With select seasons of The Bad Girls Club now available on Hulu, many viewers are taking a walk down memory lane to simpler times of reality TV gold.
The BGC franchise lasted a whopping 17 seasons with additional spin-offs featuring fan-favorite bad girls. The show kicked off in 2006 and polarized audiences with the outspoken personalities featured on the program. Sun Times writer Mary Mitchell went so far as to call the series “hazardous to the female psyche” and “disturbing ” in 2011. Each season, bad girls from across America would move into the BGC mansion to party hard and fight harder. Secret alliances were forged, friendship bonds were broken and trust was often tested to the point of altercation. It was kind of like Survivor meets WWE with alcohol in the mix.
Taking its many controversies in stride, Bad Girls Club was a staple in the reality television boom of the later 2000’s. The early Obama administration marked a crucial turning point in pop culture, wherein the nightclub scene ruled music, fashion and celebrity just before social media made its takeover. Reality television casts like that of Bad Girls Club fully embodied the trends of the era, which leaned into inspiration from radio divas of the time like Lady Gaga and Rihanna who steered the direction of mall fashion from the iTunes charts. Consumer affordability met the gaudiness of the over-publicized Hollywood nightlife scene, creating a distinct, vibrant style for outgoing hot girls and boys of the time fixated on “swag.“
The set design of these shows saw no exception to these trends. The BGC formula of filming ensemble casts’ extended stay in mansions across America was followed by countless other competition-based series. In this particular production setting, decor in said mansions mirrored flashy, overbright stylings of nightclubs and pulled elements from hip hop culture and pop music to create sets that felt like an experience.
Vibrant color pairings, neon signs, animal print, furs, disco balls and other blinged-out pieces were among the reality house staples of the time.
New Jersey-based interior designer Courtney Sloane designed the set for the first two cycles of America’s Next Top Model. Also a home designer to stars like Queen Latifah, Sloane said in a Vibe Magazine interview that her design process for famous clients pulled inspirations from “clubs, hot spots and films.” On designing for P. Diddy in 2000, Sloane said: “Hip hop is becoming more sophisticated.”
By comparison, the interior design of today’s internet influencers has taken a bland turn from the maximalism of MTV, VH1 and Oxygen. YouTubers and Instagram stars’ large homes, which are broadcasted on the scale that reality TV was ten years ago, appear in today as more minimalist and sterile. The noticeable pivot away from set design in “reality” genre content almost functions as a blank canvas to display the lightning-speed trend cycle of designer fashion in homes.
For example, California rapper Blueface has filmed an at-home version of “Bad Girls Club” available on premium content site OnlyFans. Similar to Oxygen network’s series, the home production invited several women into Blueface’s luxury home to fight, play and cause drama on camera. The home where the series took place is now available for rent on Airbnb for $2,500 a night. Though the two series of the same name follow basically the same premise, as the Airbnb photos show, the site for 2020 production had been stripped of the original flare that came with the Bad Girls franchise.
As the internet now dictates pop culture’s every move, the difference between reality content and outright entertainment production have almost become inextricable. Without teams of production behind them, today’s entertainers are able to peddle an ultra-real version of reality via livestream in an instant. Drama between budding stars no longer needs to be orchestrated by show runners in 24/7 filming situations when cat fights can be filmed in private and posted on the world stage moments later with ease.
Our entertainment landscape is changing, but it’s always fun to look back on the reality television that still felt like fantasy.
Header image: Oxygen