Lexi Wilson and the Rape Of The Black Professional Working Class
For the past year I raved about Bravo TV’s and Comcast’s Show “Below Deck”, then my eyes were opened to the ugly truth
Before you write me off as a naive fool let me argue my case. I’m a naive fool. You’re right. I believed Below Deck began with the truth…
Matthew Shea never laid a finger on Lexi Wilson.
But in every other way he had his way with her. The crew of Lady Michelle stood by and watched. From Britannica, a broad definition:
“The psychological motivations of rapists are more complex than was formerly thought. They may include the desire to punish, to gain revenge, to cause pain, to prove sexual prowess, and to control through fear. The psychological reactions of victims of rape also vary but usually include feelings of shame, humiliation, confusion, fear, and rage. Victims often report a feeling of perpetual defilement, an inability to feel clean, an overwhelming sense of vulnerability, and a paralyzing feeling of lack of control over their lives.”
As much as I’d like to make Matthew our central villain, he doesn’t hold a candle to the evil wrought by the Chief Stewardess, Katie Flood.
Is that even fair? Was Katie racially prejudiced towards Lexi or was she made it look that way? By who?
I understand that if you haven’t watched Season 6 of Below Deck Mediterranean all this will be difficult to follow. I wish I had another way to tell this story.
The way reality TV is produced, it’s difficult to figure out where abuse or racism starts. Does it start with the casting of an abusive crew member? Does it start when the producers make two inexperienced and volatile people live and work together. Does it happen in the edit-room? Did it start months in advance in a writer’s room?
Or, does it become reality when an executive buried in the bowels of Bravo TV - Universal - Comcast signs off on footage showing a woman, proverbially speaking, getting thrown out of a window by people who may, or may not have, worked for production company that may, or may not be, currently providing some services to other service companies with contracts to deliver “content” to Comcast or its subsidiaries?
Most people don’t believe it’s important what happens on reality TV because it’s “entertainment.” I disagree.
Reality TV is paid for and distributed by corporations with boardrooms of directors who have a mandate to respect the use of public infrastructure.
Certainly the board can easily accept that the producers will make fun of one’s romantic peccadillos. Ruining someone’s career, someone’s humanity, shouldn’t that be a serious question of corporate responsibility?
- Lexi Wilson did not tell Matt to “fire the scallops” early.
- She did not eat a lamb chop without asking.
- She never “gave shit” to her Chief Stew.
- Katie Flood did not tell Captain Sandy that Matt was continuously attacking Lexi.
I’m not here to advocate change. I’m only here to point out, for whatever it’s worth, that Bravo TV/Comcast won’t hesitate to impugn the professionalism of a black woman or make a man out to be a rapist after they encourage him to get black-out drunk and he tries to get into the bed of a woman who had said she was interested in him (all while the producers watch on).
Of course, the shrill social media flamers will call me a “victim blamer” (about Margot in the Margot/Luke story) because it fits into their simplistic narratives. I must do my best to ignore them.
Lexi Wilson was raped in all but sexual penetration and Luke Jones probably had sex on his mind but didn’t abuse anyone (Margot, also black-out drunk under the producer’s (Bravo’s) care, never knew he climbed into bed with her). Indeed, both Lexi Wilson and Luke Jones seemed to be the kind of people anyone would want as work-mates. (To be clear, Sandy Yawn was not the Captain of the boat Luke Jones was on).
My suspicions about Below Deck arose in a strange way. I had been a fan of Captain Sandy. I wrote her an email saying I didn’t think she should call herself a “hero” on her website. I often write such emails, in general, and 99.9% of the time no one ever responds. I don’t expect them to. But like Sandy, I believe we should all follow our principles, futile or not. (I took a screenshot of the site before and after I sent the email).
Sandy was that 0.1%. She wrote back a short email saying she didn’t write the copy on the website but would fix it. A week or so later, the word “hero” was removed.
You can imagine how much my admiration of Captain Sandy grew!
Yet, as I watched Below Deck Mediterranean, Season 6, I was shocked that Captain Sandy did not handle the Lexi Wilson situation differently. I drove my wife crazy saying, “When Captain Sandy sees the show she’s going to go ballistic on Matthew and Katie.”
(The crew doesn’t see what others did on camera until after the season is over. They’re shown the final show and then join for a reunion show to comment on it. Naturally, Lexi Wilson didn’t show up.)
Captain Sandy did not seem herself on the reunion show. Usually she’s very opinionated. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered, was she manipulated to the point that it was too late to make anything right, or was she in on the game?
My 2-cents is that she was blindsided to the point that she couldn’t possibly defend Lexi without the producers firing her on the spot. Am I naive? That’s what’s so hard about writing this story.
The argument for Sandy is that the show was filmed in the fall of 2020, peak Covid. My guess is the “Covid Compliance Officer” made sure no one talked to each other unless absolutely necessary. The result was that Sandy had extremely limited contact with the crew.
From previous shows the viewer will notice Sandy is a hands-on Captain. She’s always pitching in, wherever needed. Cleaning, cooking, nothing seems beneath her. She’ll even talk about a crew member’s personal life if they seek her out. She’s a contrast to Captain Lee, the first and most famous Captain of Below Deck. Lee is the “I don’t babysit” the crew type.
The ironic thing about Lee is he plays the tough-but-fair father figure. In his final season, one sees a pathetic old man, blind to his narcissism and faults, ready to blame everyone else for whatever problems occur. Sandy apologizes to crew members for her mistakes on a regular basis. When Lee is called out for his favoritism of Katie Chastain he does nothing to change anyone’s mind. (Of course, how much of any of that is true or not?!)
By spending hours watching the the episodes leading up to Lexi’s firing I was able to reconstruct what I believe happened. What comes across is that Lexi was a first-rate professional. Most would agree she is beautiful. Not surprising, she’s a former beauty contest winner.
And she is black.
My guess is the producers initially wanted to create a conflict between the uber-professional Lexi and the rest of the crew. They filmed her with a “burn list”, which she had written during her beauty pageant days.
It’s possible that the producers may have instructed Matt to sweep up some dust for Lexi to step in. Again, hard to figure out what lead to what. What seems certain is that Matt started blaming Lexi for everything and Katie did not defend her in the slightest.
Keep in mind I could go into mind-numbing detail on the gas-lighting of Lexi Wilson.
After the first charter, the crew went out to dinner. The two other stews, Katie and Courtney, joined by the female bosun Malia, began making fun of the male deckhands. A deckhand says, “what’s your Tinder profile”. Malia answers, “You think we need Tinder?” and laughs. The guys are good natured about all the ribbing, except for the chef, Matt. He’s drunk and obviously not happy at being lumped with the nerds.
Lexi, in trying to become friendly with the other women, starts to tell the story about her interaction with Matt over the dust on the floor. Matt goes mental. The other girls view the whole situation as one of Matt and Lexi just not getting along. That they’re both to blame for fighting.
The ganging up of Lexi begins.
For whatever reason, the other women on the boat don’t let Lexi into their clique. Lexi, who looked sober and bored during dinner, probably decided she needed a drink.
They get back to the boat. Matt ratchets up his abuse and the girls turn even more against Lexi. All that would have been obvious to every viewer if it weren’t for Mzi a black deckhand. He too blamed Lexi for all the problems.
Lexi goes crazy. She shoves Mzi. The producers make it look like Lexi is emotionally unbalanced, the hysterical woman from the 1800s who needs to be put in an insane asylum. We’re back to that, are we?
Let’s start from the top.
Bravo TV is owned by the NBCUniversal Television and Streaming division of Comcast’s NBCUniversal. Comcast’s large size, with multiple layers of diffuse responsibility, allow it to feign ignorance of unethical practices going on in its many business interests. This was fictionalized in the TV show “Succession” when crimes at the cruise-line business were eventually swept under the rug. In real life, Bethenny Frankel accused Comcast of “causing a hostile working environment against them.” What’s ironic is this other entry on Wikipedia, “The network’s brand is focused on reality series targeted at 25-to-54-year-old women and the LGBTQIA+ community at large.”
Should we laugh?
The two female board members of Comcast, Madeline Bell and Maritz Montiel.
If attacked like Lexi, I would dare any of those female board members to have kept their cool. I certainly couldn’t. Keep in mind the producers used every trick in the book to edit the footage so it looks like Lexi is the problem. If you watch the footage closely you can see how it was painstakingly manipulated.
Let’s not forget the female producers of the show. I count 14 women, though hard to be certain who worked on Season 6. I believe these producers are most responsible, but again, I’m speculating! (According to IMDB): Rebecca Taylor Henning, Nadine Rajabi, Jill M. Goslicky and Jacki Robbins.
In any case, consider how easy it is for producers of reality TV shows to avoid accountability.
How did the show avoid accusations of racism?
Mzi is South African and was brought up mostly by white parents. He obviously identifies as white. Like most of the crew, I doubt he harbored any ill will towards Lexi. What he didn’t recognize is that his own agenda blinded him to Lexi’s plight. Further, all the crew, except for Malia (who seemed to realize what was going on too late) had no idea what the producers would do with what was filmed.
I’m not arguing that Lexi is some Saint. Or that she doesn’t have problems. She signed up for Below Deck. She was experienced in other exploitive environments, like beauty contests. The show lets the viewer have a knowing wink that she may have been involved in prostitution because how else could she afford a “Four thousand dollar apt in Florida”.
Again, the sophistication of Below Deck’s character assassination. Lexi (or any of us?) would have said anything — indeed did say the worst thing a person could say — because she was sitting at a table with a dozen people who let Matt continuously attack her, surrounded by a production crew that never stepped in and said, okay, this is enough (as they did with Luke when he entered Margot’s cabin).
No matter how smart we are, there are some frauds, like Bravo and Below Deck, that are so sophisticated in their methods that we don’t see how we’ve been duped until its too late.
Lexi didn’t see. I didn’t see until I had watched more than 10 seasons.
Lexi understood that it was too late after the shoving incident. She tries to stay out of the way, doing the laundry only. Another stewardess is brought on. Lexi must still attend the after work parties.
Katie bears false-witness to Captain Sandy about Lexi. Sandy has no recourse but to fire Lexi.
The more I re-watched the season the more I understood that both Captain Sandy and Bosun Malia were trying to walk the line between the goal of helping the producer’s create “entertainment” and learn to be better at their craft and their desire to be a role model for other women and men.
After the season was aired, why didn’t Lexi try to stick up for herself? She did, but quickly learned, once again, she was powerless.
Either Bravo controls all the Reddit forums and FaceBook groups or the people who moderate them understand they’ll lose access if they allow any real criticism. I asked some questions of viewers (post blocked) on the Reddit forum and I was banned for life by the mod, correspondence here. I laughed when the mod said she’d report me to Reddit. You can’t make this stuff up!
Anyway, it is virtually impossible for Lexi Wilson or Luke Jones to get freedom of speech on these forums.
Captain Sandy Yawn and Bosun Malia has signed NDAs, I am sure. Further, anything they say now will look like righteous opportunism. Indeed, if either says anything that tarnishes the brand they would suffer the same fate as Lexi.
All I can do is stick up for Lexi and Luke, imperfect people that they may be. All I can do is call out all the female board members at Comcast and the production company behind Below Deck.
No one deserves to have their reputations ruined. It wasn’t and isn’t necessary. The idea of Below Deck is a good one. Follow young people as they make their way up in their careers in yachting. There’s plenty of genuine drama to follow. If you need to distort it to the point of ruining people’s careers and reputations it means you ARE the unprofessional, the one lacking in skill and effort. YOU can’t tell a story.
But hey, if you like the money and perks of sitting on a board collecting a paycheck to rubber-stamp misogyny, racism and soft rape — I get it now. If you need to pay tuition for your child’s school while Lexi Wilson’s career is ruined — I get it now. My eyes have been opened.