If you watched last night's episode of Vanderpump Rules, you may have been surprised and disappointed as several cast members engaged in the egregious practice of victim-shaming in an attempt to bury some unsettling allegations.
What could have served as an edifying reminder that the lessons of the #MeToo era often force both men and women to confront uncomfortable truths was instead a painful lesson in how not to handle an accusation by a woman who has been mistreated.
The situation began innocently enough when Ariana Madix's brother, Jeremy, asked castmate Billie Lee out on a date.
When Billie shared the news with friends Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, she was shocked to learn that Jeremy's been the subject of some unsettling accusations.
While Stassi encouraged Billie to make sure she sticks to public places during her date, Kristen derided the SUR busboy as "creepy."
A flashback clip from Katie Maloney and Tom Schwartz's wedding the previous summer supports Stassi's claim that Jeremy behaved inappropriately.
The footage shows Jeremy wrapping Stassi up in an unwelcome hug while chastising her for giving him dirty looks and jokingly promising that he'll stop hitting on her.
When Ariana learned of the allegations, she exacerbated the situation by behaving in an extremely hostile fashion toward Stassi and Kristen, and threatening them that they're "going to a place that they will never f--king come back from."
She then informed her boyfriend, Tom Sandoval, of the situation, and he proceeded to track the women down and scream at them, at one point threatening that they had "better f--king watch themselves."
The reaction on Twitter was overwhelmingly negative, with many viewers pointing out the hypocrisy of self-proclaimed feminists Ariana and Lala Kent fuming with rage at two women who broached a difficult topic in an effort to protect another woman from harm:
"Perhaps you shouldn’t be on TV or violating women’s space. There’s film, idiot," one viewer tweeted at Jeremy.
"Um, Ariana, your brother has a history of domestic abuse and violating restraining orders. 'Creepy' might be a kind adjective here," wrote another.
That last tweet refers to the fact that Jeremy has been arrested multiple times on charges of domestic assault and violating a restraining order.
According to court records, an ex-girlfriend of Madix's informed police that he beat her, forcibly undressed her, and threatened to kill her after they had broken up.
Jeremy, meanwhile, was by turns combative and dismissive in his response to the scandal.
Before the episode aired, he tweeted a GIF which seemed to make light of the allegations against him:
Later, he retweeted several of his own comments that seemed to be his way of responding to a previous round of criticism:
"I'm so content with the person i am I could give a fuck what you think about me," a less-than-content-sounding Madix tweeted.
"So while I ride around in this RR and continue to work my ass off on some REAL CEO shit, be nice. Cause I’m nice to everyone."
The most recent round of allegations against Madix were not especially severe, but the way the situation was handled was downright deplorable.
If women who come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct are subjected to bitter vitriol and violent threats from within their own social circle, then the progress of the past few months has truly been illusory.
As with the abuse that James Kennedy has inflicted on his female co-stars, this is not the stuff of amusing reality TV drama.
Vanderpump Rules is in danger of becoming a deeply problematic series, and only its stars have the ability to bring a stop to that steady deterioration.
There's a fine line between a show that documents the intoxicated debauchery of some of WeHo's most argumentative pretty people and a show that glorifies abusive and violent behavior for a young and impressionable audience.
Hopefully, if the show's stars don't realize something needs to be done, then the network will - and some much-needed retooling will take place.
Watch Vanderpump Rules online to witness the shocking reaction to Jeremy's behavior for yourself.