into later, but the bunny doll I believe happened earlier.
To quickly catch up readers who have not watched, Lisa Rinna (hereafter referred to as Rinna to alleviate confusion with Lisa Vanderpump) gives the gift of a bunny to Kim Richards upon the birth of a grandchild. This seems innocuous enough, but sadly it was not well received. Specifically, it was never received in the first place, as Kim felt that this bunny was a disingenuous gesture and was actually something that “had bad energy.”
I wish I could give back gifts that I don't want with that same excuse and earnestly mean it.
When the reunion episode occurred, some reviewers hyperbolically wrote about it as if it was as devastating as D-day, (sorry to our WWII veteran readers out there) Kim gave back the bunny and Rinna immediately started to cry. If I recall correctly, the jaws of the other housewives were literally dropped.
Any negative energy associated with the bunny, I believe, was merely a manifestation of Kim's perceived shortcomings at that time. Perhaps any time Kim looked at it, she reminded herself of her own bad behavior along the way. This didn't necessarily set off a domino effect of plot points, but it did have a full narrative arc.
Again in season 7, Pantygate, or as another housewife, Eileen Davidson, mentioned the Crotch Chronicles, (which sounds like a terrible mystery channel made for TV movie in which she'd star) starts at a white party. Two of the newer housewives, Erika Girardi and Dorit Kemsley, were having one of their first sit-down chats and P.K. (Dorit's husband) noticed, focused, presumably drooled over, licked his lips, and rubbed his hands together furiously over, the fact that Erika declined to wear underwear.
However, thanks to PK and Dorit being the dirt fucking worst, Dorit goes on to defend her, crusty dairy under the screwable cap of a milk container of a husband, and somehow, determines that Erika is to blame for PK looking. In later episodes, it is revealed that Erika had no idea that she was visible. (If you are interested in more sadly accurate and amazing descriptions of PK, I will refer you to the beautiful and vivid work of Brian Moylan).
In this case, I believe Dorit took a producer's recommendation to stir the pot, and looked to cause a conflict for the sake of the continued success of the series. This is one of many instances where a season long conflict begins, not because of the object or action itself, but because it is alluding to a larger idea or mindset.
Specifically, this larger idea (in my opinion) is decency overall. It is no secret that Erika Girardi's alter ego (nee Erika Jane) is a provocateur. I think the duration of the Pantygate argument is more about having the rest of the housewives attempt to draw their lines in the sand, determining what they feel is decent vs. too provocative for their own personal taste. Ultimately, I'd like to believe that this alignment is how they determined the final couch positions in the reunion episode, but I'm probably overthinking it at that point.
In the following Season (8), Dorit is the reason of another gate in the series: Glassgate. In a surprise to no one, when Dorit and her terrible pseudo-British accent (that makes even Madonna take a step back and wonder what the hell she is doing) is encountered with an accountability coach (newcomer Teddi Mellencamp), it goes as poorly as one would expect.
At a housewarming/manicure party that Teddi throws at her house, Dorit is served champagne in a wine glass; Dorit makes an aside comment about how she only drinks champagne from champagne flutes. This innocuous comment is somehow turned into a running plot line in the series and is akin to the “shot heard 'round the world.”
I think this is another instance of a strawman in place of the actual reason for this conflict. If I had to theorize on it, (which I don't, I'm the one who chose to write this article) this is more so about the newer housewife being a threat to the existence of the older housewife a la All About Eve.
What may be happening to these inanimate objects is a type of metonymy, where the object because indicative of and symbolic of something else. In the same vein of how a crown represents a king. As Saussure and Lacan have not so briefly touched on in their work, metonymy seeks to combine, but ultimately displaces meaning. This notion, I believe ties in directly to Lisa Vanderpump's (LVP going forward) current obsession with redoing her kitchen.
It might not be the best time to be in the LVP camp, but it is easy to see that she is having a tough time with the suicide of her brother. This is more than understandable. Her emotional duress has manifested itself in redoing her kitchen for a multitude of reasons. The kitchen itself is another emotional metonymy for the comfort feeling that is imbued within a home.
In order to attempt to move past the loss of her brother, which certainly is imbued with the feeling of her home life, (albeit her childhood home, as opposed to her current one) she is currently combining her feelings of her tumultuous home life (only further compounded by Kyle's gestures of bad will and accusations) and displacing them into a new kitchen as an act of shedding her old skin and moving forward. To shed LVP's skin however, it needs to be under $300,000, and needs to have the nicest marble slab countertop she can find. That being said, no judgement here and you do you girl!
That finally catches us up, to the latest, very loose plot line of Puppygate. What once was a brief, bookended story to Bunnygate, is now a full damn storyline with a preamble, a frame narrative, multiple cause-and-effect instances, plot twists, and even a “choose your own adventure” component (based on who you believe).
To briefly recap: the poor excuse of an amateur English actor auditioning as a person from South Carolina with a distinct southern drawl and not getting a call back, known as Dorit, adopts a dog from Vanderpump Dogs, named Lucy Lucy Apple Juice (LLAJ). Dorit then neglects to tell LVP that after LLAJ bites PK (otherwise known as the oft-forgotten, discarded piece of foreskin post-circumcision) and their daughter, they give up LLAJ to another shelter. (As I write that sentence, I think of the fact that I'm still paying student loans off for a creative writing degree, and I shed a single tear).
Also, I am aware that Lucy Lucy Apple Juice is not an inanimate object, but supposedly an animated dog (though I remain skeptical).
This action then becomes even more heightened and ridiculous when it is accused that LVP planted a story to Radar to shame Dorit when she hears of what happened.
In a disappointing crescendo that seemingly never ends, one of the event coordinators of Vanderpump Dogs, named John Blizzard, (whose name is faker than, you guessed it, Dorit-I-give-night-terrors-to-polyglots-Kemsley) invites Teddi over and has a dog that looks like LLAJ as a way to bring the housewives into the fray.
Now, we are in an endless war of convoluted she-said she-said with no end in sight. Stunningly, Rinna makes the most salient point in that the tactics of deflection and obfuscation mirror that of the post-fact society we are in: the era of Trump. Everything is cyclical, and can be easily mocked up, or repurposed to dissuade anyone from actually determining the facts and the source.
It has been a stunning journey to watch the plot revolve around the actions of these women, to the objects of these women. Who knows how further abstracted this series will become? It is also extremely curious how this is the only series on Bravo out of all of the Housewives franchise that's plot is driven by objects, the feelings imbued in them, and the meaning that can be extracted from them. Even in the absurd world of the rest of these shows, Beverly Hills remains the trailblazer in disassociation. Four point five out of five stars.
Alright readers. Now that I'm done spilling the tea, I'm off to do something ferociously masculine like watching wrestling, Die Hard, or, you know, not talking about my feelings.
Jordan graduated in 2009 from Susquehanna University with a degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies where he met his wife. In spite of God's will, he published his first book PESTS with Lloyd Kaufman; the CEO of the independent stalwart Troma Entertainment. You can see him being snarky and cynical on Twitter and Instagram @settlingstatic , and you can find him being deeply, deeply nerdy on Reddit @SkywardJordan.