I've always believed that Vanderpump Rules watches like modern-day Shakespeare. While that statement inspires an infinitely long eye roll, I stand by it. No, the plotlines aren't as sophisticatedly sturdy and no, the language used isn't remotely elegant - but underneath the flowery dialogue and prolific plotlines, Shakespeare formulated an unbelievable amount of drama that gives even Vanderpump Rules a run for its (hard-earned) money. In attending a recent production of The Tempest, I was stunned by the abundance of recognizable modernity apparent in each character, and was ultimately moved to pair the charismatic caricatures from VR with their Shakespearian counterparts.
Part One: The Ladies
Viola: Twelfth Night
There's no denying that Laura Lee is the unsung hero of Vanderpump Rules. She made a brief but impactful stint in Season One and has been sorely missed ever since she spastically fled to pursue a part in a movie with Jennifer Aniston that we later found out involved an arrow tattoo pointing to her crotch reading, "boner garage." She's amazing. So when I compare her to Viola, the protagonist and heroine of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, it's not without the utmost respect and admiration. Let's start with the fact that this play takes place in a fictional country that Shakespeare created. If that doesn't sound like the world LVP has curated at SUR, then unsubscribe me from Pucker & Pout and call me crazy. Anyway, this fictional country is ruled by Duke Orsino (Jax, duh), who is in love with Countess Olivia (Stassi, obvs). Viola is prepared to serve Olivia, but has little luck – I mean, when has Stassi ever made new members feel welcome? So Viola disguises herself to serve the Duke. While there was no literal disguising of Laura Lee, you can't DISGUISE the fact that she couldn't care less about making friends with the grossly engrossed gals and set her sights straight for Jax. At this point, Twelfth Night gets pretty complicated, with the disguised Viola falling in love with Orsino, then Orsino thinking she's a man and confessing to her his love for Olivia and then Olivia falling in love with Viola because she thinks he's a man. SO Shakespeare, right? And not a storyline I'd totally rule out for VR, but that didn't exactly happen. What DID happen is that Laura Lee fell hard and fast for Jax, while he continued to secretly hook up with and court Stassi. Stassi definitely didn't fall anywhere near in love with Laura Lee, but in finding out that she had also laid with the self-proclaimed number one guy in the group, did become hatefully obsessed with her. At this point in the play, Viola's twin brother shows up and confuses things even more dramatically – for the sake of comparison, let's call him: Laura Lee's drug and alcohol abuse history. Because we all know that AA meeting where Jax discovers Laura Lee's disquieting past is more delicious than SUR's infamous goat cheese balls. Technically now, Viola finds out that her twin brother has secretly married Olivia because she thought he was the disguised Viola. Orsino gives up courting Olivia and accepts Viola as his wife, as long as she transforms back to a woman. While the end of this story doesn't quite line symmetrically with Laura Lee's, we know that Jax definitely didn't end up with Stassi, and might have MAYBE ended up with Laura Lee if it hadn't been for her meth-infused former self?? It's doubtful, but hey, Jax ended up settling down with a random girl from Tennessee who kind of has the same Southern drawl as LL and with whom he wouldn't date seriously until she got breast implants. I rest my largely stretched case. Vanderpump Rules is important.
Beatrice: Much Ado About Nothing
Being fierce is something both Stassi and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing have mastered. Let's start by analyzing Beatrice's relationship with Benedick, who may or may not have a striking resemblance to another dick known as Jax (MAY). These two have a history, with Benedick swearing that he'll never marry and Beatrice standing firm in convincing all that she's the one in control. Their dynamic involves throwing around insults and trying to outwit one another. (I mean…). Beatrice refuses to marry because she claims she hasn't found anyone perfect enough (so Stass, am I right?) and doesn't want to submit to the control a husband demands. If you know anything about Stassi, it's that she has super high standards when it comes to dating (she's currently single and obsessed with talking about it) and she's one gal who refused to succumb to Jax's controlling bullshit. When Beatrice calls for Benedick to "Kill Claudio" in Act IV, I can almost hear Stassi whispering "murdery" as she washes down an edible with a bottle of wine. Beatrice is a progressive and powerful character who is fiercely loyal in the support of women's rights, and while I don't think Stassi is quite there yet, I have faith that this is the type of Khaleesi leader, podcast host, and VR cast mate she's evolving into.
The Nurse: Romeo & Juliet
In any story replete with crazy, there has to be a voice of reason. Lisa Vanderpump is the closest thing VR has to this kind of character. The Nurse in Rome and Juliet has a relatively minor presence in relation to the main attraction of leads, but is there when needed. This can also be said of Lisa, except she requires a much better wardrobe (debatable) and a mandatory servant feeding her tea. The most important connection between these two is their big hearts. Lisa thinks of these employees (read: minions, puppets, cash cows etc.) as her own children and genuinely wants them to be happy (but not when filming). And let's not forget when the Nurse advised Juliet to marry Paris, turning on Romeo the second he's banished. She deserves more credit for the drama than you think – just like one Mrs. Vanderpump.
Lady Macbeth: Macbeth
Ah, Kristen – for what other choice was there? Murder for status, psychotic behavior, sexualized manipulation – do I even need to elaborate? From Kristen's vitriolic vintage relationship with Tom Sandoval to her attempted overthrow of his new girlfriend, Ariana – it seems that she was born in the wrong era and would have been, dare I say, less judged in the middle ages. But alas we live in 2016, and judging is how we mask our insecurities - so to aid in that task, the universe provided Kristen Doute. Much like Lady Macbeth, Kristen is detailed when it comes to detective work and uses it to further manage her stooges (a.k.a. men). Both women are ALL about personal gain and like to make those around them feel crazy when questioning their (horrific) judgment. But Kristen seems to be growing up and I'm excited to witness her progression on this upcoming season of VR. Because, let's face it, the alternative is bleak. Who knows – maybe a mildly successful t-shirt line was in Lady Macbeth's future too? Sadly, we'll never know.
Titania: A Midsummer Night's Dream
So all you need to know about Titania, in regards to comparing her to Ariana, is that she's described as queen of the fairies. Which leads me to directly reference, of course, Ariana's "fairy" (or something) themed 30th birthday party – also known as the night her boyfriend Tom interrupted her in an emotional state to ask if he could leave to ride bulldozers in Vegas. #Goals. Tom and Ariana are both something out of a fairytale, but not necessarily a good one - one that maybe stars Hanky, Lisa Vanderpump's evil swan, instead of a magical one. There's something a little un-human about both of them – like they're living in a bubble made of dildo-guitar delusions. Which takes me back to Titania – who falls in love with a man/donkey and, due to her colossal pride, owns it. Now I'm not saying Tom is a man/donkey – but if there ever was one – I'm guessing he'd be the poster boy. And Ariana's pride (remember when she proclaimed herself the smartest in the group – small victory, Ar) combined with her dedication towards him is dystopically durable. Oh well, here's hoping A Midsummer Night's Dream is soon reimagined as a sketch comedy so she can star in it (unless Kristen gets the part…BURN).
Part Two: The Men
Falstaff: Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2
How much do you want to bet that James was the lead in his high school's Shakespeare production? He literally looks and sounds like iambic pentameter is his preferred form of discourse. That is, until we hear his mind-numbing thoughts. Falstaff is selfish, dishonest, corrupt, manipulative – and a drunk. But he's also one of the most beloved and popular characters among audiences. He's the comedic relief – and though I'm not sure that's the acclaim James desires, the editors know what they're doing when choosing to air his "recording sessions." Honor means nothing to Falstaff, and James couldn't agree more. Just ask his tank top collection - and Andy Cohen.
Prospero: The Tempest
Underdog alert! From failing to secure a job as a waiter at SUR, to his half-assed modeling career, it's often a toss up deciding if Tom is likeable or not. His personality is relatable, but his woes are not. Get. It. Together. This is how an audience might feel following alongside Prospero's story during a production of The Tempest. But Tom has managed to thrive in spite of all of his shortcomings, becoming quite an integral piece of the show's dysfunctional aggregate and ultimately thickening the plot (one commitment at a time). Here's to seeing Tom and Katie finally GET MARRIED and here's hoping Tom's very own human tempest, Lala, keeps her clothes on during it.
Lear: King Lear
Of course VR's most dramatically inclined star should be the one to land this lofty title. Throughout the play, Lear battles insanity, values appearance over reality, and appears nude. Wait - did I just describe Season 4, Episode 8? Tom's music video for his band's non-hit, T.I.P., very clearly screams MODERN DAY SHAKESPEARE if you watch it on mute, in reverse, and directly after an episode of Sesame Street. Lear has been described as a character that's physically daunting to play, and if you've been un-fortunate enough to witness Tom interacting with his ex-girlfriend Kristen, you understand that Lear's got nothing on this bombastic bartender.
The Bear: Winter's Tale