Cringe-worthy reality TV moments are part of what makes the no-boundaries genre so appealing. But as Hollywood reckons with a widespread movement against sexual misconduct in the workplace, it’s important to recognize when these questionable scenes cross the line.
In 2016, Bravo’s home remodeling show Flipping Out filmed surrogate mother Alexandra Trent as she gave birth to a baby girl. Trent is now suing the network, alleging that the birth was filmed without her consent. When the scene was broadcast last summer, it was embellished with degrading commentary from the show’s star, Jeff Lewis.
“If I was a surrogate, and I had known there was going to be an audience, I probably would have waxed,” Lewis said on the show. Mentioning his partner and co-star, Gage Edward, he added: “I don’t think Gage had ever seen a vagina, let alone one that big.”
As a surrogate for the couple, Trent agreed to the filming of ultrasound appointments. According to the lawsuit, producers of the show agreed not to film the birth, but did so from behind a curtain without Trent or her doctor’s knowledge. The clips can still be found online, although Trent has requested that Bravo remove them. Bravo did not respond to Variety’s request for comment.
Since the early 1990s and the advent of reality TV, there have been incidents of filming without consent, or filming nonconsensual acts. If Lewis, Edward, and their team did not have Trent’s consent to film the birth, they violated her privacy and her right to make decisions about her own body. Lewis’ comments reduce Trent to her body and how he thinks it should look, minimizing the wondrous feat of carrying his daughter for nine months. The #MeToo movement in Hollywood may have begun with sexual harassment and assault between heterosexual men and women, but it cannot end there.