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Reality TV Grapples With Racism Amid Calls for Change

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  • Several Vanderpump Rules” stars were fired by Bravo for racist behavior, including old tweets, and false criminal accusations against the show’s only black cast member.
  • Dee Nguyen from MTV’s “The Challenge” was fired after making insensitive remarks about Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd.
  • On top of that, Rachel Lindsay, the only black lead in the 40- season history of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” said she will dissociate from the franchise if they do not pledge to make the show more diverse and acknowledge its racism.

Vanderpump Rules Cleans House

As most facets of American culture are beginning to grapple with the racism that permeates them, reality television is no exception. Shows like “Vanderpump Rules” and “The Bachelor” are either ridding themselves of racist cast members or discussing how to prioritize diversity moving forward. 

On Tuesday, Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” fired four of its stars. Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, who have been on the show since it began in 2013, were let go after former castmate Faith Stowers said the two called the cops on her, accusing her of being a wanted thief. Two others who just joined the show this season, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni, were let go after old tweets with racist slurs resurfaced.

Stowers was the only black castmate when the incident happened over two years ago. She recounted the story in a discussion with Candace Renee Rice on Instagram last week. She claimed that Schroeder and Doute saw an article in the Daily Mail about a black woman who was at large, accused of drugging and stealing things from people. 

“They called the cops and said it was me,” she said. 

“It was just funny because they thought it was me because they saw a black woman with a weave so they just assumed it would be me,” she added. 

Stowers said they then called the cops who did not respond, not believing their claim. She initially learned this happened because Schroeder talked about it during a 2018 appearance on the Bitch Bible podcast, recounting the story as though she was a sleuth. 

In the podcast, Schroeder said the woman in the photo had tattoos in the same spot as Stowers. She also claimed that one of Doute’s friends had accused Stowers of stealing her credit card that night and that another “Vanderpump Rules” cast member accused Stowers of stealing his jacket. This prompted them to look through Stower’s Instagram to confirm that she was the girl featured in the article.

“We find a wig, she has a photo with the same wig that she had on because she likes her fucking wigs,” Schroeder said on the podcast. 

“So we’re like, we just solved a fucking crime,” she added. 

Schroeder said that when they called they cops, they dismissed their claim. She added that later down the line, Doute saw Stowers at a club and called the police again. According to Schroeder, the police claimed to know who Stowers was but did not feel the need to respond to Doute’s allegations.

Stowers said she left the show after all of this happened. After telling her story on Instagram, fans put a ton of pressure on Bravo to fire Schroeder and Doute for their behavior. Some claimed that their actions could have gotten Stowers killed because police have a history of disproportionately harming black people. 

The two issued apologies on Instagram. Schroeder said she “did not recognize then the serious ramifications that could have transpired.”

“What I did to Faith was wrong. I apologize and I do not expect forgiveness,” she added. In addition to being fired from the show, she has also been dropped by her agent. 

Doute stated that her actions were not “racially driven,” but she now knows they were irresponsible.

“I am now completely aware of how my privilege blinded me from the reality of law enforcement’s treatment of the black community,” she said. “It was never my intention to add to the injustice and imbalance.”

Boyens and Caprioni have both also apologized for their racist tweets, which included slurs and derogatory remarks about Black and Asian people. 

“I just want to say I’m just really, sincerely sorry. I’m not even…there’s no excuse,” Boyens said during the “Vanderpump Rules” reunion.

Caprioini echoed that statement, saying he was “ashamed” and willing to take responsibility for his actions. Bravo has not indicated what the show plans to do moving forward without four of its cast members. 

The Challenge Star Fired

“Vanderpump Rules” was not the only one letting go of stars accused of racist behavior. MTV’s “The Challenge” will now be moving forward without Dee Nguyen, who made insensitive remarks about Black Lives Matter following the death of George Floyd. 

When someone criticized her for still posting photos of herself on Instagram, she responded by saying, “People die every fucking day. U don’t know me or what I do.”

On Twitter, she also wrote “Idk why some of u think I’m anti BLM. I’ve been saying that since the day I lost my virginity.” Both of those remarks have since been deleted, but screenshots are still being shared. 

“We strongly condemn systemic racism and stand with those raising their voices against injustice,” the show said in a statement announcing that it would be severing ties with Nguyen. 

Nguyen also apologized in an exclusive story with Us Weekly and said she would take her words back if she could. Her friend and co-star Wes Bergmann also said he is trying to educate her and that she is focusing on her mental wellbeing right now. He claimed she is in a “mental health lodge” to attend daily psychotherapy sessions.

Change Demanded Within Bachelor Franchise

While there have yet to be any similar firings in “The Bachelor” franchise, there is a massive discussion among the fanbase and stars about racism and a lack of diversity on the show. The Bachelor and its spinoffs have become staples for ABC’s primetime slots. In its nearly two decade run, spanning 40 seasons, there has only been one lead of color, Rachel Lindsay. 

Lindsay wrote a blog post demanding that the show address the racism embedded in it. 

“Black people know historically and presently that the show is not formatted for their success,” she wrote. 

“It is a naive expectation to believe that leads will authentically start an interracial relationship for the first time on national television,” she added. “The sad reality is that people of color become placeholders as the token person of color to add some flavor to the second half of the season.”

Lindsay elected to go on the show and take center stage as “The Bachelorette” in hopes that she could be a trailblazer and start change for the show. 

“Well, I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don’t have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves,” she wrote. 

“If changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it. I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective,” Lindsay stated.

While Lindsay’s season finished airing several years ago, alumni from the franchise often come back for segments, specials, finales and reunions. Lindsay has attended several herself, often lending her voice as the show’s only black lead to conversations about the show and its impact.

Lindsay said that if the show wants to really address change, they need to cast leads who are truly interested in dating outside of their race, fix the lack of diversity on the show instead of excusing it, hire more diverse producers, and stop creating problematic storylines for people of color. She also said that the franchise needs to make a statement acknowledging their systemic racism. 

Lindsay is not alone in calling for change. Online, fans are demanding that the franchise start diversifying the cast. One petition calling for “Anti-Racism in the Bachelor Franchise” has over 70,000 signatures. 

“As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color (“BIPOC”) relationships, families, and storylines,” the petition states. “The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country–both in front of and behind the camera.”

Other leaders on the show are supporting this movement. Former Bachelor Nick Viall shared the petition on his Twitter, saying that he signed it himself. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (LA Times)

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“Don’t Worry Darling” Tops the Box Office Amid Bad Press

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Audiences are already giving the film higher praise than critics did.


Young Women Flock to “Don’t Worry Darling” 

Weeks of controversies and rumors did not prevent “Don’t Worry Darling” from finding victory at the box office, with the Olivia Wilde-directed thriller debuting at number one over the weekend and raking in $19.2 million. 

Wilde also acted in the mid-century mystery, which starrs Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, and Gemma Chan.

Women led ticket sales for the picture, comprising 66% of the audience, according to several reports. At least partially due to the appeal of Styles, crowds also skewed young, with over half under the age of 25.

Overseas, the film made over $10 million, bringing its total for the weekend to $30 million. That number is especially impressive since the R-rated drama had a budget of $35 million.

“Don’t Worry Darling” had been plagued with weeks of rumors about behind-the-scenes drama leading up to its release. Among other bouts of gossip, many online speculated that Pugh and Wilde had riffs on set, leading to Pugh’s refusal to promote the project. One report alleged the two got into a screaming match, but sources on set denied it. 

Wilde and Shia LeBeouf, who was originally cast in the picture, also got into a public he-said-she-said about whether he quit the film or was fired. 

The drama hit a boiling point during its premiere at the Venice Film Festival when Twitter users circulated a video they claimed showed Styles spiting on Pine, though both parties have denied that allegation. 

A Film Riddled With Rumors 

Furthering the bad press were the bad reviews. Critics largely panned the film, sticking it with a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes. After this first weekend, moviegoers seem to have a more favorable outlook, as it has a 79% audience score as of Monday. 

Jeff Goldstein, the distribution chief for Warner Bros., told the Associated Press that “the background noise” caused by these controversies “had a neutral impact” on its box office haul. The studio released a statement saying it was pleased with the movie’s earnings. 

Some analysts believe that, if anything, the online gossip and fodder may have aided the film’s box office performance.

In a tweet recapping the weekend’s box office, Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, said the “drama sparked a huge wave of interest.”

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Box Office Mojo) (New York Times)

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Senators Introduce Legislation Requiring Radios to Pay Royalties to Artists

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Sen. Padilla argued the bill is necessary to give artists the “dignity and respect they deserve.”


The American Music Fairness Act

Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the American Music Fairness Act to the Senate on Thursday, a bill that would require radio stations to pay royalties to performers and rights holders. 

The bill was previously introduced to the House last year. According to a release, the United States is the only democratic country where artists are not compensated for their music’s use on AM or FM radio. While songwriters and publishers receive payment, these stations have never been required to give a slice of the pie to performers and copyright holders. 

On streaming and satellite radio, however, both groups receive royalty payments. 

In a statement, Padilla said it is time the country starts treating “our musical artists with the dignity and respect they deserve for the music they produce and we enjoy every day.”

“California’s artists have played a pivotal role in enriching and diversifying our country’s music scene,” he added. “That is why passing the American Music Fairness Act is so important.”

“From Beale Street to Music Row to the hills of East Tennessee, the Volunteer State’s songwriters have undeniably made their mark,” Blackburn echoed. “Tennessee’s creators deserve to be compensated for their work. This legislation will ensure that they receive fair payment and can keep the great hits coming.”

The American Music Fairness Act would require terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay royalties to music creators when their songs are played. It would also protect smaller stations that either make less than $1.5 million in annual revenue or who have a parent company that makes less than $10 million in annual revenue by letting them play unlimited music for under $500 a year. 

The bill would also require other countries to pay American artists for the use of their work.

Support From Major Music Groups

The legislation is endorsed by a number of groups, including the Recording Academy, SAG-AFTRA, and the American Federation of Musicians. 

If passed, the bill could move a lot of money into the pockets of performers. According to the Recording Academy, when American music gets international airplay, other countries collect royalties for American artists, amounting to around $200 million every year. However, they “never pay those royalties because the U.S. does not reciprocate with our own performance right.”

Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA, argues that the money belongs to the artists. 

“Broadcast companies profit from advertising sales because of the creative content musicians and singers record. It stands to reason that the performers who create the content deserve to be compensated just as songwriters are now,” Drescher said in a statement. “The reason it’s called the American Music Fairness Act is because the current situation is wholly unfair and it’s up to Congress to make it fair NOW!”

Last year, Representatives Steve Womack (R-AR) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced the Local Radio Freedom Act, a bill with essentially the opposite agenda. It aims to reserve radio’s royalty-free status. The American Music Fairness Act is being viewed as a counter-response to this bill.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Billboard)

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Kanye West Says Catalog Is Potentially Being Sold Without His Permission: “Just Like Taylor Swift”

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After Swift lost the rights to her life’s work, she took on the endeavor of re-recording her first six albums. 


Kanye’s Catalog Potentially Up For Grabs

Following reports that Kanye West was considering selling his catalog, the artist took to Instagram on Tuesday to claim his work is potentially being sold without his approval.

On Monday, Billboard reported that West had been “quietly and intermittently shopping his publishing catalog.”

While the outlet’s sources did not reveal what price West was aiming for, Billboard estimated that West might be looking at a $175 million valuation for his discography. Some of Billboard’s sources seemingly suggested that West and his team were specifically behind the effort to sell his work, but others claimed the “catalog was never actively shopped” and instead, West had been receiving offers from potential buyers. 

Not long after, several news outlets picked the story up and reported that West was gearing up to sell his catalog. West responded by writing on his Instagram story that this was not the case. 

“Not For Sale”

“Just like Taylor Swift,” he said, referencing music mogul Scooter Braun purchasing Swift’s masters with Big Machine Records without her approval. “My publishing is being put up for my sale without my knowledge. Not for sale.”

Swift referred to the sale of her masters to Braun as her “worst case scenario.” In order to regain ownership of her work, she is in the process of re-recording her first six albums, all of which she originally made under Big Machine. Two have already been released and proved to be wildly commercially successful. 

According to Forbes, it is unclear which of his albums West owns the masters to, if he owns any at all. Because of this, it is unknown what kind of position he would be put in if his catalog, which is currently managed by Sony, was sold.

The status of any potential for his work to be sold became foggier later on Tuesday when West shared screenshots of a text exchange he had. He asked an unidentified person what was happening with the catalog sale, and that person responded by calling it “fake news.”

“Of course every publisher wants to pitch [their] hardest buy, smh,” the text continued. 

West did not further indicate if those texts were meant to clarify that his catalog was, in fact, not up for sale, or just further distance himself from any potential acquisition.

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Forbes) (Complex)

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