The Surprising Feminism of ‘Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock’

by Mary S

Admittedly, tru TV’s reality show Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel doesn’t exactly broadcast a feminist tone, from the internet tagline “Sexy women in teeny bikinis hang poolside at Las Vegas’ hottest party.” to the near-constant clips of gyrating ladies and screaming, beefy, tribal-tattooed, shants-clad men. It’s probably not the sort of show you’d see a promo for and think, “Gee, that looks worth checking out!” However, we all know that we can find feminism in unlikely places, and clearly, one of those places is Rehab, man.

Rehab, one of the reality-type shows that follows people at their high-pressure jobs (the airline one, the parking one) follows the huge staff of Las Vegas’ huge outdoor, daytime pool/club, Rehab, from the security officers who check people in at the door to the highly-skilled bartenders. Set up like a bottle service-focused club, the cocktail waitresses tend to cabanas that have super-high spending minimums, which run the patrons thousands of dollars. It’s the type of place people go to spend/flash a lot of cash and end up hungover by 6pm. 

Bartender Chantel

What’s interesting, of course, is seeing people negotiate their various jobs in such a busy, stressful and sexually charged environment. The bikini-clad waitresses, who are obviously hired in part due to their looks, must act as friends, babysitters, cheerleaders and upsellers to their clients, weave their way through crowds of slippery drunk people with drinks in their hands, try to sell bottles of booze for hundreds of dollars, and fend off sexual advances all at the same time, while the (also bikini-clad) bartenders obviously work equally hard. As in many jobs that women do, being friendly, nice and accomodating equals a lot more spending and a lot more tips.

Bartender Chantel Corradino is not afraid to lay the smackdown on douchey guys, noting in several episodes that she prefers female customers and that many men start out as polite and become increasingly aggressive several Red-Bull-and-Gray-Gooses down the line. While not categorized as sex work, these types of jobs slightly blur the line, and seeing the ladies in action reinforces what many seem to forget: these women —no matter what they are wearing or not wearing— are, above all, at work. 

Security Officer Sharon surveys the scene

Anyone who has worked in a large, customer-service based operation knows what kind of manpower it takes to pull off a succesful day, and it’s equally interesting to see the various hierarchies and behind-the-scenes action, from the daily morning meetings to the walkie-talkie driven convos that take place when a security threat comes up. Sharon, the special events security officer, is a middle-aged woman who takes great pleasure in sending “her boys” out to calm a potentially dangerous situation, yet also clearly delights in the drunken, frenetic world of Rehab.

Clearly, scantily-clad women, the “glamour” of the club, and an endless parade of drunk people are key reasons why this show was produced, and while there are plenty of aspects to Rehab (including the name of the show itself) that aren’t so great, the focus on women working their everyday lives is both noteworthy and surprisingly fascinating– even down to the un-sexy, mundane details. Of course, the show is not without one of my personal fave aspects of reality TV: tough girls with big hair and lots of eye makeup getting in physical fights (Hey there, The Bad Girls Club!)

So, has anyone else ever watched this show? Do you ever get obsessed with random shows in spite of yourself, or perhaps because they are unexpectedly kinda interesting?








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