TV & Movies

All the Ways Vanderpump Rules Is a Master Class in Millennial Malaise

Beneath the cutting confessionals and tequila-fuelled insults is a group of people that embody the true angst of adulting

A 'Vanderpump Rules' season 5 cast photo

The season 5 cast of Vanderpump Rules, pictured left to right: Lala Kent, James Kennedy, Scheana Marie, Ariana Madix, Tom Sandoval, Lisa Vanderpump, Jax Taylor, Tom Schwartz, Katie Maloney, Stassi Schroeder, Kristen Doute (Photo: Tommy Garcia/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank)

Chrissy Teigen said she’ll never let it go off the air, Rihanna called one scene “easily the best clip on television” and Selena Gomez remade a classic moment for the ’gram.

No, this isn’t some highbrow dystopian drama or a slick crime series. Instead, it’s Vanderpump Rules, a must-see reality TV show for millennials, by millennials—and season 7 is back on Slice on December 3.

For the uninitiated: Sexy Unique Restaurant (a.k.a. SUR) is owned by Lisa Vanderpump, a cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and owner of several other eateries in the L.A. area. In 2013, Vanderpump and her Real Housewives boss Andy Cohen turned the cameras on the staff at SUR to create Vanderpump Rules, a reality series featuring a gang of 20- and 30-somethings who have turned their codependent work clique into a literal game of “F*ck, Marry, Kill.”

On the surface, the show looks to be about nothing more than a group of wannabe actors and models who have gone a little heavy on the Botox. But beneath the cutting confessionals and tequila-fuelled insults is a group of people that embody the true angst of adulting.

Each cast member lives without any solid fiscal strategy, everyone is trying to scrape together a career out of the gig economy, and all the while, they’re embroiled in a mass of messy ’ships—both platonic and romantic. At its core, Vanderpump Rules is a (totally unfiltered) study in millennial malaise, and it’s a refreshing reprieve from the all-American Bachelors and richy-rich Housewives of the world.

Making it seem like the cast is finally repressed is part of the show’s ethos

On Vanderpump, instead of swanky homes and designer shopping sprees, there are awkward roommate situs, DIY attempts at Pinterest décor, and salt-and-pepper shakers nicked from SUR. (In actual reality, the cast is by no means poor. After five successful seasons, each member is rumoured to be making somewhere between $10,000 and $25,000 per episode.)

Creating maj, made-for-television drama is contingent on each cast member having a role in the service industry (at SUR, of course). While there’s little bartending or waitressing actually happening IRL, the SUR-vers are virtually trapped in their shitty server jobs, working odd hours and being reprimanded (on camera!) when they forget to include chipotle mayo with a patron’s calamari.

So it makes sense that some cast members have considered leaving SUR (and the show) altogether to pursue a more traditional vocation, like when Jax flirted with moving to Florida to become a social media manager. There’s low ceiling of opportunity for Vanderpump lackeys, and unlike the Kardashians, SUR-vers don’t have any billion-dollar cosmetic empires or 100-million-dollar apps to fall back on.

character on vanderpump rules saying "honey, you're ratchet. look at you"

(Photo: GIPHY)

Some of the show’s biggest names are reliant on the gig economy

Aside from their work at SUR, most of the Vanderpump peeps have side hustles—be it DJ’ing, beauty blogging or making club appearances.

A favourite is Instagram ads, which most cast members execute with fervour. (Unable to break the fourth wall on the show, they aren’t allowed to acknowledge that #sponcon is probably their largest source of income.)

Not only are these part-time jobs lucrative, but they’re a creative outlet that each cast member controls independently of Vanderpump Rules and its network, Bravo. And taking this type of work is just another way the #PumpRules cast is just like us: a 2017 survey found that 20-30% of Canada’s workforce was self-employed, with 53% of millennials expecting to be their own boss—whether they wanted to or not—in the coming years.

vanderpump rules character saying "WHAT?!"

(Photo: GIPHY)

Every kind of ’ship, be it romantic or platonic, is mercurial as fuck

Most of the Vanderpump cast has hooked up with one another—sound like your college friend circle?—and the entire cast is heavily invested in the romantic entanglements that make it to “steady” status. And, as evidenced by the near-constant presence of a cheating plot, monogamy is staunchly expected and defended (though it’s often a promise unkept).

Cheating—rumoured or otherwise—isn’t only between couples but engulfs the entire group, with allegations gleefully and publicly exposed every season. The reveals range from mundane (hi, Jax admitting to sleeping with Faith while a horrified Brittany screamed and cried) to tech-heavy reconnaissance (like that time Kristen cracked into James’s email to track his Uber receipts, LOL).

Despite the constant bed-hopping, SUR is surprisingly sex-negative, and the group is curiously old-fashioned in their pursuit of love. Part of the problem is likely the deeply ingrained dregs of patriarchy everyone carries around. When a woman on this show makes a mistake, she is most heavily punished by the other women. When a man slips—like Tom cheating on Katie a few months after they were married—their significant others are usually the first to shrug off bad behaviour.

Matching the romantic intensity are the vitriolic friendships, particularly between the women. They feverishly try to maintain and protect their “friendships” (read: strategic alliances) by burrowing into each others’ lives, making every problem a communal crisis.

In the era of Instagram #SquadGoals, the ladies of Vanderpump Rules epitomize performative friendship. Every bestie selfie is shared on social media for the rest of the cast (and world) to analyze, keeping feuds and alliances in constant flux and thus the juices of the storylines flowing. The cast often boasts its “ride or die” affiliation to one another, and it’s no joke.

character on vanderpump rules yelling "your man made out with my friend"

(Photo: GIPHY)

Ultimately, this messy journey into adulthood makes for must-see television

For a generation that has been unfairly blamed for causing the downfall of everything from department stores to bar soap, it’s delightful to watch some millennials be just as awful as everyone *thinks* they are. It’s what separates Vanderpump Rules from the Bachelors or the Housewives of the world: the consistent, unfiltered baring of bad behaviour, work grievances and social angst that doesn’t try to dress itself up as a quest for love or power.

There’s also no pretending that these people don’t love being on TV and relish every second of screen time, attacking petty grievances (and one another) with the gusto of dinner theatre thespians.

Instead, it’s a messy communal journey into adulthood. Embarrassing, hella entertaining and—ultimately–highly relatable.


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