Culture

When is pasta more than pasta?

An instantly iconic ‘Vanderpump Rules’ scene sparks a debate over the words we use to mean “cocaine.”

Culture

Culture

When is pasta more than pasta?

An instantly iconic ‘Vanderpump Rules’ scene sparks a debate over the words we use to mean “cocaine.”

Vanderpump Rules is a reality television show that follows the trials and tribulations of a group of Los Angeles restaurant staff, who are also the most irredeemable sociopaths to ever walk the earth. It’s the best program in the history of television. Watching a prestige drama like The Leftovers signals you have refined taste and a tolerance for boredom; loving The Good Place is a way of telling others you too have read Kant’s Wikipedia page; to embrace Vanderpump Rules, on the other hand, is to embrace the sordid human condition in its drunken, tribal glory.

Since the whole enterprise is fueled by tequila and pettiness, the show is no stranger to controversy. This week’s episode, however, sparked a particularly lively debate on Twitter, following a bizarre scene in which stars James Kennedy and Lala Kent got in a screaming match over… pasta.

James and Lala yell about pasta

The appeal of the show is that these people will scream at each other over literally anything but still, weird! Before long rumors were flying that, in fact, the pasta was not about the fucking pasta — that the cameramen had actually captured the code word the stars use to talk about cocaine. The rumors were kick started by Danny Pellegrino, a writer who hosts a podcast that often features guests from the Extended Vanderpump Universe, which probably grants him access to some esoteric insight about the show.

While it is abundantly, jaw-grindingly clear that basically everyone on the show is probably doing a bunch of cocaine, does this theory hold up? The cast was quick to deny it.

The show’s Ariana Madix also admitted there was a code word for cocaine, though it isn’t “pasta”:

This makes sense, honestly, as the logistics of using the word “pasta” to mean cocaine seem fraught, to say the least. “Would you like to join me in the bathroom to eat some pasta?” “Hey, can you call your pasta guy?” Not to mention the fact that these people are supposed to work in a restaurant, so the probability of unintentionally asking for a vial when you really just need the carbonara for table six seems high. (The conceit that any of the cast still slings drinks or clears plates is obviously bullshit, but art requires you to suspend disbelief!)

But if not pasta, what? The available options for cocaine euphemisms are all pretty obvious and embarrassing to say out loud. Truly, it seems we haven’t innovated in this arena since guys with brick-sized cell phones were calling it “nose candy.” These people work at a restaurant called SUR, which stands for Sexy Unique Restaurant, and tells you everything about the linguistic complexity of this depraved Angeleno scene. Maybe it is pasta — and that Ariana’s insistence otherwise is just some kind of legal out, and a wink-wink to turn “It’s not about the pasta” into a beautifully dumb meme that could only come from a reality show, like “This is the shirt before the shirt.” Reality stars must have a million things they don’t want to mention explicitly on camera; perhaps what we think is their normal lexicon is just a Borgesian echo chamber of signifiers and metaphors understandable only to their peers. It’s not about the pasta … even though it is. If they’re smart, they’ll make it a shirt.

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