RHOD Roundup: Grading the Housewives

I just reconnected cable and spent part of the weekend catching up on The Real Housewives of Dallas. The Dallas installment of the franchise was so bad last year I wasn’t going to purchase a la carte episodes in order to recap it, but now that it’s free again, why not? RHOD is better the second time around, and, eight episodes into the season, here is my take on the “characters.”

BRANDI: There is something coarse about Brandi, and that quality is pronounced this season by the addition of the ultra-prissy Kameron Westcott. This is both bad and good for Brandi. It’s good because she comes off looking a lot cooler and more down to earth in comparison; it’s bad because she doesn’t really seem to fit in with the newer cast members, who were apparently added to represent Dallas’ Highland Park society set. Last year’s poop talk was the lowest form of humor, and this season’s dildo gag was similarly tedious, off-putting and just not funny. I can’t imagine either of these things going over well in the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders locker room, let alone a society gathering in Dallas proper.

I think Brandi’s role is to portray the girl from the wrong side of the tracks made good, but she hasn’t acquired the veneer of polish necessary to make her association with some of Dallas’ established society members believable. Her rawness is endearing and a good foil to Kameron’s passive-aggressive bitchiness, but she still seems like a fish out of water. Grade: B

KAMERON: Does anyone remember Kameron from the progressive dinner party featured on Top Chef: Texas? Her presence on two Bravo shows within a few years smacks of famewhore-ness, and her persona on the Real Housewives is repellent. I say persona because Kameron is clearly putting on some sort of act, which she has apparently been doing her whole life. She acts dumber-than-dumb, but purports to be smart, which is doubtful (pink dog food?). Obviously the ditzy blonde act has garnered her some success in life, but after a certain age it just becomes pathetic (see Vicki Gunvalson), and she has reached that age. Kameron is a sad reminder of how some women still feel they need to dumb themselves down to be attractive to men, and an even sadder reminder that in some circles, it still works. (If she is actually smart, which, again, is doubtful).

Kamerson also embodies every quality that gives women a bad name. I’m sure she ruled the Tri Delt or whatever house with an iron fist back in her day, passive-aggressively belittling and cowing her sorority sisters until they were filled with enough self doubt to mold themselves into whatever image Kameron felt appropriate. Kameron is phony, judgmental, guarded and a stealth bitch. Her carefully curated gestures, facial expressions and vocal intonations only highlight the fact that she is a small-minded, humorless snob. She cannot exactly be called two-faced, because she couches her barbs in syrupy back-handed compliments, as I’m sure she’s been taught to do by generations of women before her. She is a paragon of passive-aggressiveness, and it is extremely unbecoming.

I almost feel sorry for her because she appears to be so utterly unevolved, but her smug self-satisfaction with her antiquated tactics makes it impossible. Grade: F for personality, A- for drama potential.

D’ANDRA: D’Andra is the opposite of Kameron. She is a straight shooter, a sophisticated world traveler who retains her Texas roots, and wears her legacy graciously. She had a privileged upbringing but doesn’t shove it down our throats or bend over backwards to appear prim and proper. She has been candid about her struggles with her mother, business and stepson, and is unapologetic about who she is. She is confident enough to be friends with Leeanne, and strong enough to stand up to her. D’Andra may not be as enamored with sophomoric jokes as Brandi and Stephanie are, but she handles them with a sense of humor. Kameron should take notes.

D’Andra is an excellent addition to the cast. Her wealth offers a glimpse into the type of lifestyle the Real Housewives is supposed to showcase, yet she remains likable and relatable. #TeamD’Andra. Grade: A

LEEANNE: Poor Leeanne. Counseling has been beneficial to her, but she is still unable to control her vitriol and too quick to overshare the details of her tumultuous childhood. D’Andra appears to be a calming force in her life and gives Leeanne much-needed talking-tos, but does so with kindness motivated by a true desire to see Leeanne grow as a person. It’s to Leeanne’s credit that she is able to absorb this constructive criticism without flying off the handle, and I’m interested in seeing more of this kinder, gentler Leeanne. Well maybe not kinder and gentler, but less batshit crazy. She still creates plenty of drama, but her drama has not been as frightening this year. Grade: B+

STEPHANIE: Stephanie is kind of boring, but totally inoffensive. It’s cute to see her friendship with Brandi; even though I find their humor juvenile, they clearly enjoy their potty jokes and it’s nice to see women supporting and laughing with each other. I also like that Stephanie seems to be more assertive in her marriage. Even though her husband (Travis?) still dominates the relationship, at least he’s not treating her like the hired help this year. It was uncomfortable to watch them last season because their marriage seemed so lopsided; she was the pretty girl from modest means who landed a rich guy, but had to give up her voice in order to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle he provided. I could do without the life coach scenes, but I’m glad Stephanie is regaining her power. Grade: B

CARY: Cary confuses me. She seems way too intelligent to be friends with Brandi and Stephanie or to put up with her husband’s pathological neediness. She and D’Andra are a good match but I’m mystified by her friendship with Kameron. Cary’s bullshit detector should have allowed her to see through Kameron immediately, yet she tolerates her. That leads me to believe that the Kameron we see on the show is either 100% phony, or somehow too important to the Deubers’ business to alienate.

I want to like Cary for her sharp wit, intelligence and struggle to find balance between her work and home lives, but she has an arrogance that is slightly off-putting. There is a discord between the strength she displays and her willingness to abide her husband’s childish fits of pique. It seems that for a woman like Cary, a closet full of Birkins and designer clothes wouldn’t be worth submitting to such behavior. That’s why she confuses me–either we’re not seeing the whole picture, or Cary’s bravado is not entirely authentic. Grade: C+

To sum up, all of these women add something to the show (unlike the one from last year with the Keith Urban-esque husband), and RHOD is much better in its sophomore season. I’m interested to see what happens, and hope the pressure of reality tv causes Kameron’s carefully crafted facade to crack. I also hope the women learn to tone down their eye makeup, but it’s Dallas, so that may be going too far.

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