The other day, I was waiting for the F train (and waiting…and WAITING), and I overheard a woman talking to what I took to be her 8-year-old son. She was explaining to him that most of what was on television was crap, what with all the “reality television and shows about bachelors.” In order to illustrate her point, she indicated an ad that was posted on the station wall which seemed to be advertising a reality TV show centered around extreme knitters and told her son, “You see? Everything out there is terrible.”
The problem, of course, was that the woman was actually pointing out an ad for The Kroll Show, and there is no reality TV show about knitters, there is only Nick Kroll and his viral marketing campaign, which last year brought New York such wonderful things as a Dr. Zizmor for dogs. Which, ha. Middle-aged Brooklyn parents are so gullible. It’d be sweet if it wasn’t so tragic.
But so, as I walked down to the F this morning, an ad caught my eye for a series called Southern Charm, and using only my keen peripheral vision, I noticed what appeared to be a group of young white people, drinking mint juleps, standing around and laughing on…what looks to be the porch of a plantation? Yes. That is exactly what it looks like! Hmm. Immediately, I assumed that it was another faux-ad, but I stopped to look at it and realized—with a growing level of discomfort— that it was a real advertisement for a real show that would soon be airing on Bravo.
Southern Charm apparently “follows six elite singles that are seriously connected — cast member Thomas Ravenel is the former State Treasurer of South Carolina and the son of Congressman Arthur Ravenel Jr…other cast members include Real World: San Diego alum Cameran Eubanks (!!), Craig Conover, Jenna King, Thomas Ravenel, Shepard “Shep” Rose, and Whitney Sudler-Smith,” and revolves “around the exclusive world of the upper-class in Charleston, South Carolina.” Bravo tagged this poster with the words “See How the Southern Half Lives,” so it’s pretty safe to say that this is supposed to be a look at an elite group of Southerners because aren’t we all just dying with curiosity when it comes to Charleston’s upper class? Well, no. Not me!
However, my problem isn’t that I don’t care about the subject of this show. I don’t care about the subjects of most (if not all) reality shows. No, my problem is that Bravo is advertising a show that’s supposed to be about Southern elites and it’s so full of disturbing racially coded images (there’s a whole lot of white in that picture, isn’t there? and the connotation of plantation life is disgusting) that I found myself seriously disturbed for the rest of my commute. I’m sure many people will think I’m being over-sensitive and that the cast members are just wearing white because hey! it’s hot in the South! people wear white when it’s hot! Or maybe some people will say that any plantation imagery I see is all in my head. It’s just a porch! But you know what? That’s bullshit. This ad is specifically racially coded in such a way that it makes pretty clear that in order to be a Southern elite—to have “Southern charm”—you need to be white. Now, I’m from New York, and when I’m pissed off (which is a lot of the time!) I tend to let rip with a “fuck you!” But I’ve heard that in the South, when ladies want to convey the same kind of sentiment, they just say, “Bless your heart.” So, you know, bless your heart, Bravo, for this race-baiting ad. And also? Fuck you.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen