Cheri is triggering for some people. Beauty queen, high school cheerleader who dated the quarterback, valedictorian, smug Cal grad, realtor, social climber, drinker - all of those labels put a big fat target on her to start off with. (Full disclosure:I share two of those categories having spoken at my high school graduation and tied for third in my class, and I smugly graduated from Cal generations before her.) There is a predisposition to believe she is the embodiment of the mean-girl trope even before she opens her mouth just based on her background alone.
And, yet, there is a case to made that her privilege is illusory, or, at least, not the entire story. Remember: she is a brown woman living in America. That, of course, excuses none of the behavior we see from her on the show. But our picture of her is incomplete unless we acknowledge that complexity: even with the privileges that her hard work and successes have brought her, she faces the many of the same struggles that women and POC do in this country. Now, we have to note that the same can be said for all the American women on Aloha State, but in Cheri's case it might be a greater factor in her defensiveness because she has been putting her self out there, succeeding and being rewarded as a representative of cisgendered beauty norms and achievement culture ideals.
Cheri is almost certainly the most hated person who has ever been on Terrace House so far. Individuals will hate other housemates more than Cheri. There are people, for instance. who loath Lauren more than Cheri and others who hate Taishi more than Cheri. And other seasons have had cast members getting a heel-edit like Tap, Makoto, Yuudai, Hayato, Natsumi and Arisa (strangely to me at least- she just seemed kind of meh, but people attack her to this day for rejecting Arman, and having the audacity thereafter to get married and pregnant). But generally these other cast members also have at least few people who will defend them, and the attacks generally die down.
Not so in Cheri's case. I grabbed the last hundred tweets referencing Cheri from #TerraceHouse (just enter "#TerraceHouse: Cheri" to do this yourself). There were 15 "bitch"s, 6 "slut"s, 5 "worst"s, 5 "annoying"s, 2 "punch"s, 1 "monster" and, of course, 1 "cunt". (To be fair at least 2 of the "bitch"s were positive.) You can also search on Reddit and find threads that might look like they're defending her, but, no, when you enter them, it's largely more vitriol or people wondering where her defenders are.
In order to bring some balance to how we see Cheri let's now turn our attention to the things that she did on the show that bothered people. First, of course, was her hypocrisy in publicly shaming Taishi for being uncommunicative or, at least, unclear to the people he was no longer interested in dating, and then her doing the exact same thing to Eric. Furthermore, in that case, she also lied to the cast by telling the other housemates that he had ghosted her when by his account, at least, she ghosted him. She also gets a little flack for dating at least two people at once though I actually see less slut-shaming than one might expect given how much people dislike her. She also, of course, tells Mariko that Wez hates her which leads to Mariko asking Wez out and the ultimate confrontation at the house meeting. And, finally, there is her participation in the house meeting where she launches the amazingly weak counterattacks that telling Mariko that Wez hated her was the only way to make Mariko stop talking, that it was okay for her to shut herself off from the others in the house because they failed to notice and take care of her when she had a cold, that hurting Mariko would help Mariko become stronger then holding out her future friendships to Wez and Mariko in some sort of passive aggressive maneuver to gain some allies at the table, and confronting Taishi and Chikako afterward for Taishi's yelling at her when there was no sense in which Taishi was yelling at her.
Whew. Did I miss anything?
Here's the thing.
I suspect we have all known people like Cheri to one degree or another. Cheri is hardly unique in her narcissism. Her dating patterns are perfectly well within American norms for the genetically blessed in their twenties. Her biggest crime is not being the kind of person you would want as friend or a housemate. All the indications are that Cheri comes first in Cheri-land, and, like Taishi, many of us would find her frustrating and galling.
But we don't have to live with her or be her friend. We certainly do not need to threaten to punch her in her face for her transgressions nor even call her names. The online reaction to Cheri, is to my mind, disproportionate to how she actually behaved, and that means there is something else is going on here.
Part of that disproportion is likely simple misogyny, though I must admit that I lowered my SJW hackles a bit when I saw some of the attacks Yuudai has been getting in his run on OND. There are certainly people in our culture who will pounce when a beautiful woman teeters from the pedestal that has been erected for them. But I no longer think that such reactions are the bulk of triggering that's going on here.
I think in that most painful moment of the house meeting, anyone who has experienced any degree of emotional abuse sees Cheri's flat affect and counterattacks and feels that she is capable of being an abuser. Am I wrong? Am I misreading what is happening there? I do not think I have the relevant experience and, certainly, I do not have the training in Psychology to make that assessment, but that's my impression. To be clear: I do not think Cheri is an emotionally abusive person, just that in that moment you could see that potential.
We watch Terrace House, in part, because as humans we like to judge other humans. That judgment can be light and mocking and self-reflective, or it can turn dark and reactive and angry. The judgment of Cheri 's character by some people online tends toward the latter. The danger in that darker, more reactive kind of judgment is that it is reductive and can become hyperbolic, and in doing so can perpetuate systems that harm people in general not just the few who choose to appear on a reality TV show. We should not hate Cheri because she a woman nor that she might have the capacity for abuse because most of us have that capacity.
Criticize the behavior, not the person.
It is wrong that Cheri consistently placed her needs first without considering how doing so would make the others like Mariko and Eric feel. The behavior of counterattacking rather than trying to understand the way in which what she did hurt her friend: that is wrong too.
I understand Cheri. I have had moments of acting in similar ways to Cheri in my life. But this is the hope: patterns of behavior can be changed, and there is no archetypal, essential Cheri beyond all worth and redemption.
Will she find her ways towards mitigating those behaviors? Many narcissists don't.
But she did reach out Mariko and apologize within a day or two, and I find that fact promising.