Below Deck Spinoff Seeks to Absolve Itself After Accusations of Misogyny

Below Deck Spinoff Seeks to Absolve Itself After Accusations of Misogyny

Below Deck, Bravo’s best franchise, about the hot young singles who work on charter yachts for the world’s wealthiest people (think of it as 100 percent polyester Downton Abbey), is headed into Season 5 of its spinoff Below Deck: Mediterranean. There’s a lot going on in the trailer.

First off, women are in charge of every department, which has never happened before. A guest falls off a jet ski, requiring Bosun Malia White (from Season 2 of Below Deck: Mediterranean) to dramatically rip-off her mic to save him. Chief Stew Hannah Ferrier is back and fighting with one of her subordinates, as always. Captain Sandy Yawn finds drugs aboard the boat. There’s a new chef who seems to have taken on more than he can swallow; all the while, the staff is serving chaotic guests in Mallorca, Spain. It’s scandalous, it’s sexy, and it’ll likely do wonders for the franchise.

Assuming that Below Deck fans watch both the flagship show and Below Deck: Med, introducing a new season where women are in charge, of course, feels like a pointed correction of Below Deck’s recent Season 7. That was an absolute nightmare: Bosun Ashton Pienaar turned his team of male deckhands into a boy’s club with him leading the charge, exonerating his heinous behaviors. He kissed Chief Stew Kate Chastain twice without her consent. He demeaned the only woman on his team, Rhylee Gerber, and he used really despicable language towards the other women aboard and then chalked it up to locker room talk.

In one scene, Pienaar asked chef Kevin Dobson, “Did you slap her with your dick?” when Dobson expressed that Gerber was upset with him. In another, Pienaar told his deckhand Tanner Sterbeck, “Is Kate being too much of a bitch to stick your dick in it tonight? I hope you’re gonna fucking give her a good fucking. Because a mediocre fuck’s not gonna do right now.” On a night out between charters, he accused Chastain of insulting his mother and reacted by punching a van window, worrying even the producers in the vehicle. It was scary and violent, and there was no real resolve. Even in the Below Deck After Show clips, Pienaar appeared to apologize for his behavior without recognizing his fault. The reunion was similarly disappointing, leading many Bravo fans to refocus their frustration on Andy Cohen for failing to push back on Pienaar and the other guys’ grotesque behavior.

And so, Below Deck: Mediterranean Season 5 very blatantly provides the opposite: a network where women are in a position to correct their male peers who lean into easy misogyny and then blame it on an emotionally strenuous working environment. I expect some hashtag-feminist moments, but I also expect a new tone to the show I love so much: yacht work functions like a military—it’s based on rank—and now, there’s a matriarchy on the Med. I’m pumped, even if it was only designed this way to absolve the series of past indiscretions. Maybe conditions will improve from here on out.

Below Deck: Mediterranean Season 5 will premiere on Bravo later this summer.

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