Thinky Post: Toxic Men, Love Scams, Gaslighting, and Why Ladies vs Ricky Bahl Should Not Exist. Also, Ranbir. And Vanderpump Rules.

I don’t care that no one else cares! I am going to write a post for my own satisfaction about the Vanderpump Rules drama, and then loosely tie it in to universal social ideas, Indian film, and hating Ranbir Kapoor (all our favorite things).

I’ve been listening to a lot of “love con” podcasts, and in general this seems like a crime that is a bigger issue today. Or, is happening in a new and different way that makes it more obvious once your eyes are opened to it. Relationships playing out constantly on the record in today’s world, from texts to dating websites to phones that can record EVERYTHING, so it no longer becomes “he said she said” in terms of stolen money, false promises, etc. etc. It becomes “he said, she has documentation and becomes part of a podcast”.

(This guy conned Lana Turner!!! No one believed her back then so she just didn’t talk about it, but now there is a podcast)

In Olden Times, there was a legal concept of “breach of promise” which was a way of prosecuting Love Scams. If a gentleman wrote you a letter promising marriage and a future together, you could sue him if he didn’t follow through. Kind of odd way of going about it, but also kind of makes sense. In the past, among the part of society that could afford lawsuits, a promise of marriage could result in a lot of profit for a scammer and expense for the victim. The victim might have loaned money or asked relatives to loan money, may have spent their own money on items for their future home, may have moved towns or quit jobs or otherwise upended their life for a marriage that was never going to happen.

This whole concept seems to have faded away around the time that “letters” became less common, way harder to sue for breach of promise based on something someone told you on the telephone. And at the same time, relationships became a lot more free and easy, you didn’t have to leap to a proposal just to get a loan from a woman. And that was BAD. All of a sudden it became just sort of accepted that a man might pretend to be in love with a woman in order to gain an advantage. Sometimes sexual favors, but sometimes money, career advantages, all kinds of things. If he did and succeeded (say, flirted with the boss’s daughter until he got the promotion, then ghosted her), more power to him, that was smart and a good way to get ahead. If he did and failed (flirted with the boss’s daughter for a promotion, but she learned he was secretly married all along and broke up with him), no harm no foul, most of the time she’d be too embarrassed to tell anyone she was fooled and wouldn’t be believed anyway.

But now we have documentation again!!! Yaaaaaay! And there seem to be an awful awful lot of men out there taking advantage of women by pretending to be in love with them. I think this is a gender dynamic thing, and I don’t think it’s because of how women are trained to be submissive and tolerant and forgiving. I think it’s because men are trained to expect to be forgiven, to be able to get away with whatever they want, and that their needs and wants are more important than anyone else’s. In some of these stories it doesn’t even seem like the man started it as a “fraud”, he just reached a point where he decided his own needs were more important and made himself fall out of love with his latest victim.

Now, Vanderpump Rules! This is a total trash reality TV show. It started out following this close group of friends who all dated each other and worked together at the same restaurant. They were aspiring models and actors and musicians, very young, drunk most of the time, with horrible judgement, and chaotic lives. Oh, and no concern about trying to keep things from the camera, no posing, we got to go alllllllll the way in and see alllllll the mess.

It’s been on for 10 years now and this trash group of young dumb people has grown up (sort of). The biggest symbol of that was the couple Tom and Ariana. They got together in season 3 and have been together ever since. They never cheated on each other, they never had nasty fights, they had a lot of mature conversations and declarations of love and just sort of sane cuteness. And a few weeks ago it came out that Tom had been having an affair for at least 7 months with one of their closest friends, a much younger woman who Tom and Ariana had sort of mentored, even had her stay at their house for a bit after she broke up with her boyfriend.

This is hitting the Vanderpump Rules watchers community hard and even reverberating outside and I think there a lot of interesting reasons why this is. First, it makes you go back and watch all 10 seasons with new eyes. Not just that Tom is suddenly revealed as scum, but that all the men are. And, conversely, none of the women. They were positioned as this group of equally messy people. But Ariana has been a fan favorite from the start, never quite as messy as everyone else, something better than that. Now that we know she is with a horrible person, suddenly it makes you think about the other women on the show and if their messy behavior comes from the same place, crazy making relationships with con artist men. And it makes you wonder why we were sold a story of “crazy men and crazy women” instead of “bad men making women crazy”.

This is reality TV, and it is their real lives, but it’s also edited and the editing is where the story is told. From the start, the men of this show got the “hero” edit and the women got the “crazy” edit. We saw the men be charming, be at their jobs, have talking heads explaining their emotions. We saw the women accuse them of cheating, have emotional meltdowns all over the place, yell and scream and make a fuss while the man was calm. If you step back from the edit and look at the facts, you realize the women on the show tended to have more stable work and financial lives than the men, tended to give more and be more loyal to the relationships than the men, and on the other hand the men were LYING THE WHOLE TIME!!! They convinced the women they were crazy, and the makers of the show went along with that.

This is another case where we have excessive documentation. It’s not just the show itself, these are reality people, so they all have podcasts and instagram and “vlogs” and lots of other ways of presenting themselves to the world. With new eyes, all of a sudden long time viewers are digging through alllllllllllllll this stuff going “whoa, it was always there right in front of us and we just didn’t see”. Why didn’t we see?

Well, let’s go back to Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. This is a fun conman movie about a guy who courts and gets engaged to rich women in order to get their money, and then they all band together to take them down. I’m not even gonna say it is an unethical movie, taken by itself, our hero has lots of justification for his actions and never REALLY hurts anyone and so on and so forth. But the idea is still that his special skill is “love conning” women. And that is, well, “normal”. Like, something every man would do if they could. Bachne Ae Haseeno goes even further on this idea, Ranbir truly destroys these women by pretending to love them and then abandoning them in the worst way possible. And sure, that’s fine, it’s what any boy would do.

I think the world has come a long way in the past few decades as relates to abusive relationships. Actual physical abuse is not tolerated at all in Western popular culture, you would not have jokes about a man hitting his wife EVER. And Indian pop culture is getting there as well, we’ve even got movies like Thappad now. But I feel like we sort of have to go back to go forward in terms of gaslighting and love scams and cheating and all that other kind of behavior. There’s a balance between “women are strong and independent now and it’s not the end of their life if a man loves and leaves them” and “women are fragile creatures and a false promise will destroy them”. Somewhere along the lines of “yes, my whole life isn’t destroyed, but part of it is, and that part has value, and it is wrong for you to twist me around like this”.

I’ve heard this kind of behavior described as “toxic men” or “narcassistic” or “love scammers”, but it all seems to get down to someone who just sucks the life out of you. He doesn’t beat you, he doesn’t yell at you, but he gets you so turned around with confusing stories, he makes you feel so small when he cheats on you, and he constantly demands your emotional support, breaks in to every part of your life. But he doesn’t do anything “wrong”. He cheats, but he asks for forgiveness and won’t do it again. He says one thing one day and something else the next but maybe you just aren’t remembering right. And if he is really sadder than you, than of course you should put away your sad and attend to his.

(Ugh, Kunal Kapoor in Dear Zindagi! I can’t BELIEVE the film ended up “forgiving” him for what he did)

I just feel like, at this point, we can blame the men. It’s not that women were trained to be emotional caregivers and naturally fall into that role in a relationship. Yes, that’s also true, but when it goes to such EXTREME levels, that is a man enjoying his ability to manipulate the gender roles.

In the case of Vanderpump Rules, it wasn’t just manipulating the women around them, it was the whole system of entertainment structured to reward their bad behavior and punish the women. Infamously, half the cast was fired a few years back over an incident of racism. Not saying they shouldn’t have been fired, but how was being racist worse than a man pouring his drink over his girlfriend’s head on camera? How is that where the producers draw the line?

With Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, it sort of reflects the blindness of society to this problem. The film is presented as a whacky impossible fantasy story, not as something that actually happens to women every day.

And finally, with Ranbir, I think this is the thing that is slowly becoming apparent to more and more people, and which has been apparent to those of us on DCIB for a long time. He’s not abusive, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t hit, but he minimizes the women with him, makes them feel like they are in the wrong, makes them feel like his feelings matter more, and he does that because he has been raised to believe that is the way to behave. It’s not illegal necessarily, or even immoral, but it is yucky.

(I keep going back to this. Katrina got SO MUCH HEAT when these photos came out, and Ranbir got none. And he didn’t so much as issue a statement in support of her)


15 thoughts on “Thinky Post: Toxic Men, Love Scams, Gaslighting, and Why Ladies vs Ricky Bahl Should Not Exist. Also, Ranbir. And Vanderpump Rules.

  1. Ugh! Yes, hate this trend, and I am so glad I am married and out of this crap. I see it around me all the time. Men marrying rich men’s daughters, or super professional women and just sponging off them. It’s become ubiquitous now.


  2. Well written.

    I don’t have nothing good to add except that this guys from Vanderpump Rules doesn’t look very trustworthy and that I’ll never understand why those Katrina’s photos scandalized people so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So I know that contrariness runs in my family, my husband proudly calls himself a contrarian and one of my children simply HAS to disagree with everything. I cannot pretend that this instinct is not in myself. All the same, because I am me, I think I am bringing up some real points.

    Point 1 – Most manipulator’s do not realize they are manipulating. Of course this is not the case with con men. But this is the case with Ranbirs and probably with the reality stars of the world.

    Point 2 – women raise men. You are totally correct that Ranbir has been raised to behave the way he does. He was raised by his mother, who must have believed that he was the center of the world and as such he believes he is too. The fact that he MAKES these minimizing comments to the press just show how he doesn’t understand how minimizing they are. He manipulates without knowledge. Who should we be the most angry with, him, his parents, society at large? In this world where women are belittled, women are part of the belittling.

    Point 3 – In Dear Zindagi Alia rejected the Kunal character BEFORE he became engaged to someone else. Hearts are messy and of course his courtship of her and subsequent engagement are wack, but she did not accept his courtship. Her character was a mess of a human. Why would we expect his character to be perfect? Was not the movie about messy humans. I loved her having to apologize to her friends that she ignored, always assuming her own story was more important, just like the Ranbirs of the world. Women often expect that men will be more perfect humans, we want our knights on white horses to rescue us. I recently read that the manic pixie girl in Garden State was Zach Braff’s dream of a woman rescuing him. One dimensional? YES. Both genders tend to minimize the mental complexity of the other. It isn’t okay when men do this to women and it isn’t okay when women do it to men.

    Point 4 – in Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl we WANT the ladies to win. We do not want Ricky Bahl to continue to scam people. It could be said that we want love to win. His behavior is not condoned, it is a plot point.

    Point 5 – Having an affair does not make a person completely evil. Don’t get me wrong, if my husband had an affair I would leave him, and he would do the same if I had an affair. Bonny Kapoor had an affair with Sridevi, and then stayed with her and fathered her children. He cheated on his first wife because he fell in love with Sridevi, did he then cheat on Sridevi? Did Sridevi see Bonny Kapoor as evil? And shouldn’t she share some of the blame for him leaving his first wife? Were his actions all his, or were other people involved? A seven month affair is not rape. Women were involved in this betrayal of a woman. The idea that MEN ARE BAD gives them the power we are mad society bestows on them.


    • Thank you for good points!

      Point 1: Absolutely agree and this is part of why I find this category fascinating. Because I feel like there is still culpability there. You may not be conscious you are manipulating, but you are still making a choice to try to arrange the world around your concerns instead of others. Like, if your girlfriend says “I want to go to ____ for vacation” and you want to go somewhere else, at some point you make the choice not to just do what she wants to make her happy.

      Point 2: Thank you thank you! This is one of the most interesting parts of the Vanderpump thing which I didn’t want to get into because I thought people would be bored with it. The face of Vanderpump is Lisa Vanderpump and she consistently downplays what the boys do versus punishing the girls. She took some nasty men and then encouraged them for 10 years and made them nastier. Weirdly, the men who were fired from the show, or didn’t get as much forgiveness from her, seem like better human beings now. And the one person who was consistently supported by her no matter what is now the most disliked and seemingly selfish person. Basically, in your standard triangle, I am saying “blame the husband and the mother-in-law, acknowledge that the wife may have NOTHING to do with the problems”. Instead of saying “oh, the wife is causing it by letting herself be a victim”.

      Point 3: Totally correct, I like this point. And Dear Zindagi shows how to “fix” this kind of behavior. Alia really works on herself and looks at herself and changes and lots of good things. The only thing I think is slightly different is that she has to hit total and complete rock bottom to reach the point of working on himself and I think in society men are more likely to get a soft landing and avoid rock bottom and therefore avoid that moment of “wow, I suck, I need therapy”.

      Point 4: Agree, the movie in isolation is fine. I’m just increasingly hearing these stories that makes me feel “icky” about the topic being treated in a comedy at all. Like it’s too real to be in that space any more.

      Point 5: I agree about the affair, I think it depends on what kind of affair it is. Really, it’s Gaslighting PLUS affair. Or, Lying PLUS affair. The sort of manipulation I’m describing could be used to hide an affair, or hide debts, or hide that you have a secret child, or hide that you have a terrible disease. Any really big huge thing that should be shared with your partner, and that you are only keeping from them through an extremely elaborate series of lies and evasions, that’s terrible. Especially if you don’t seem to understand that aspect of the betrayal when you are caught. Does that make sense? With the Vanderpump example, the reason it is hitting so hard is that this was a very close friend of the couple and part of their friend group. Which means the man had to lie to his partner almost constantly every minute of every day for months at a time. That’s a real “whoa, which way is up?” sort of realization for her, and a real “what person is capable of that?” sort of feeling about him.


      • Agree with everything u said about manipulative , toxic men gaslighting women , using them and sucking out the joy from their life.
        “And the one person who was consistently supported by her no matter what is now the most disliked and seemingly selfish person.”
        I havent seen the vanderpump show. But it sounds like she is running a show similar to ‘big boss’ show in India, where the nastiest people are encouraged to do horrible , hurtful, outrageous things each week and they are rewarded for it and egged on to do more nasty things. It is so aggravating to watch that show. But the sole purpose of the show is to make money and the only way to make money is to encourage contestants who act like neanderthal apes , bcoz it gets viewership and high trp.
        Imagine a show with only good guys who act proper and are nice, gentlemanly , courteous , have high EQ and stuff. Who will watch such a show. No one.
        I think encouraging the most disliked and selfish person is done intentionally to create drama and to create strong emotional reaction among the audience and for high trps. If this is the same lisa vanderpump from housewives of beverly hills show, it makes sense that she would produce a successful show like this . She was the most sane , smartest and shrewdest person in the housewives show. I have watched only the one season. SO I dont know if she went crazy like the others did later on in the show.


      • Thinking about point 5 – It is impossible to say that what he did wasn’t evil. I mean it was so very very very wrong. I can maybe try to imagine that he loved both women. I can maybe imagine the friend, the mentee, mentally desperate to not just imitate her mentor, but have what her mentor has. But actions are more than desires and gosh, it is just so wrong. And what Bonny did was also, so wrong. I mean I do try not to judge other people’s relationships, but it is so hard not to.


        • And in the Vanderpump scandal, he said his first public thing and it was “Hindsight is 20/20”. Which is a really clueless way to acknowledge you cheated on your partner for 7 months! Just, the inability to understand why people think he did something wrong.


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