I was at a gay bar in Chicago recently—Sidetrack, one of the best places to attend a crowded viewing party for RuPaul’s Drag Race—and was surprised by what happened when the show ended and The Real Friends of WeHo came on instead of Drag Race Untucked. The bar cleared out so fast that you would have thought someone had pulled the fire alarm.
Real Friends is MTV’s new Real Housewives-esque reality show tracking the lives of a diverse set of gay men in Los Angeles. I decided to give these new friends a chance. The very first line, delivered by celebrity stylist Brad Goreski (decked out in a suit with short pants) was, “West Hollywood is, like, the epicenter of the gay world!”
Ironically, the opening song lyrics for the show were “I want something else,” from a remake of “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. What a coincidence. I, too, wanted something else—namely, the episode of Untucked that I was expecting to see after Drag Race. These lyrics were the only thing in the whole show that I identified with.
I realize that current gay culture revolves around bashing this show, and I don’t intend to pile on here. Sure, the show is literally terrible, the stars are totally vapid, the drama is totally forced. And yes, the one decent storyline about a Black man struggling with coming out is fundamentally flawed by the fact that he is on a nationally broadcast reality show. But his storyline includes being nervous about attending Palm Springs Pride. Really? But again, I am not here to bash the show.
The problem is not with the cast (entirely), the problem is with the show’s premise. The title gives away the fact that this show is desperately trying to capture the magic of the Real Housewives franchises. Some producer somewhere thought, “Oh, gay guys love the Housewives, so I bet they would love to actually be the Housewives. Let’s make a show!”
I do love the Housewives. But I don’t love them because I want to be them. I love them because I like seeing desperate, messy straights with too much money in a rented house who have no sense, making fools of themselves. Whether the Housewives are in Beverly Hills, New York, or Potomac, there is something relatably unrelateable about them, and the fun of it is that I will never be them! It gives me a feeling of superiority, and as a gay man, I love that.
The drama in Real Housewives is not faked. If you’ve ever watched a “Karen” video, or encountered my mother talking to a bank teller, you’d see that this shit is real! But that same magic is just not there when you put a bunch of gays together in a forced reality-TV circumstance. It just doesn’t have the same magic. There is evidence to support this: behold the graveyard of gay-centric Real Housewives rip-offs: The A-List (2010–2011), The A-List Dallas (2011), and Fire Island (2017). If there was money to be made here, Andy Cohen would have made it already. She loves the messy reality dramas.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that I would prefer a show that was more down to earth and focused on the real struggles of queer people in America. I don’t. I love messy, garbage reality. I live for it. What I am saying is that this particular formula doesn’t work. Why would I watch a show with annoying queens when I can step outside my door and live it? Stupid arguments, delusional gays obsessed with sex and body-dysmorphia is what I eat for breakfast. I don’t need it interrupting my Drag Race viewing.
Maybe I don’t like Real Friends because it feels too much like looking in the mirror, which is a fair observation. Either way you slice it, I don’t like it. And it looks like I am not alone. I don’t think even straight girls like this show. I have yet to hear one straight girl bring up Real Friends of WeHo to me in an effort to relate to the queer experience. That’s saying a lot. Straight girls love talking to gays about things they think we have in common. They do this in an effort to engage and eventually entrap us in a “gay-bestie” situation—like we are Pokemon or something.
And one more thing, MTV: before you pull the plug on Real Friends, don’t try to relocate it from West Hollywood to the Castro, Montrose, or even Little Rock. I think that the community has spoken. We don’t need this, and we don’t want this. Stick to concepts that work, like where five gays go to places like Beaumont and give a Trump supporter a haircut and a new couch. Everyone loves those shows. If I had a nickel for every time I saw the crying emoji in someone’s reaction to an episode of Queer Eye, I would be able to afford to actually live in WeHo myself.
So, Real Friends of WeHo, thanks, but no thanks—again.