Is 'Southern Charm' good or bad for the city of Charleston?
by Madeline Canipe
CHARLESTON, SC - “He’s got money, he’s in magazines. He’s got more honey than any honeybee.”
If you aren’t familiar with these song lyrics, then you must not be an active viewer of Bravo’s hit reality show, “Southern Charm.”
The popular Thursday night drama/reality show that first aired March 2014 and is based in Charleston, South Carolina, focuses on the lives of the wealthy, scandalous, and dramatic cast members.
For some Charleston locals, whether having the show filmed here is a benefit to the Holy City is controversial.
Mike Seekings, Charleston city council member and also a hospitality professor at College of Charleston, explained that “Southern Charm” shows many beautiful aspects of the city.
“The show clearly showcases Charleston in a different and unique way,” Seekings said. “Visually, the show is stunning, I mean in between scenes it shows beautiful scenery and downtown scenes, so it shows people what Charleston looks like in three dimensions.”
But the show itself doesn’t really depict current city life accurately, he admits.
“The storyline, I don’t think is necessarily how we in Charleston actually live,” Seekings added.
Some Charleston residents have stronger opinions and believe how the show depicts the city is humiliating.
But actor Austen Kroll thinks that attitude is for the local haters.
“It’s the cool thing here, to hate it," said Kroll, who joined “Southern Charm” during its fourth season.
You might be wondering, 'why do Chucktown locals hate the show so much? Does it make the city look bad?'
Orian Manucy, store manager at Grady Ervin & Co., where the show has been filmed twice, isn’t a big fan.
“I think it makes [Charleston] look stupid. It’s just kind of a joke really,” said Manucy. “It is very scripted. I mean very scripted, because when they were filming here, they went over what they were going to say in the back of the store before they started filming. It’s not real or realistic whatsoever.”
A few locals are on the fence about whether the show impacts businesses in a good or bad way.
“I think both,” Seekings said. “I mean, clearly, when people come here and they’re spending money, and the businesses see the characters patronizing, walking past, they want to go. And I think those businesses will tell you some parts are good and some parts are bad.”
The hit reality show has been filmed in many different locations around the Charleston area. This often gives the specific store/restaurant free publicity and even helps attract more business.
Jonathan Kish, CEO of 82 Queen, told Live5 News that the company has seen an increase in business after members of the cast were filmed eating there.
Nonetheless, Jonathan Trull, friend of some of the cast members, said the portrayal isn’t exactly an accurate representation of Charleston.
“The show portrays a certain bit of Charlestonians' lives that doesn’t exactly represent Charleston as a whole, but the show definitely accurately portrays the cast members,” said Trull.
But a lot of people are fascinated by the drama.
“I live a half a block away from Patricia Altschul’s house, and every carriage tour that goes by, every car that goes by stops and climbs the wall,” said Seekings. “They all want to see and take pictures in front of the ‘Southern Charm’ home.”
Some Charleston locals who actually enjoy watching the show believe there are some benefits from watching the show.
College of Charleston student Elizabeth Stout said the show inspires where she likes to visit in the city.
“Watching 'Southern Charm' actually gives me some inspirational places to try,” Stout said. “They're always doing fun nights out somewhere, whether it's dinner or cocktails, it just gives you a fun sense of something to try, and also they like to do little weekend trips, and I feel like that's something fun to keep in mind to do with friends and whatnot.”
Some question whether Charleston would be better off without the show, but its fans strongly disagree.
“Absolutely not!” said Charlotte, North Carolina, resident Kelly Willis. “I think it has really made Charleston even more popular, and also made it more of a tourist destination. It really draws people into the city, and makes them want to experience it like the people on the show experience it.”
Seekings doesn’t think it accurately reflects Charlestonians, but he doesn’t think that’s a bad thing for the city either.
“I don’t think Charleston’s either better off or worse for the wear of the show; it is what it is,” Seekings said. “Had it never been made, would Charleston be fine? Yes. The fact that it’s been made, is Charleston going to be fine? Yes.”