It is no secret to anyone, anywhere that I am a Bravo super-fan. Since 1994, when Inside the Actors Studio premiered, I have been sucked in by Bravo’s programming one reality show at a time. And, in being a reality TV fan – specifically, a BRAVO fan – I have been indoctrinated over the years to suspend my disbelief at the ridiculous behaviors that are displayed in these shows.
When you ask, “Surely there is something going on that we haven’t seen. They shoot so much footage that things have to have been left out. There must be more to the story.” Bravo replies, “The shows don’t tell lies, it’s all there on camera. It’s REALITY, baby.”
In recent years, though, it’s become obvious that in a lot of ways, it is the edit that Bravo provides where the “reality” of the show is established. And, truthfully, Bravo deals in a lot of half-truths and excused problematic behavior.
Bravo’s Performative Allyship
Only recently, in the face of the anti-racist movement that has intensified since the killing of George Floyd this past May, has Bravo began to crack down on the racist behavior of some of its’ stars. Behavior, that all Bravo fans know, that was on public display long before this critical mass of public protest began this spring.
It is a good step to call out racists and impose real world consequences for that behavior. That doesn’t mean Bravo is off the hook. The network has quite a lot to answer for when it comes to evangelizing additional problematic behavior on its’ shows. For which it makes no excuses or explanations. Producers and editors work to try to “normalize” sexism, abuse, and demonization. The big cheese, Andy Cohen, then discusses this normalization through skewed interviews and at cast “reunions.”
In particular, Bravo doesn’t seem to have clocked the whole “Me, Too” movement -or- the fact that demonizing mental health isn’t cool.
Also it seems like the only place Bravo has for the LGBTQIA community is with the G in that acronym… gay men. But, only when they are doing your hair or makeup. Any other time, same sex intimacy is deemed “gross” by the wanna be daughter of a mediocre 80s rock star.
As former Below Deck cast member, Adrienne Gang, said on Reddit today, “[Bravo makes us feel…] that collectively we are all crazy for not buying storylines they are spoon feeding us.”
Andy Cohen, You Have Some Explaining to Do
Up until recently I was a huge Andy Cohen fan. Hell, I even gave him (legal) weed gum balls at a Watch What Happens Live taping once. I thought he was a cool guy. An openly gay man, advocating for the rights of all on the late night airwaves. Sadly, fan opinions of Andy are beginning to shift drastically. Fans are beginning to see him as complicit in the horrendous behavior we see laid out in prime time. Behavior with no real world consequences and that goes without critical discussion.
I used to make excuses for Bravo and Andy Cohen. But, I cannot anymore. Despite how much I have loved their programming, it may have become time to part ways with this network.
Bravo, Bravo, Kate – This is a Bad Look for You
Here is a list of the most problematic issues I have found with Bravo this season (besides the implicit racism and homophobia discussed above) –
- The overtly abusive, sexist, and threatening behavior displayed by Ashton Pineaar, Kevin Dobson, Brian de Saint Pern, and Tanner Sterback towards their female colleagues in the most recent season of Below Deck. Better known as the Brü Situation.
- The statements made by Teddi Mellencamp on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills that a consensual relationship between two women is “gross” and “really really really bad.” (S10, Ep11 “Kiss & Tell” and S10, Ep12 “Roman Rumors.”) And, the insinuation that Brandi Glanville makes that somehow Denise Richards sexually assaulted her (although, she quickly backpedals this, as she knows she’s going a step too far into dangerous territory by overtly saying that’s what happened.)
- Captain Sandy Yawn gaslighting, micromanaging, and verbally abusing Chief Steward, Hannah Ferrier on Below Deck Mediterranean in Season 5… Then firing her for having prescription medication and a legal CBD pen onboard, citing this as possession “drugs.” She then tells Hannah that she “doesn’t feel comfortable going to sea” with her. Why? Because Hannah lives with generalized anxiety disorder. (A fact that Sandy Yawn was well aware of, having been revealed in Season 3 of this show.) She also cites that Hannah having had a panic attack a few nights before makes her “unsafe,” according to “Maritime Law.”
The straw that broke fans backs… or, at least this fan’s back.
It’s not as if I, a bisexual woman and survivor of sexual assault/violent trauma, wasn’t triggered by the first two things in my list. I was. But, what has really caused me to come out to say that I am over Bravo is the situation which happened with Hannah Ferrier.
Let me break it down for you real quick:
Fact: Captain Sandy does not like Chief Stew Hannah, she hasn’t for all 3 of the 4 seasons they have been on the show together. Her dislike started because Hannah misrepresented a flirtatious moment between herself and a charter guest to the Captain. (Who then watched it back on TV, and has been riding Hannah’s ass ever since.)
Fact: No matter how exceptionally Hannah is doing her job, she is always micromanaged, belittled, and harassed by Sandy. This has been an ongoing theme for 3 years.
Fact: Hannah is pretty “over” being bullied and micromanaged by Sandy. It’s clear from the second episode of the season that Hannah feels as if Sandy doesn’t have her back as a head of department.
Fact: Hannah has generalized anxiety disorder, this was disclosed to viewers (and, Captain Sandy,) 2 seasons ago.
Fact: On the last episode of Below Deck Mediterranean (S5, Ep12 “There’s No Place Like Home,”) Hannah is summarily fired for having a mental illness.
And, is then hardcore gaslit by Sandy. As Hannah tries to maintain some professionalism and collect herself, all the while on the phone with her boyfriend in Australia, trying to make hotel and airfare accommodations for herself. While Sandy hammers her with questions and requests for assurance that Hannah agrees Sandy has done the right thing.
Fact: All of this occurs because a crew member (Malia White) goes through Hannah Ferrier’s personal property and texts a photo of the two prescriptions to the Captain.
Fact: The reason Malia White does this is because she is pissed off at Hannah.
Fact: Hannah tells Malia that she didn’t want to room with Bugsy Drake (the two of whom do not get along well in close quarters, as established by previous seasons.) Which puts a kink in Malia’s plan to switch all the crew cabins around to accommodate her bunking with her boyfriend, Chef Tom/Tim, who was brought onboard after the previous chef was fired.
Fact: The previous chef, Kiko – beloved by all, was fired by Captain Sandy (who stood watch over the galley like she should have been standing watch over her ship) for serving a “Las Vegas like buffet” to the charter guests, who asked for a Las Vegas night.
Fact: After Kiko was fired, Hannah had a panic attack in the middle of the night (very common for those with anxiety.)
Fact: Hannah had a panic attack because she had a very stressful day, and felt responsible for Kiko’s dismissal.
Fact: Malia had plenty of previous opportunities to disclose Hannah’s mental illness and medication to Captain Sandy, yet chose to wait until it suited her needs -in a specific moment- to do so.
Fact: The unregistered medication is not even the real reason that Captain Sandy Yawn fires Hannah Ferrier. Sandy states she feels “unsafe” going to sea with someone who is managing a mental illness with properly prescribed (if unregistered) medication. She and Malia characterize Hannah as “unstable” on multiple occasions prior to this episode. We even see Sandy, supposedly empathetic, “checking in on” a very confused Hannah.
Fact: Sandy fakes concern for Hannah after Malia’s disclosure by bemoaning “What if she overdoses, what if she overdoses?“
(Like really? .5 mg of Valium doesn’t even make me sleepy.)
Fact: After firing Hannah, Sandy then discloses to the entire crew that “Hannah was on DRUGS” and that the boat has a “zero tolerance policy” for drugs of any kind. (Um…. like alcohol, Sandy?)
Set ALLLLLL That Aside
Set aside that Malia went through Hannah’s personal property with out probable cause or a dictate to search and seize from her superiors. (Of which there are protocols they have to follow, including informing the person whose property they intend to search before they search that property.)
Set aside that the Valium was a prescription, the “pot” pen was doctor prescribed hemp oil.
Set aside that the Captain and the Bosun of the ship were involved in catty gossip about Hannah even before this episode. And, afterwards derided her for being on “DRUGS.”
Set aside that Hannah clearly says that she forgot to register her medication with the boat, but had not taken either substance while on board.
Set aside that they didn’t send her for a drug test before firing her.
Set aside that Bravo edited the whole season to make it seem like Hannah was popping pills, when actually she was taking paracetamol (for those not familiar with this name, Advil.)
Set aside that Sandy knew about Hannah’s anxiety, ergo knew that Hannah was on medication, for 2 seasons prior.
Set aside that 2 seasons ago they had a stew (Kasey) who was constantly on Dramamine (way harsher than .5 mg of Valium) and another prescription drug (I cannot remember what) for seasickness that made her woozy and unable to perform her duties. But, still she was kept on board. And, allowed to self-regulate her meds.
Set aside that charter guests have clearly been doing illegal drugs on Sandy’s boats in previous seasons.
Set aside that when a similar situation arose in Season 1 of the main franchise of Below DEck that Captain Lee Rosbach (who is and always will be THE MAN) did not fire or even discipline the crew member who did not disclose their anxiety medication prior to setting sail. Because, being on an anti-anxiety medication is not against “Maritime Law.”
Set aside that crew member (Kat Heald) was also allowed to self-regulate her medication.
Set aside the hypocrisy of this statement by Malia White, “We аre CREW аnd аlwаys ‘on duty.’ Our primаry goаl аt seа is to ensure the sаfety of аll pаssengers. Mentаl heаlth issues аre а big deаl аnd thаt’s why we hаve proper procedures in plаce. We аll reаd and sign а drugs and alcohol policy before joining аny boаt. This is VERY CLEARLY lаid out.” (Might want to think of that before you mandiate that the crew goes out and gets schwasted with each other between charters, Bravo.)
Set aside that all of Sandy Yawn and Malia White’s claims of “but, Maritime Law…” have been debunked by a former cast member.
Set aside that the cast member doing the debunking was the one who reported another cast member’s erratic behavior and suspected drug use to Captain Lee… so she probably knows a bit about procedure here.
Let’s look at the big picture:
BRAVO WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SAYING TO VIEWERS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH?
Geezus ducking cripes, Bravo, 51 Minds, Mark Cronin, and Nadine Rajabi! It’s not bad enough that you let racism, sexism, and homophobia sliiiidddeee through your shows until you’re called out? Now you’re going to tell your primary demographic, women, 22.8% of whom live with mental illness (that’s approximately 1-in-5 of your viewers, in case you can’t do ratios) that it’s OKAY TO BE FIRED FROM A JOB DUE TO A MEDICAL CONDITION?
AND you’re going to insinuate that the medications used to control this medical condition are ILLEGAL DRUGS? And, that people who manage their medical conditions with medications are DRUG ADDICTS? Shame on you.
I Hate to Say it Bravo, But Are You Fucking High?
Look, I don’t come at this from an unbiased position. I live with mental illness. I have PTSD, bipolar disorder (don’t get me started about Ramona Singer on RHONY outing Leah McSweeny’s bipolar 2 disorder,) generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and major depression.
I start my day by taking 300 mg of Wellbutrin (anti-depressant,) I end my day taking 200 mg of Trazadone (sleeping medication,) 80 mg of Celexa (anti-depressant,) 200 mg of Lamictal (mood regulation,) and 3.5mg of Xanax (anxiety medication, stops night terrors.)
According to Sandy Yawn and Malia White and Bravo TV and 51 Minds, being held to the same standards that Hannah Ferrier was held to, I’m the equivalent of Pablo-fucking-Escobar.
What these people are telling me about my mental illness is that all I am qualified to do is sit in the corner and be a drooling idiot. Let me tell you, while some may claim I’m an idiot (waves at little brothers,) I am not drooling. Nor do I belong in a rubber room. And, there is zero reason I cannot have any job I want.
Mental illness is an ILLNESS. And, like other illnesses it can be successfully managed with medication and the correct type of therapy.
Plus, just FYI to Malia and Sandy, the idea that Hannah could not get up and respond to a muster alarm if she were on Valium is ridiculous.
Despite the massive amounts of medication I take, I can still hear my daughter crying from two rooms away. Though she is loud, I doubt she is as loud as a muster alarm.
And, if I am able to sooth and coach a finicky 2 year old back into her bed and get her to sleep, I’m sure that Hannah would be able to wake up and corral guests to the muster station. When you hear a loud alarm and see flashing lights, you tend to go into fight or flight mode. Which means adrenaline courses through your body and you are snapped into taking action. That’s why they have alarms.
Not to mention that isn’t even a Schedule 1 drug, it’s a SCHEDULE FUCKING IV DRUG… it’s as dangerous as Dramamine.
And, if you are going to worry about people being incapacitated or in altered states, let’s talk about Bugs and Alex and all the other crew members over all the seasons and all the franchises of Below Deck being off their rocks drunk before, during, and after charter… hypocrisy much?
Medications are drugs, but not all drugs are medications…
It’s not “DRUGS.” It’s medication. It might be “DRUGS” if you abuse it, but there is no indication that Hannah was abusing her prescription (aside from the badly edited cuts to Hannah taking a paracetamol for sore feet or a headache.) If you look closely at the side of the box when Bravo shows it to you in close-up, you can even see where it says “As Needed” on the prescription.
And, fuck I would need wayyyyy more than .5 of Valium to deal with the insanity of being a cast member of Below Deck Med would entail.
It is fair to say that in this moment, in the editor’s choices to portray the season as they did, in Malia’s unlawful search, in Sandy Yawn’s words about Hannah Ferrier’s stability… Bravo demonized and shamed Hannah Ferrier for having -what surmounts to- a very common medical condition. It is also fair to sat that Bravo have ALSO shamed and demonized all the women, across the world, who tune into their shows, that also live with similar (or, more severe) medical conditions.
This is all very Tl;Dr. But suffice it to say, Bravo you’ve lost a fan. I’d rather watch paint dry than watch any of your bullshit anymore (except for Captain Lee. As he is THE MAN.)
You have some serious issues with your programming to address. And, some toxic “Bravolebrities” to get rid of. You need to be better. Do better.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF EXPLAINING TO DO FOR YOUR 2019-2020 CHOICES, BRAVO.
Until you can… I guess I’m gonna watch MSNBC. And, Captain Lee’s Instagram stories.