Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: A Case Study of Kim Richards
[There was a video here]
Last night was the final installment of the continuously protracted Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion special. But this time it wasn't really about all the ladies. No, it was about our star. It was about Kim Richards.
Yes, the gorgeous ladies of reality wrestling didn't get much screen time at all. Sure, they dragged Dana out and put her in a chair all of her own. They didn't want to infect the rest of the group with her desperation, so they didn't even make anyone squish over on the couch. She showed off her ridiculous "Fuck You" platforms and talked about how she went from poor to rich and she's always a bit of a poor person and a bit of a rich person and it really explained a lot: the fetishization of expensive baubles, the constant need for validation, the incessant laughing at her own jokes just so someone won't think she's the punch line.
Andy Cohen and crew trotted out the husbands too so we could giggle at Ken and drool over Mauricio and his not-as-tanned backside, which they showed on camera. Oh, and Taylor and Brandi apologized to each other for being jerks. Oh please. Housewives' apologies are so useless. It's nominally supposed to shake the Etch-a-Sketch clear so they can just start compiling new grievances but that's never how it works. Their grudges still stay on that screen in outline—faint, but still there. Real Housewife apologies are absolutely worthless. They mean as much as a speck of glitter stuck on your face, a single playing card found on the sidewalk, an unsigned check that you get in the mail. They mean absolutely nothing.
Kim Richards is saying she's sorry, but it's not the same thing. Kim Richards is apologizing for being herself, for everything she put herself and her family and the audience through this year. She's apologizing for the lies, the tardiness, the incoherence, the obfuscation of truth, for saying she thought she was really pregnant. She's just sorry. For a woman who was fresh out of rehab when she filmed her public confession (is this like the 13th step or something?) I figured she'd be a bundle of nerves, all jangly actions and mumbled half answers. Kim held her head high and she came right at Andy Cohen and she was brandishing her flaming sword and standing on top of a chariot, rushing at the enemy, swinging for their heads and seeing victorious in her truth. "I became an alcoholic. I am...I am an alcoholic."
I have to give Kim credit for her candor. She told us when the drinking started, when she was drunk, what pills she was on, why she was acting a certain way. She explained it all. Even last year she was still trying to cover it up, overcome her shame by shunning reality. No longer. Kim is owning her shit and she's making a new life for herself. I have to give Andy Cohen credit for asking Kim really tough and direct questions (eg, "What makes you think rehab is going to work this time?") but the one cruel moment was when he asked Kim, who confessed she hadn't watched the season, if she wanted to watch some clips of her more wild behavior. "Uhhhh," she croaked. "OK. Yeah." You could already hear the lump in her throat as the reel started to roll. She got through about a minute, sitting in her chair, clutching her sparkly clutch even closer to her body, and her mind screaming, "Make it stop, tell him to stop. Kim, you can't. This is awful. Kim. Stop. Make it. Tell him. Kim. Stop."
"OK, I think that's enough," she said with rue hanging off her vocal chords. "I feel bad for her," Kim says. "That's not the real me." This is a sentiment that Kyle echos too, that the Kim who drinks and does drugs and behaves inappropriately and shows up late to everything is not the the real Kim. The real Kim is clean and sober and responsible. I don't know much about the psychology of addiction, but this seems like a very dangerous stance. Yes, Kim says she takes credit for the wrong she's done, but while simultaneously completely divorcing herself from her actions in her own mind. That seems...off.
The other thing that is fishy is Kim's continued grudge against Brandi for saying she was on "crystal meth" on TV. Kim says she can't forgive Brandi for the hurt she caused her family by saying that. I'm sorry, but the hurt that Kim's family feels probably has nothing to do with Brandi's one obviously overblown comment and more to do with the behavior she has exhibited on a nationally aired television program for the last two seasons. Doesn't it? Maybe you should forgive, Kim. Isn't that a step? If not, maybe you should make it one.
Of course, no talk about Kim is complete without Kyle weighing in. Overall she was supportive, but Kyle is totally keeping score. First of all, she has a severe case of Housewifitis, the first symptom of which is that they completely lose their sense of humor. When Kim gets in one silly dig about Kyle she returns with, "Don't even. You put me through a lot, so don't start." That's why things will never be even between these two, why they can never start fresh—Kyle will always hold this over Kim's head. These two have such a strange relationship, one that is powerfully close, but also strangely destructive, like they're magnets, simultaneously attracting and repelling each other, trying to stand on their own but clinging to each other for support.
You know, deep down somewhere inside that they really do love each other, and you could see it when Kyle talked about hugging Kim before she went off to rehab. She talked about how Kim was different, not kicking and screaming but wanting to get better on their own. They hugged, probably one of those tearful sister hugs that goes on too long and you can feel the other person's energy just working through your skin, lifting you up and filling you when you don't have enough of your own. That is what Kyle sent Kim to rehab with, the energy and strength to get better. Kyle needs to take some of that strength back, because it is going to take patience and forgiveness if she's ever going to reconcile with Kim in a healthy way.
Then, at the end, Kim said the most moving thing I've ever heard on a Housewives show. "I want this," she said. "I'll own my stuff, but this sobriety is mine." That is why I will always love Kim, this fallen princess, this privileged child who had a rough shake at life, this disillusioned soul who is only seeking an escape. She's going to own it, but, unlike all the other Housewives (with the exception of St. Camille) she is going to learn.
And then Andy thanked them both and kissed them on the cheek and they had some small talk about the next season and when this would air and how Kim was doing. Kim kept her head down mostly, staring at her glittery shoes that were starting to pinch and the smile was fading off her face. It was just so exhausting, keeping it up, being strong. Kyle asked her a question she didn't hear, and when Kim didn't respond, Kyle put her arm around her. "You OK?" she asked, bowing her head down to Kim's level. "Yeah, I guess so," she said. "I'm just tired."
There was a town car waiting out front to drive her back to the hotel where she was staying with a suitcase full of clothes and just a few boxes of possessions. The rest of was at Kyle's place, which she had rescued from the house of Pumice, the rock that Kim painted a face on and called a boyfriend. Yes, Kim had to move again. Out of the Sad Valley Ranch and into someplace new. Kim was always moving. You'd think she was good at it, but she wasn't. She hated it. Starting all over, yet again. Her life seemed like a series of beginnings, like pilots that never get picked up or the first act of a bad musical where you leave at intermission. Onto the next, that was what Kim did. She moved.
She got into her room with the semi-scratchy bedspread and lied down on it, her shoes still on her feet but starting to come off, easing the tension just a bit but still painful enough that she could feel them. She lied there and looked around the room. Rehab was done, the show was taped, her kids were gone, and Kyle was rolling back to the other side of town to deal with her life. Pumice was gone, the face scrubbed right off that rock. There was no one to call, there was nothing to do. Now it was the really hard work, just passing the minutes. Maybe she should eat? Maybe she should nap? Maybe she should just roll over and close her eyes and hope she wakes up the next day and the dread will be gone. No, never. The dread would be less. Maybe? Unlikely.
She just lied there staring, doing the hardest work of all by doing absolutely nothing. "What now?" she asked herself as her body sunk into the bed. She couldn't move. "What now?"