This summer I made the best use of my time possible by watching 10 straight seasons of Vanderpump Rules (VPR). After the Scandoval broke, I had pretty major FOMO and decided I needed to know the story from day one. Especially considering the scandal was salacious enough to earn the series an Emmy nomination for the first time.
Also this summer a lot of people have been running around campaigning to be President of the United States. It is time for our summers to become one.
Before I dive in, let me just say: VPR is actually extremely good. It’s easy to dismiss the show as ‘trashy bored girly nonsense’ but actually it has a lot going on. The producers have a unique sense of structure and are able to provide story structure that provokes viewers to weigh moral dilemmas in a way I’ve never seen in reality TV before. Nothing like it’s cousins in the Real Housewives franchise, VPR gives for our consideration a handful of wildly flawed, objectively horrible young people and dares us to feel it is our duty to take a side in their many conflicts. As they grow over the years, and we watch them experience all the heartache and education that life has to offer, VPR manages to not only soften our hearts to these people but to even root for some of them. Even where VPR cannot sway viewers to think better of their cast, they still feel a stern sense of ethical obligation to take sides. And the best part is that not every viewer will agree on which side of the moral dilemma is the right side.
VPR has a lot of iconic one liners including “I don’t know what I’ve done to you but I’ll take a pinot grigio” thrown at Schaena Shay Davies by (the legendary) Stassi Schroader. But perhaps the most iconic line in the entire franchise comes from villain-turned-hero-kind-of Jax Taylor who once controversially declared himself the “number one guy in the group.”
So today I ask: Which Republican primary players are most like iconic cast members of VPR?
- Ron DeSantis is Scheana Shay Davies
Viewers have had the chance to watch Scheana lose her innocence in real time. She started as a wide eyed dreamer in love with her boyfriend trying to get in the good graces of the Queen bee (Stassi). She famously said “Hashtag, it’s all happening” and had the phrase (sans #) tattooed on her arm. As life began to happen to Scheana, viewers have seen her more than anyone cling to the idea of dreams coming true and life being simple. She ended up on the wrong side of loyalty before the Scandoval broke and found herself badly burned and on the outside looking into friendships she’d sacrificed for a friend she should never have trusted. Ron DeSantis is not dissimilar to Scheana Shay. Once the Golden Boy (or the ‘Good as Gold’…boy), DeSantis has totally fallen out with the majority of his original base and he’s having to totally restructure his campaign to keep it going. He and Schaena have big personalities and loyal fans, but they both have had to hit a learning curve on loyalty pretty hard.
- Mike Pence is Tom Schwartz
Tom Schwartz gives a boyish smile and shrug and pretends to be the most innocent flower which ever bloomed in the wilds of LA. But the truth is he’s betrayed the person he claims to have loved most repeatedly. He throws temper tantrums and hurls strongly worded insults and even though he believes himself to be righteous, he’s often on the absolute wrong side of history. Mike Pence is a lot like Schwartz. Second banana to a strong personality. Married to a Karen. And despite believing himself to be the good guy in everything, he’s actually just weak willed and delusionally self-righteous. Say the wrong thing and he’ll throw a proverbial drink right on top of your head.
- Vivek Ramaswammy is James Kennedy
James Kennedy is without question the most charming and dynamic cast member of VPR. When Kennedy joined the show he was a fresh, green, very young man who was easily dismissed as a side character to a broader story. But with his contagious energy, explosive passion and credible DJ skills, Kennedy quickly rose to series star player. Kennedy might not always make friends, but he tends to have a point. Vivek Ramaswamy couldn’t be more of an underdog. A young man no one had heard of three months ago, Ramaswamy has risen in the Republican primary polls to rival second or third place. Unlike Kennedy, he’s not really a yeller. But like Kennedy, he doesn’t believe in sweeping controversy under the rug. Don’t believe 9/11 was kind of a conspiracy? You will if you listen to Ramaswamy. It sounds crazy but he has a way of speaking that is winning over the masses even on issues such as this. Not to mention they both have an affinity for rapping.
- MAGA Republicans are Jax Taylor
Jax Taylor is an early villain in VPR. He betrays Tom Sandoval and Stassi and he is part of a lot of conflict. But it becomes clear as the show progresses that Jax has a lot more going on than is on the surface. He’s angry and unable to express it appropriately. He feels betrayed by everyone around him and he lashes out accordingly. But Jax finds his voice and reforges a deep alliance with Stassi. He wisely remains skeptical of Sandoval who routinely goes against Jax and ensures that Jax pays more for ‘crimes’ than anyone else doing the exact same things. But his greatest triumph is his unwavering allegiance with his wife, Brittany. Even though they had trouble at the beginning and Jax makes mistakes and Brittany wasn’t sure about their future, in the end they rally together in hard times and against all evils. MAGA Americans are Jax Taylor. We (yes I am one of them) don’t claim to be perfect but we are not the evil the Sandovals of the world would have you believe and we’re actually “right about everything” just like Jax said. Brittany is Americans/America. At first it didn’t seem like we’d be together forever but the tougher things get, the closer we become. Both Brittany and America must be protected at all costs but can actually handle themselves a lot better than they’re given credit.
MAGA Republicans are without question the number one guy in the group.
- Mayor Francis Suarez is Charli Burnett
Charlie Burnett joined VPR in the 9th season and is one of the young guns the producers brought in to refresh the series before Scandoval did it for them. She is proud of her latina heritage and has no problem owning her desirability as the new hot young thing at Sur (where the crew all works and hangs around). She speaks her mind and famously had a falling out with Scheana Shay who was once a close friend and ally. She seems like a good friend, but she picked some really bad allies and now has a lot of work ahead to win back trust. Frances Suarez is newer to the national Republican scene. He seems to have a bright presence, but people aren’t really sure what to think about it yet except that he seems to have had a falling out with Ron DeSantis which is kind of perfect considering DeSantis is the Scheana of the field. No one is really sure if they can trust Suarez yet but time will tell.
- Nikki Haley is Katie Maloney
Katie Maloney is a puzzle because she is wrong a lot and her allegiances are kind of all over the place but as annoying as she can be she tends to end up on the right side of history when the dust has settled. And it’s weird because the things that make Katie kind of a jerk are that she’s wildly self righteous, quick to judge and unnecessarily escalates conflict with her allies but the things she’s criticized for actually aren’t true at all. In the beginning of the series she was accused of being Stassi Shcroeder’s minion but that was never really true and Katie was a perfectly capable mean girl on her own. She way overcorrected on the Stassi perception and iced her out of her life but then of course came back around when it was convenient to let bygones be bygones. Later she was accused of being mean when she drank and the other castmates called her mean alter ego “Tequila Katie” but actually people were just constantly gaslighting and treating her badly and then telling her she was the problem. This was particularly the case with Tom Sandoval and her former husband, Tom Schwartz. Like Katie, Nikki Haley has been accused of being a minion of Trump but that was never really true. She overcorrected and came out against Trump in 2020 but now has since steered back into her tenure during his administration. She’s ended up pretty well on the right side of history and has made some big moves but her propensity to isolate true allies in favor of those who will not back her is a major weakness. And with Mike Pence as Tom Schwartz, it makes a lot of sense that Nikki and Mike have been feuding, even stealing each other’s campaign staffers much like how Katie and Tom have tried to stay civil but had a pretty hard time.
- Chris Christie is Kristen Doute
Before there was Scandoval, there was Kristen Doute. Doute is one of the most unhinged people to ever grace the public with consumption of her life. While Doute and Christie’s relationships with others don’t quite line up to make the perfect fit, they both have a mystifying quality about them where they will bombastically and explosively make decisions for which they seemingly have no motivation. It’s impossible to know why either person says or does what they do outside of being an agent of pure chaos. You’d think both of them would alienate enough people that they end up in obscurity but on the other hand, their bridge burning and calls to war can definitely appeal to a certain crowd. Christie and Doute have never seen a battle at which they did not want to spill blood. The two aren’t that similar in relationships or activities per se but their spirits are hella kindred. Why do you do, Chris Christie?
- Online conspiracy theorists are LaLa Kent
LaLa has a lot to say and she has a lot to say loudly. But as wild as it all seems, it tends to be definitely true. She sticks to her convictions, sometimes rewrites history to suit her but can’t really be bothered with what anyone else thinks. She always knew Raquel and Tom Sandoval were an item and she always knew they were bad people either way and she wasn’t afraid to say so. Conspiracy theorists have really had their day this primary cycle. With the 180 on aliens, 9/11 documents being released, new Kennedy documents out, Jan 6 videos all over the place, the online conspiracy community has a lot to be loudly right about. And just like LaLa one of their biggest triggers is willful naivete.
- Tim Scott is Lisa Vanderpump
Lisa Vanderpump is positioned as the sort of emotionally stable moral center of the gaggle. She is the adult in the room quite literally. But she isn’t always right. She sometimes gives bad advice and can be pretty unfair in who she favors in life and in business. Despite her flaws, she does seem like someone you can really trust, is good with money and knows how to speak sternly in a way that forces others to listen. Tim Scott is a lot like Lisa. He’s not always right on point about everything and he can be unfair to people like President Trump and his supporters. But at the end of the day he’s a calming force in a chaotic environment and there’s nothing wrong with being well liked.
- Jack Smith/the DOJ generally is Tom Sandoval
Tom Sandoval is the ultimate snake in the grass. He gaslights everyone on the show, betrays every single person he knows and ultimately is loyal to only one thing and that is his own ego and personal gain. But what’s even worse about him is that he never actually believes he has done wrong. He always believes his actions are completely justified and for some greater good or that others have first wronged him. It’s completely infuriating and also wildly delusional. And the whole time everyone is really on his side until the major reveal that he’d been cheating on his girlfriend of 9 years. There is nothing good about Tom Sandoval. There is nothing to save except through Jesus Christ himself. Jack Smith/DOJ is no different. They’re liars, gaslighters and they’re not actually your friend. Jack and his ilk will do anything to take down people who tell the truth about who they are and challenge their authority.
- The Deep State is Rachel ‘Raquel’ Leviss
In the beginning it seemed like ‘Raquel’ was pretty innocent and at worst misguided and manipulated by those around her. But as the series went on it became very clear who was the puppet master. When the Scandoval broke, Raquel couldn’t even manage to fake remorse for the sake of the TVs. She had repeatedly lied, gaslit and spied on people who she was actively lying to and betraying. It would be a little less crazy if it was clear what exactly she had to gain. But it seems she calculated all of it just because she could. No one is her bigger critic than former paramour James Kennedy but until the Scandoval broke, she had a lot of people wrapped around her fingers including Ariana (whose long time boyfriend Raquel ultimately had an affair with) and Scheana. There is only one word for what Raquel is and that is: monstrous. The Deep State is just like Raquel. They will manipulate, gaslight and lie their way to any outcome they deem worthy and they’ll do it without many consequences as long as they pretend they’re reforming. The Never Trumpers of the world think they’re all on the same side of law and order but they’re delusional and they will be taken down by the thumb of the shadow party sooner or later.
- Donald Trump is Stassi Schroeder
Stassi is a born leader who brings a lot of controversy. You either love her or hate her (I am a Stassi stan for life). There is no question that she is the top dog wherever she goes and while she has her own life now and doesn’t need the show at all, if she came back it would be absolutely hers for the taking. The haters have and will keep trying to keep her down, but she simply cannot be stopped. Despite the abhorrent behavior of her friends and VPR counterparts, of which Stassi did not participate, they still had (at one point) the audacity to cut her out of their lives and say she was a bad person. Tom Sandoval did everything he could to keep the people he was hurting away from Stassi. Sound familiar to anyone? President Trump has major Stassi vibes.
No one is Ariana because she doesn’t like Republicans (or at least she once upon a time didn’t like President Trump) and while normally that would provoke further teasing she’s actually been through enough lately.