The Real Housewives of Social Media
S1: Nicole Collier, the name I want to call her, because now with screen, grab it and it’ll be on Peter Port tomorrow.
S2: Hi, I’m Madison Malone Kircher
S3: and I’m Rachel Hampton and you’re listening to ASU I’mI’m I’m
S2: in case you missed it, Slate’s
S3: podcast about internet culture. Before we get started medicine, is there something you perhaps like to share with the class?
S2: Yes. Yes, I would, Rachel. So in our last episode or spooky, spooky Halloween spectacular, I mistakenly identified a vine as being a clip from Project Runway. And it, in fact, was a clip from RuPaul’s Drag Race. I deeply regret the error.
S3: How very dare
S2: I will say, however, to the one person who deemed me over the weekend threatening to pull my gay card? I’m keeping it. I’m keeping it. Just want to say once and for all that I do apologize for the Drag Race community. Don’t hold your breath. There will not be a notes app apology forthcoming?
S3: Well, while they’re not holding my breath, is there anything else?
S2: Yeah. Let’s go Brandon. Who?
S3: Brandon Brandon, who
S2: star of the internet’s latest meme. You know, Brandon,
S3: does Brandon have a last name? Who are we talking about?
S2: OK. A couple of our listeners have asked that we explain the Let’s Go Brandon meme that has taken over in, let’s say, the last month. Confusingly, Brandon is both a real person. He’s a NASCAR driver named Brandon Brown. But as far as the meme is concerned, Brandon is Joe Biden.
S3: I’m sorry. Why would Brandon Brown and Joe Biden are the same person?
S2: Let me take you back. This is my favorite kind of meme to explain, because the takeaway at the end is, Oh, I’m not missing anything. This is just really dumb.
S3: Oh, great. I was really worried I was bad at my job because I still don’t know what you’re talking about.
S2: OK, so at the beginning of October, Brandon Brown wins this NASCAR race and he’s being interviewed on NBC and in the background. You can hear people at this NASCAR touting fact Joe Biden. In fact, Joe Biden, the host interviewing Brandon Brown, is like, Yes, you can hear them cheer. Let’s go, Brandon. No, Brandon, you also told me, as you can hear the chants from the crowd. Let’s go, Brandon, Brandon. I don’t actually know if the host was like trying to pivot away from the fact Joe Biden. Are you counting the syllables? I’m watching you count on your fingers, you know?
S3: Yeah, yeah, I was, I was. I was counting them.
S2: So it’s the same. It’s four, OK? I just needed to check. But since then, it has sort of taken off as like a censored way to say, fuck, Joe Biden, like politicians on the House floor have said it. There was a Southwest pilot who, like, got in trouble for saying it over like the intercom from the cockpit on a plane. Just it’s it’s every fact. Fuck Joe Biden. Let’s go. Brandon has a has taken over.
S3: OK, so I mean, based on the locale of where this meme originated, NASCAR, I’m assuming there’s really two ends of the political spectrum. But fuck Joe Biden’s slogan could come from. I’m assuming this is this is this is the right side of that spectrum
S2: that that would be correct. I mean, it is very funny to me, right? Because it’s one of those lawn signs in this house. We we agree. Let’s go, Brandon, but possibly for different reasons, then this means origin.
S3: I just I mean, I’m glad that you said at the top that I shouldn’t feel bad for missing this because this is definitely part of a realm of the internet that I have very carefully tailored my algorithmic experience to not include.
S2: It feels to me like a similar accidental workaround. Do you remember when Donald Trump, it was announced that Donald Trump had COVID?
S3: Oh God, that was the best day ever.
S2: Right? And people can bitter. You can say it. People on Twitter were tweeting the same number of asterisks as it takes to spell. Let’s hope he dies. Mm hmm.
S3: I mean, on some level, it’s it’s funny. But on the other hand, it feels like a means to escape being regulated on a platform. And so I that is a little scary to me, just a bit.
S2: I mean, just thank NBC anyway. I think that’s really all one needs to know about. Let’s go, Brandon.
S3: Well, great, because let’s go. Brandon is weirdly a perfect segue way into our main topic for today.
S2: Are you going to make this leap?
S3: Today we’re talking about Real Housewives of Potomac, right? You like Madison might be thinking, Rachel, what the fuck does a MAGA slogan have to do with Real Housewives? To which I would say it doesn’t really. But also it does, because one of America’s in fact, I would say America’s greatest art form gave us both Make America Great Again and Real Housewives, and that art form is Madison’s favorite topic reality television.
S2: OK, you got there. But like, I’m I’m doing yoga like full on Warrior two, like my body is stretched to make that leap.
S3: I’m just keeping you limber.
S2: It’s true. I do love reality television. And you can tell that because the last time we talked about it on the show, I wasn’t here.
S3: Yes. In that episode, which was co-hosted by our producer, Daniel Schroeder, we talked briefly about how social media has become the driving plotline of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Rest in peace. But that’s not true just of the now defunct E! Network series on Real Housewives of Potomac. Theoretically, the main draw is getting a kind of inside look at the politics and lifestyles of the black bourgeoisie. And let’s be real here. The plotlines about bubbles or Brazilian butt lifts and respectability politics and etiquette are simply sublime. It’s prestige television. But the thing is, if you’re not sorry, if you’re not keeping up with the Instagram Live or the sub tweets or the blog post you’re missing out on, I would say half of the show.
S2: OK, Rachel, I am convinced that you could keep talking about Real Housewives for a as long as my computer battery is going to last and be, possibly for all time. But after the break, we’re actually bringing in a second expert. We’re going to be talking with Shamira Ebrahim, who is a excellent culture writer and critic who also does The Real Housewives of Potomac recaps for Realtor.com about the way social media functions on Real Housewives of Potomac.
S3: More on that after the break.
S2: All right, we are back and I am ready to to go to school and study up on The Real Housewives of the Potomac.
S3: Oh, Madison, you have so much to learn. Less than one.
S2: Real Housewives of Potomac drop the the it’s cleaner. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
S3: Lesson two For the uninitiated and Madison, the Potomac Housewives are a group of affluent black women in the DMV area. Importantly, not all of them actually live in Potomac, Maryland, but they include Gizelle Bryant, Wendy Osafo, Karen Huger, Candace Dillard Bassett, Ashley Darby, Mia Thornton and Robyn Dixon. So since this season has just wrapped and we’re heading into the reunions, we’re going to be joined by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Shamira Ibrahim Shamira was so excited to have you on the show. I’ve been trying to think of a way to get you on here for months now.
S1: Thank you for having me, Rachel. Looking forward to the conversation.
S2: Shamira We’re very, very glad you’re here. But for our listeners, could you please disclose your Housewives bona fides? You are quite the expert.
S1: Yes, I am currently the Volturi copper for Potomac. I have previously also done Atlanta. I’ve unfortunately obsessively watched this franchise going back to college, which I will not disclose what year that is because I think I care enough.
S3: Not unfortunate at all. Very fortunate for us because I remember when I first tweeted that I was starting to watch this show, it was like December of 2020 and everything was depressing. And I remember you tweeted to me, you were like, Girl, you have to keep up with what’s going on online, otherwise you’re not really understanding what’s going on with the show.
S1: Yeah, one of the things I tell people a lot is that, you know, while I do look at Housewives the reality TV as escapism, but I actually think it’s one of the most fascinating examinations of human behavior because it’s a lot of examining how people think about so how they think people perceive them and how they think they can actually modify that right and become their own level of like producers. And it almost never works the way they think. It’s almost inevitably fails, but it’s the sense of self agency and self ownership and how people actually really perceive how they can navigate that. There’s the odd chance that it succeeds, but inevitably, like people show character comes out and of course, is like I have a level of producing by the actual producers who work to manipulate their own narratives. But watching that level of tension of people trying to like, bring out their own narratives on social media now and using every level of mediums they have available to them to create this whole arc for themselves, while then their own persona like always defeating them by the end of this season. Like if you think about for Potomac, you have Candice Dillard Bassett, right, who at the beginning of this season, you know, coming off of the major conflicts between her and Mo’Nique, she was stepmom in charge. I want to be
S2: more comfortable in my bonus mom ness. And so far it’s been a haze, but I’m figuring it
S1: out as I go, you know, by the end of it. She’s yet in another conflict, actually, and several of them and kind of reverting back to the same cadence that she was in last season. Candace, no, I don’t get.
S2: OK, I don’t give a I
S1: don’t I don’t. I promise you, you will, and the cut is just speaks to the nature of how reality TV kind of iterates over itself.
S2: Shamira I love this idea that if you’re not following along on on social media, you’re missing a large part of the plot of any given season of Real Housewives. But I’m curious how the universe works. How does social media become an actual storyline on the show?
S1: It becomes plotline in the show in a couple of different ways. One is it becomes a plotline in the reunions very heavily like they talk about the arms and reunions and they talk well. The reunions are like a very special kind of silo of how we talk about reality TV, especially in Bravo, because we talk about it as if, like, it’s like this alternate universe, right, where things kind of get expelled and then we never refer to them again, right? Like even in the universe of the season. They never say at the reunion, right? They say, back in New York. You ever actually had a lot to say. We were at a reunion. It’s like when we were back in New York City, a.k.a. filming for 15 hours, right? And screaming at each other.
S3: You cannot say Andy Cohen’s name on the show or else something bad happens.
S1: Yeah, it’s like we have to maintain the artifice of this be like a real organic experience. But that is where, like, we actually begin to actually navigate a lot of these interactions. Then actually throughout the season, they’ll start to intersperse like the artifice of people producing themselves. Right? In the last couple of seasons, I became a lot more accepted, especially with accepting that a lot of the cast members were leaking things towards. One notable one in recent history was like in Real Housewives of Atlanta, right? Where, like the whole thing was basically constructed around like a leaked blog post about a stripper that came to a party, and that was the whole buildup to it. So this kind of happens where now when there are like very caustic personas like in Potomac who are known for like their very aggressive social media personas, they all show kind of that interaction, how that affects things. The problem kind of becomes that Potomac specifically is a show that is very layered and coded racial conversation and coded interracial conversation that doesn’t necessarily easily translate to people who are not black. So while there are some things that are very explicit like OK, can is called actually a bad one, right? I think even if you’re not black, you can get that. That is something that is very out of bounds to say to someone who is a black woman. But like, there are other things that are, like, not necessarily explicit to really discuss, like I’ve tried to discuss and like, you know, my recaps that are not necessarily easy to tease out. I mean, these are hard conversations to have with white audiences, as well as kind of more implicit within black communities.
S3: I mean, that’s incredibly smart and just really kind of gets the point of like the reunions and social media as separate from the actual show. I feel like those are the only places where the kind of undercurrent so you’re talking about get discussed like the respectability politics and the colors and the kind of divide between like the Jack and Jill blacks and the new money blacks. Those are the only spaces that those conversations are happening.
S1: And I think the big thing with Potomac as well is that the like reality blog World, you know, like that underbelly is dominated by black and like black queer people. And so because like those like places like if you think about the right, think about funky Dynevor, think about all about the tea lipstick alley message boards, all of those sorts of connections. And those connective tissues are mostly viewed as either run by black people or black coded in some way, shape or form. Ben Potomac, as a community and as a show, is a black show, right? There’s a level of connection there that is very intimate. Right. So those narratives are coming well before the show starts.
S2: First of all, I’m simply shocked that gossip blogs are good and fun and messy thing on the internet. Word were created by black and queer people. Go figure who who could believe that a great part of the internet had nothing to do with white folks? Shamira Do you feel like social media can help the white audience that you’re describing? Keep up with the racially coded parts of the conversation on the show.
S1: I do think it would help create a shorthand for some things because I think Potomac and Rachel keep me honest here. I think it exploded as a fan base last season, right? Like so many people jumped onto it after there was a huge fight right between Candace and Mo’Nique. And now there are a lot of people who are coming in fresh who may not have necessarily watched from the beginning. And so there’s a lot of new perspectives to an audience that is not necessarily in tune to a certain kind of black community, which is different from Atlanta and married to medicine in the sense. They have a perceived level of respectability freight. But, you know, there’s like this level of like grandeur and like performance and how they needed to present things, but now they’ve kind of put themselves in the position of like, have this new fan base of like heavy cans. And yeah, like just shorthand. Some of these things would be appreciated in some ways, right? It’s not always going to give you like a full level of like lexicon about everything. You’re still going to miss some gaffes. That’s natural. But I can give an example one time I did try to mention in a recap. Yeah, colourism is a thing, but it doesn’t completely exonerate Candice from all of her behavior. And like, I accidentally caused like a ruckus in your comment section.
S3: Same or more?
S1: Well, I think people thought I was trying to say that like Candice had validity to like her tantrum. And then I got like a litany of responses, which I only checked every so often. But it happened to be Indigenous Peoples Day, so I happen to have the time right? And I just thought, Oh, I just don’t understand what color has to do with her being a bad person. And I was like, Oh no, I might have done something wrong, you know? And so that was one of the rare times that I went ahead and explain myself, Well, OK, listen, all I’m trying to say is colorism is a thing of the way that racism is a thing. It’s always going to exist.
S3: Like Candace will bring up colorism like online or I think she brought it up at the reunion. Or maybe Wendy did. At some point one of them brought it up during the reunion. And that’s what’s kind of fascinating to me as like real Housewives to be told because of franchises that I feel like more than Atlanta. It gets into, like you were saying, the intra community dynamics more than anything else. And that’s what I see discussed most often online, which is a product of the social media experience I have curated for myself. Right. But I’m always just curious as to what white people are seeing when they’re watching this show and how much is just flying under the radar and how much it’s like Bravo or any of the cast members responsibility to just be like, Well, actually, there’s an organization called Jack and Jill Raiche.
S2: This is your friendly neighborhood white audience surrogate asking, Could we describe when you’re talking about Jack and Jill, the organization a little bit?
S1: Mm hmm.
S2: I’m sorry it had to be, and I know I knew the reaction it would desire.
S1: No, no, no. It’s funny. It’s not that it shouldn’t be asked. It’s just like, how could we describe it in a way that’s not going to immediately piss people off? OK. So on Wikipedia, it says that Jack and Jill is a leadership organization formed during the Great Depression, formed in 1938 by African-American mothers, with the idea of bringing together children in a social and cultural environment to create a medium of contact for children, which will stimulate growth and development.
S2: Rachel’s head is just in her hands at this point.
S1: Separately, there was a book that was written and I believe the 1990s by Lawrence Otis called our kind of people
S3: of Bangor,
S1: which is essentially him as a person who grew up at like a community of people with means and how they looked at class before race. And Potomac tends to actually kind of mirror some parts of that in a way that blows up into the broader universe. Because Potomac is kind of like the Jack and Jill blacks were a house off of Atlanta is kind of just like the regular blacks on my campus, right in the Quad right. And so it’s like kind of the different parts of black, digital and real life and like all of them, are kind of trying to put out one narrative themselves. But at the end of the day, you only reflect back like who you are, no matter how hard you try to be one thing or the other, the divide that
S3: you’re getting to between Jack and Jill, blacks and kind of everybody else. And kind of going back to Madison’s question about whether the online discussion will help white people understand what’s going on on the show. I feel like it doesn’t at all, because that kind of nuance is getting lost between like the conflict between Candace and Mo’Nique was kind of Jack and Jill versus like Mo’Nique, who grew up kind of rough and was like now had money, but did not know like the proper etiquette. And so when you get these new viewers coming in because of the fight, you’re they’re missing all of the kind of social context that I think if you’re keeping up with, like the black audiences talking about it online or like the blogs or even like recaps written by black writers like half of the show is getting lost in translation, right?
S1: Because if you remember after the fight, the first thing she said is your hood around your fire. And like Mo’Nique, is like a regular around the way chick. But she’s got a hood rat, you know, like she’s just, you know, all around the way, girl. All right. How do you explain the nuance of that insult and why she’s able to get away with Monique that specifically because she’s brown skinned and like, you have to be like deep in the recesses of black Twitter, right to like search and comb through the hashtag and figure that out.
S3: This reminds me of one of the questions I had, which is Do you think it’s fair game for all? Like, I mean, Robyn’s brought up a blog post, Giselle’s brought up a blog post of this boy. Every single time it gets brought up. The other person is always like, How dare you bring this on to this show? But it’s it’s it’s driving the show at this point.
S2: Rachel, can I ask a question about your question? Yeah. And both of you could answer when you say that cast members acts like bringing up these blog post is sacrosanct like you’re not supposed to. Are they just supposed to pretend the internet doesn’t exist on the show?
S1: Well, there was a time when they kind of did. And so, like, everybody was really, really bored during quarantine and everybody started going on Instagram Live and then all the girls were just beefing with each other all day, every day, right? Until apparently Bravo actually had to tell them to intervene and said, You guys have to stop because they
S2: really didn’t know about that.
S1: Like, it was getting a little aggressive, like all them were literally hopping on Instagram Live. So that was more like worthwhile. Breaking kind of became big on the show, but it was it ever when you started to be like blog post to be published everywhere that wasn’t ever really normal. So then after that, like Petkovic, they just started to become more like, well, fuck it on the blogs and said, this is on the blog and said that there’s something like
S2: quaintly analogue about gossip blogs becoming a character on a show. Again, to me that feels like like the Gossip Girl era when they they all get into, like fake Gawker blogging.
S1: And the funny thing is all the gossip, what the gossip blogger side of someone who’s spoken to a couple of them like. There’s this idea that like, they’re getting paid as a like transactionally paid and they’re not not really right. Like, you know, a lot of the cast was like, Oh, yeah, you know, Mo’Nique is paid like paid x y z person. So like, you know, be on their side and like, they’re not really getting paid. They get distracted by like association for a pair of social relationships the same way that anybody else does. So the person who they’ve been writing about regularly, the second they start paying them a little bit of attention, everybody sends a few essential oils, right? You know, like building that level of relationship. But then all of a sudden they feel like they have a relationship with a celebrity, right? You know, and that builds a level affinity so that all of a sudden, as I know from inside source, right, that x y z thing happens, right? So it’s not that Mo’Nique or whoever is actually paying them to give them favorable stories, it’s that they feel like they built a kinship with someone, right?
S3: It is in fact, cheaper to just be nice. They don’t have to pay a thousand dollars. So we’ve gotten into a lot about the ways that the differences between the kind of Jack and Jill star and the new money set plays out on Twitter and on the show. But Instagram, the most visual of all mediums, probably is where you can see it more clearly, right?
S1: Yeah, I think it’s kind of started to blend a little bit more in recent seasons, but in the earlier seasons that you saw it a lot more like we can compare, for example, real houses the Atlanta versus Potomac to see the most distinct blend, right? Someone like Karen Huger, who you know she has her little grand brand, right? Her whole kind of aesthetic. While it is around like big gestures, it’s still around the idea of homemaking, right? Like the family unit. Whereas someone like Marlo Hampton, it’s about flaunting an ostentatious A. It’s like, look at the brands I have, look at the labels. I oh, look at all the coach bags I have looked at worst about to go worry about who’s buying it for me, right? You know, it’s kind of the whole like stock launch partner thing right there, a, you know, big man in the background sponsoring me. You don’t have to worry about who it is, but that’s the kind of like distinction between the aesthetic and how they interact with each other, like the ideals like wholesomeness and like presentation versus the whole like. We’re out, we’re stepping out where and demand and VIP where we go out, like Carin Huber, does not care about whether or not she’s going to be our stadium. Right? That’s not. That’s not the vibe that she’s trying to give up, right?
S3: Honestly, I kind of wish it was the vibe she was trying to give off. But I have one last question for you. And it’s a very it’s the most important question. What the fuck is up with Giselle Tok?
S1: Oh my god. Honestly, I love that. I will say this. I actually really think as much as I talk, too much is I’ll be too light skinned. Like great, I’ll be a villain. I actually do think just all seems like a great bob.
S3: No, she does. Her kids talk to her like, Oh, you know, like, like, that’s a good relationship. Like, like
S1: her kids literally tell her, like, she is like a mess every single week and she’s like, I receive that. Like, Well, like, I say that as like a way to transition to her TikTok, which is like one of the most amazing things I’ve. Ever seen because like to give like a comparison, like Ashley Darby has a Tic TAC, which is like basically her dancing to Doja Cat songs, but Jozo, like honestly, it’s high art. Like, I just go Brian on Tik Tok. It is literally just like her, like just pointing the camera at herself. So like, poorly sing songs. And it’s also like song trends that are like four months old. You kind of have to just like decide what part of the tick tock 60 see most like. Oh, the much that she pointed to in the middle of the collage the random player that she just said yes.
S3: Mm-Hmm. It’s really like a choose your own adventure and in the back of your head, you just know you can hear her children like looking at they’re like looking at her tick tock and being like, What the what the fuck are you doing?
S1: Like, it’s very much me. Like, mean girls like baby polar. I’m a cool. Yeah, yeah, that’s like the thing is, I just always like, it’s always too beautiful to make fun of like, so you’re just like, Wow, like, this is what happens with like, no one tells them, Let’s get a woman that, like, she’s not making fun like, Hey, hey, really?
S2: Yeah. Mm hmm.
S1: Mm hmm. It’s just bizarre.
S3: Well, that is all of my questions. So I could talk about real Housewives with you for quite literally 24 hours straight.
S1: Oh sure, I will do it again soon enough in person.
S2: Clear. But once again, that was Shamira Ibrahim Shamira is a culture writer and critic and also the Real Housewives of Potomac recap for Vulture.
S3: All right, that is the show. We’ll be back in your feed on Saturday, so definitely subscribe. It’s free and the best way to never miss me talking about reality television. Speaking of upcoming episodes, November is national novel writing month or NaNoWriMo. And if you’re using part of this mo to read your No. We love to hear about it. Send us a voice memo with the first line of your NaNoWriMo masterpiece, and we may use it in an upcoming episode. In the meantime, please leave us a rating and review in Apple Podcasts. Tell your friends about us. None of y’all have hired a skywriter about us, yet I’m still waiting on that. You can also always follow us on Twitter AC Why am I an escort pod, which is where you can find most your questions, and you can also drop us a note. I see. Why am I at Slate.com?
S2: I see why am I? Is produced by Daniel Schroeder, our supervising producer is Derek John Forrest Wickman and Allegra Frank are our editors, and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate Podcasts. See you online
S3: or on the Potomac.