I understand that a lot of you are using this pandemic to read one of the Great Books, catch up on some prestige TV, or even do this thing called “cleaning the house.” I, however, have been binging the greatest television show known to man, Vanderpump Rules.
The thing I love about Vanderpump Rules is that it is filled with objectively horrible people—and yet I love each and every one of them. Or, at the very least, I’m wildly entertained by their awfulness. (But I’ve developed actual…feelings for them too? I just bawled my eyes out at Tom and Katie’s wedding. I’m not proud of this fact.)
Anyway, I’m through 5 seasons so I feel qualified to rank the cast on their overall awfulness, with 1 being the least awful and 10 being the absolute worst.
This is completely scientific data and you can now accept this is as canon.
[EDITED TO ADD: I AM NOW FULLY CAUGHT UP ON SEASON 8 AND WILL ADD AMENDMENTS ACCORDINGLY]
- LISA VANDERPUMP
By far, Lisa is the least awful person in the Vanderpump Universe. She gives lots of money to LGBTQ causes as well as animal charities, she runs her businesses like the HBIC that she is, she wears hot pink power suits with wide-brimmed hats, and basically carries herself like some sort of 80s soap opera diva who’s about to get into a catfight with someone named Crystal.
I LOVE her.
But this is not to say she isn’t awful! She is!
For one, she has way too many exotic animals for a person who does not live on a farm. She has miniature ponies that wander her property at will and a gajillion Papillon dogs that she dresses in bowties and tulle skirts and an actual SWAN that she sometimes brings into West Hollywood. That can’t be right! She bosses around everyone, including her much put-upon husband, Ken. She’s constantly demanding that people bring her tea and white wine and she often cuts people off mid sentence, like a real life version of Ru Paul’s “SILENCE!” on Drag Race. She has never pumped her own gas or so much as ironed a shirt. Her husband buys her Rolls Royces on a whim. (Okay, half these horrible things are actually just goals.)
Worst behavior: Swanning around West Hollywood with an actual swan.
Best behavior: Lisa’s finest moment, the minute I knew I had to stan her for life, was when she hopped onto that Vanderpump Float at the West Hollywood Gay Pride parade the morning after the Orlando Pulse massacre. While most of her employees cowered at home, she defiantly got on that float and spit in fear’s eye. What a woman.
[Post S5 amendment: I still love Lisa but her insertion of herself into her young castmates’ lives has been increasingly obvious and desperate as the series has gone on. I preferred above-it-all and aloof Lisa. But it’s her damn show so she can do as she pleases, I guess.]
2. TOM SANDOVAL
Like all the cast members, Tom has many horrible qualities. His Season 5 hair alone could be grounds for bumping him several notches down this list. He’s one of the vainest humans alive (but to his credit, he knows it). His band is horrible. His modeling runs the range from Blue Steel to Blue-ish Steel. I once saw him act in front of a green screen and the green screen did more emoting.
But Tom is also a sweetie pie. He cares deeply about his friends (arranging to get Schwartzie’s triplet brothers to his wedding was a Gold Medal level of friendship). He cries easily and often—I love that in a man! He’s pretty witty—I probably laugh at his confessionals more than anyone else’s (other than perhaps Stassi’s). And, unlike Jax, he’s actually trying to be funny.
Worst behavior: He was incredibly cold and cruel to Kristen after their breakup. I know that Kristen is a hot mess, and possibly even deserved it. But he should’ve had a little sensitivity to the fact that he moved on very quickly (with the woman he cheated on her with no less) while she was still mourning. Instead, he was a total dick.
Best behavior: Second only to the procurement of the Brothers Schwartzie was his behavior at Pride after the massacre. When he cried that day I got the strong sense that it wasn’t out of self-pity or fear but genuine anguish over what had occurred in Orlando. Dude is an empath in the extreme. And then he (along with his girlfriend Ariana) had the balls to show up to work that day, even though it must’ve been a little scary. Beyond that, he had the presence of mind to pull Lisa aside and tell her how proud he was to work for her (with tears in his eyes, natch).
[Post S5 amendment: I think Tom might be a bit more…eccentric than I even realized. Spending $15,000 on a motorcycle with sidecar just because you have a vision for your grand Tom-Tom entrance is A LOT. Also, assigning Schwartz the sidecar without even consulting with him is a little insulting. I’d be pissed if I was relegated to “sidekick in sidecar” status. Me thinks Tom loves being an impresario a little too much. In a way, owning part of Tom-Tom has brought out the most obnoxious side of him. He’s still a sweetheart, though.]
- SCHEANA SHAY
This might be controversial? I get the feeling lots of people hate on Scheana. Okay, she’s tacky. Okay, she had lifesize glamour shots of herself and her (now ex) husband hanging in her apartment. Yeah, she uses enough Botox to cure all the migraines on the West Coast. Sure, she styled herself as a pop star despite not having an ounce of “talent.” But I actually find her rather touching—she’s a person with sunshine and rainbows in her heart who just wants everyone to get along. Perhaps because of that, lots of people think she’s fake. I don’t agree. I think she is a genuinely kind person—albeit not necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed—who is often walked all over and taken advantage of.
Worst behavior: Encouraging her addict husband to keep drinking because he was no fun when he didn’t drink. Guuuurl.
Best behavior: Every time she forgave someone who was a dick to her. Which is to say, pretty much every episode.
[Post S5 amendment: Okay, I finally got to see how annoying Scheana can be. Both her clueless obsession with Rob and her insistence on calling her little model buddy (don’t make me look up his name) her best friend over and over again grew tiresome fast. What I’ve learned about Scheana is that she believes that if she says something often enough, with a cheerful enough voice, and a big enough smile on her face, she can actually will it into existence. Life doesn’t work that way, girl.]
- KATIE MALONEY
I know a lot of people think Katie is a bitch because she steps all over her dear, sweet, puppy dog of a boyfriend (now husband) Tom. But here’s the thing about Tom Schwartz: He’s a nice place to visit but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live there. I mean, imagine being married to an indecisive man-child, who never steps up for you, runs away from all responsibility, can’t hold down a job other than the occasional modeling gig, and thinks baby talk is the answer to all conflict? Trust me, it would drive you to tequila, too.
Worst behavior: Tequila Katie is real and it’s … terrifying. Apparently she sends hateful text messages non stop for several hours. She also throws drinks in people’s faces. But even sober Katie is no picnic. I’m pretty sure she was sober when she kicked Tom out of her car and told him his penis was broken.
Best behavior: Katie seems like an actual adult who can handle responsibility? This makes her something of a unicorn in Vanderpump Land.
[Post S5 amendment: Katie might be meaner than I realized! I’m halfway through S8 right now and the way she surgically cut Kristen out of her life is ICE COLD.]
- TOM SCHWARTZ
It’s impossible to hate Schwartzie. It’s like hating a basket of kittens. He’s cute. He’s funny. He’s the life of the party. But he also works my last nerve. It took him six years to propose to Katie and once he finally did, he spent the majority of the engagement making passive aggressive comments about how expensive the wedding was going to be and how he didn’t really want to go through with it. Then he asked Ariana to be a groomsman—essentially circumventing Katie’s desires. The one time in his life he got an actual job he had a panic attack and literally ran away. When conflict arises, he’s generally seen helpfully…doing nothing. Imagine being married to that! It would be hard!
Worst behavior: Suffice it to say that being drunk, sloppy, self-pitying, partially in drag, and stumbling around New Orleans like a broke-down showgirl during his bachelor party wasn’t exactly his finest moment.
Best behavior: His lunch with Stassi. She chose him as a vehicle to mend fences with Katie, assuming he’d be an easy mark. Instead, he was firm, held his ground, and actually stuck up for Katie! Who knew?
[Post S5 amendment: None. A Schwartz is a Schwartz, of course of course.]
- ARIANA MADIX
The thing about Ariana is that she doesn’t feel any need to be nice—ever. It’s wild. I’ve never seen someone who’s so self-confident that she literally DGAF about other people. To be clear, I’m all for a woman who is secure and independent, but she wears her sense of superiority—particularly when it comes to other women, I’ve noticed—like a badge of honor. Her whole deal is, “If I don’t like you, why should I bother faking it?” All of civilization is based on that unspoken contract, Ariana! It’s important!
Worst behavior For a woman who clearly prides herself on being chill and cool and above it all, she sure got awfully bent out of shape when she found out that Kristen was doing improv.
Best behavior: Every time she tells Tom she loves him but doesn’t want to marry him. It’s refreshing!
[Post S5 amendment: Okay, Ariana makes a lot more sense now that I know she suffers from depression. I genuinely worry about her. I hope she’s getting the help she needs because she’s more than just a Cool Girl™, she’s a cool girl.)
- KRISTEN DOUTE
Here’s how bad Kristen is: Sleeping with her boyfriend’s best friend and lying about it wasn’t the worst thing she did. No, instead, the greater sin was turning the tables and accusing said boyfriend (Tom Sandoval) of cheating on her, making him a guilty, weepy, apologetic mess. Then we come to find out that she didn’t just cheat on Tom with Jax, she cheated on him multiple times! With multiple guys! The hell? Then she moved onto James, who she was clearly just using in a futile attempt to make Tom jealous. Then she did everything in her power to break Tom and Ariana up (remember the mystery woman from Miami?). It was all so incredibly self-destructive and messy, I kinda felt sorry for her. The good news? Kristen got into therapy around Season 4 and seems to be doing a lot better. (As of Season 5, at least.) She’s actually a pretty cool girl when she’s not Hot Mess Central.
Worst behavior: *Waves generally at the above writeup*
Best behavior: I sort of love how unintimidated she is by Lisa Vanderpump. Lisa would scare the shit out me. Katie’s all like, “You don’t like me? Sucks for you.”
[Post S5 amendments: No real updates but I just saw a YouTube video where she gave a tour of her new house and it’s boho-chic-errific. Go Kristen!]
- STASSI SCHROEDER
Stassi is a spoiled brat who bosses her friends around and pretty much expects the whole world to revolve around her. She seems to think that having a birthday means everyone should worship you for a week. She demands utter fealty from her friends—her enemies must be their enemies, her opinions must be their opinions. She dumped Katie because of a perceived betrayal, kept waiting for an apology that (thankfully) never came, and finally crawled back to her two years later. But was she humbled? Self-reflective? A better woman? Not at all. The minute she got back in Katie’s good graces she drove a wedge between Katie and poor Scheana, who was left in the cold.
Worst behavior: She constantly pretends to like people when she wants something from them and then dumps them the minute they are no longer useful to her.
Best behavior: To her credit, she is responsible for two of my favorite Vanderpump lines:
- “We are not rich in money but we are rich in awesomeness.”
- “Jax shouldn’t feel bad about being a sociopath, I mean, Tom Sandoval is probably a narcissist, Kristen meets most of the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder, Ariana has a superiority complex, Katie has anger management issues, Scheana’s a hypochondriac, and I’m an alcoholic, so he’s in good company.”
Girl gives good confessional.
[Post S5 amendment: Stassi is definitely growing up and goofy, splotchy, dad-jeans-wearing Beau brings out the best of her. There are still some mean girl flareups and temper tantrums, her birthday is still a freaking minefield, but she’s a lot more pleasant all around. That being said, it’s never not going to irk the hell out of me that she has a book contract and I…don’t.]
- JAX TAYLOR
What to say about Jax, the human embodiment of he male id? He is all appetite—for sex, for alcohol, for going to the gym, for carousing with the boys, for objectifying women, for getting regrettable tattoos and copious amounts of plastic surgery, for creatine, for more sex (and oh, for gossip—dude gossips like a sorority sister). He cheats on all his girlfriends—and lies about it with a convincing amount of shock and righteousness. He treats his current girlfriend (as of S6) like she’s the hired help and buys her a boob job that he insists was her idea. (For the record, she wanted Cs; he convinced her to get DDs.) Is he a sociopath, as Stassi diagnosed? Not quite. He definitely didn’t seem particularly remorseful when he slept with one of his best friend’s girls, but he did tear up at Katie and Tom’s wedding, so there are some human emotions lurking down there someplace. Probably.
And while Jax is clearly a horrible human being—the second worst in the Vanderpump Universe!—he’s also weirdly. . . lovable? He’s like this big, shaggy, dumb lug of a guy who just wants to have a good time all the time. It’s remarkable—and perhaps a testament to his inexplicable charm—that he has managed to keep all his friends, as he’s screwed over (or literally screwed) every single one of them. He should be studied in psychiatry classes.
Worst behavior: Jax went through this weird period where he thought that if he did something terrible but then told the truth about it, not only should he be absolved of all wrongdoing, he should actually be applauded for his remarkable honesty.
Best behavior: I’d say helping to bring Schwartz’s brothers to the wedding—but that was clearly all Tom’s idea. So instead, I’d say his Eternal Jaxness is a source of great amusement to me. Stay Jaxxy, Jax.
[Post S5 update: Jax is a married man now and he seems relatively more mature and stable but I don’t trust it. Not one bit. His overreaction to Tom confronting him about the homophobic priest? What was that all about? He’s also a lot less fun than he used be. Bring back sociopath Jax!]
- JAMES KENNEDY
It took me a while to figure out how awful James is for two reasons: One, god help me, I have a soft spot for a skinny boy with gravity defying hair and a bonus British accent.
Two: He actually wasn’t that bad when we first met him. He basically just followed Kristen around like a lovesick puppy.
I first began to realize the depths of his awfulness when he cheated on Kristen, tearfully and contritely lied about it, and then gleefully said to the camera, “Yeah, I nailed her!” (or maybe it was “banged” or “took to pound town”—you get the idea).
It was all downhill from there as James revealed himself to be a misogynist, constantly saying girls were too ugly to bang, Donald Trump-style (mind you, these were the girls he actually HAD had sex with), as well as a mean drunk, a pugilist, and a complete and utter brat. (When someone makes Jax seem like a sober elder statesman, you know there’s a problem.)
The worst part? Instead of acknowledging that he’s a total asshole when drunk, he claims that people don’t like him because they’re “jealous.” (His enabling mother agrees.) Yes, James, Lisa Vanderpump fired you from Sur and Pump because she was jealous. Nailed it.
Worst behavior: Referring to himself as the “White Kanye.”
Best behavior: *Crickets*
[Post S5 update: I’m glad he’s getting sober.]
When I wrote the original post, I didn’t know Lala well enough to write about her but now all I want to do is write about her. What a fascinating, inscrutable, complex character she is. I’m pretty sure if I knew Lala in real life she would scare the shit out of me. Girl will kill you where you stand and calmly light a match on the sole of your shoe as she watches you die. That being said, she has layers: The suckling of actual baby bottles? The need to have her friends physically stroke her at the dinner table? And I thought Tom was eccentric. But then she turns around and is this kind of fearless, take-no-shit woman who stands up for what’s right, and suffers no fools. She’s also the best musical performer of the Vanderbunch, which is not saying much. Anyway, in closing: She’s sometimes the worst person in the Pump Universe and sometimes the best! How fun for her!