I’ve just finished binge-watching the latest season of Selling Sunset and disappointed doesn’t quite cut it.
The bitching and cat-fighting between the real estate agents at The Oppenheim Group in Los Angeles has reached new heights and instead of drooling over $15m homes with insane views, infinity pools and primary bedrooms that could house the entire audience of Britain’s Got Talent, we were subjected to a circular game of “she said, she said” ending in the show’s reigning protagonist, Chrishell, accusing her fellow agent, Nicole, of being on drugs claiming, “you’ve been acting a little cracked out all night”.
Cue a quick trip into town for a drug test and threats to call in lawyers for defamation. Now I don’t know about you, but the last time I had a row with a girlfriend or any female colleague and had to call in a lawyer was, erm, never.
But these women call each other out if one so much as brings a mutual friend to a party; so deep is their mistrust that they presume there has to be an ulterior motive and it can’t simply be a case of social circles happening to collide.
It’s Mean Girls on steroids and all the squabbling and feuding deflects from the real stars of the show; the fabulous luxury homes and their billionaire buyers. Give me a 12-car garage, TV screen that comes up from a pool and a giant King Kong statue in the back yard and I’ll happily watch Selling Sunset for years to come. As one comment on Reddit said: “We want houses! We want houses!”
Throw in the agents’ outrageous and expensive fashion choices – fingerless gloves this year for agent Amanza and Diesel-belt skirt for British star Chelsea just two of the many eye-opening looks – and it’s deliciously entertaining.
I had the same crushing feeling of disappointment watching the latest season of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills which ended with Kathy Hilton calling housewife, Lisa Rinna, the “biggest bully in Hollywood” after Rinna had compared Hilton to “the devil” after her alleged psychotic meltdown during a girls’ trip to Aspen.
At the reunion show, most of the housewives were in floods of tears – Kyle Richards especially, who has spent most of the last 12 seasons desperately trying to keep her relationship with her two sisters intact and failing miserably because of all the in-cast – and female – feuding. Sigh.
Why do these shows have to focus so intently on pointless toxic conflicts? Why do the producers feel the need to liken all-female offices and groups of friends to a hornets’ nests, full of competitive, back-stabbing women?
It’s a dated and sexist notion that women can’t work or holiday together in harmony. I have spent most of my career as a journalist and editor surrounded by supportive, nurturing women who have empowered each other with their ideas, humour and enthusiasm. As a young journalist, I was mentored and coached by senior editors and now happily do the same for those climbing the ladder. I’ve been on dozens of all-girl trips and not one ended with a call to a lawyer or a drink thrown in someone’s face.
There was, however, plenty of great conversation, empathy, fun and laughter.
The sisterhood is real. Sister-hate is nothing more than ratings clickbait. And what do these female clashes tell the millions of viewers, many of them young women, about friendship?
“These kinds of TV shows can be damaging to the portrayal of women and their relationships, as it reinforces negative stereotypes and promotes toxic behaviour,” says Dr Becky Spelman, counselling psychologist and founder of Private Therapy Clinic. “They often present a one-dimensional view of women’s relationships, depicting them as competitive, bickering, and superficial and can send negative messages to young girls and promote negative stereotypes that can be harmful to their self-esteem, confidence, and overall wellbeing.
“In 2023, female friendships are likely to be multifaceted and diverse and are far more likely to be characterised by mutual support, respect, and trust, as well as open and honest communication. Female friendships should be depicted on TV as something positive, uplifting, and empowering, that allows them to grow and thrive as individuals – because that’s what they do in real life.”
Someone needs to tell these TV producers we’re no longer living in the Dynasty era and characters like the scheming Alexis Carrington (played by Dame Joan Collins) should stay back in the 80s where they belong.
What we want is fabulous houses, fashion, fun and… women backing women.