And Another Thing: The Great Bitchy Bullies of Film and Television

Ashley Spurgeon is a lifelong TV fan — nay, expert — and with her recurring television and pop-culture column "And Another Thing," she'll tell you what to watch, what to skip, and what's worth thinking more about.


As I continue to sail through the many, many episodes of Below Deck, one name keeps coming up in my household: Obviously, that name is Kate Chastain. I’ve become a huge fan; she’s the first reality TV personality in a long, long time who is perfect for the medium — quick-witted, engaging and bitchy in varying proportions, based on the circumstances. I can’t stop talking about her. Wherever Kate’s not on screen, all the other characters should be asking, "Where’s Kate?”

Of course, no one would ever have to ask where Kate is, because we all know exactly where she is: doing her job, and doing it well. Let me be clear — she’s not perfect. Kate Chastain was born a Florida Woman, that most American of states, and has lived a few chapters of a Florida Woman’s life. As the seasons progress, there are signs here and there of mean-girl tendencies, and I can completely understand how some people find her unlikable and a borderline bully. However, to me, a fool with rose-colored glasses on, her bullying is motivational. I would give it all up to work under Kate as Third Stew and get stuck with #yachtie grunt work for six weeks, just so I could learn the proper way to fold sheets or array piles of colored rocks upon a table as a high-class decorative centerpiece. 

To my eye, most of her sarcasm and bad attitude (and therefore, the best reality TV moments) are directed toward people who greatly, greatly resent being asked to do their jobs. Conversely, as far as I can tell, Kate seems to get on fairly well with those who, like, work? Call it catharsis; the memories of pulling other people’s weight in service-industry jobs for “reasons” that are more or less just “laziness” or “messiness” maybe hold more space in my subconscious than I gave them credit for. Or, alternatively: I don’t know, man! She’s just the bitch I sometimes wish I could be. (Saw a comment online that “only bullies” like Kate, so maybe I’m closer than I think!) 

In the grand history of reality TV, there’s really only one person who holds my respect above Chastain. I speak, of course, of The Head Bitch in Charge. HBIC. Tiffany “New York” Pollard. The woman is an icon, and I don’t use that word lightly. Have you considered the impact? I mean, really. Pollard parlayed a position as one of 20 contestants on VH1’s Flavor of Love (a spin-off of Strange Love, itself a spin-off of The Surreal Life) into an almost-15-year career in the entertainment industry. In addition to a handful of Tiffany-led shows on VH1 during the early 2000s, she’s appeared on other reality shows in the U.S., starred in a 10-minute gift guide for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and, most impressively, expanded her fame across the Atlantic. Whoever cast her for the U.K. version of Big Brother clearly, clearly knows what’s up. 

David Gest, ex-husband of Liza Minnelli, and Angie Bowie, ex-wife of David Bowie, were also in the BB house during Pollard’s tenure. During that season, Angie got news that David Bowie died, and she (exhaustingly) told Tiffany about “David’s” death. She thought she was talking about David Gest, ill with cancer at the time. Confusion abounds and ends with basically everyone locked in the house going to see if Gest was alive. He was. Pollard's time on TV has transcended the medium; you may not be familiar with her shows, but you are very familiar with her work, through GIFs. And Page Six reported that an I Love New York reunion one-off episode is coming soon; can’t wait. 

The third and final big-time bitch whose work has brought me great pleasure recently is the beloved Jane Austen character Miss Emma Woodhouse. (Not entirely convinced Emma’s a bitch? Three words: Box Hill picnic.) I have yet to see Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, but I have recently watched the adaptation of Emma (annoyingly titled Emma. — note the unnecessary punctuation!) available on Netflix, starring Anya Taylor-Joy. 

I have, overall, no problems with the adaptation. The music is wonderful, the colors are bright, the acting is fine, and I really like how many nonspeaking characters were brought into the world, specifically the working people — including lamp-holder-for-early-morning-gardening — who make the privileged lives of people like Emma possible in the first place. (Loved how Emma screamed at the carriage driver to go after her rightfully earned dressing-down for poor behavior at Box Hill.) 

But there was a moment so jarring, so unnecessary, so overwritten, so desperate to leave a modern mark (no spoilers, you’ll know what it is when you get there) that I truly believed the entire production was going to fly off the rails at that instant and have Emma declare her undying love for Harriet Smith. Please don’t do this! Please, respect the HBICs as written. And for the record, Emma would never have had to order Kate to drive. 

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