TV

‘Bling Empire’ Is a Huge Hit. Here Come the Memes.

Passive aggressive frenemy parties! A fight over a penis pump! People can't look away from the new Netflix series, and now they're reacting with memes.
January 26, 2021, 10:23am
bling empire netflix reality tv viral meme reactions
Anna Shay and Christine Chiu in episode 1 of Bling Empire. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

2020 was a huge year for reality TV. In Asia, Netflix reported an increase in viewing of reality shows across the region when lockdowns were at their peak. It’s hard to look away when beautiful people in beautiful places are at each other’s throats while wining, dining, and finding love, and there’s no point in fighting this when you’re stuck at home looking for an escape. There was Too Hot to Handle, Indian Matchmaking, and Love Is Blind. And now, in 2021, the Crazy Rich Asians-esque Bling Empire

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Set in Los Angeles and centering on a group of Asian Americans, each episode is styled like shows of the same ilk — Selling Sunset, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and The Real Housewives franchise. Glitzy and soapy, plot lines include a comical dispute over a penis pump and an emotional journey to find a cast member’s biological parents. In between are servings of petty fights, low-stakes drama, and even a love triangle.

Bling Empire has been slammed for its narrow representation of Asian culture and depiction of toxic relationships, but like other reality shows, controversies have only created an even stronger hook. Since its release on Jan. 15, people have taken to social media to beg Netflix for a second season. No word yet on that. So, for now, fans are turning to memes to relive the Bling Empire experience and react to scenes — even those who have been watching it “ironically.” 

The show starts with a bang. Anna Shay is a half-Japanese, half-Russian heiress to an unidentified billion-dollar business involving “weapons.” In the first episode, Shay wants to surprise her friend, entrepreneur Kelly Mi Li, for her birthday. So, she takes Mi Li and her boyfriend, Andrew Gray, to her favorite restaurant. All the way in Paris. All expenses paid, like it was no big deal.

In one scene, Christine Chiu, the “couture queen,” throws a birthday party for her baby boy who had just turned a year old. There is no such thing as “too much” to Chiu, and the Gucci claw machine at the party shows just that. 

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Christine Chiu in episode 5 of "Bling Empire." Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

One of the main plot lines throughout the series is the intense feud between Chiu and Shay. At the end of the first episode, Chiu arrives at Shay’s dinner party, showing off a Louis Vuitton diamond necklace, which happens to be one that Shay also owns. Fed up with Chiu constantly trying to one-up her, Shay rearranges Chiu’s seating at the dining table. Apparently, in the world of rich people, seating someone as far away from the host as possible is the ultimate way to throw shade. 

We can’t all be billionaires, but some like to pretend they’re Kane Lim, who has a massive collection of shoes with pairs that cost thousands of dollars.

In one episode, there is a fight over a penis pump. Shay invites the cast over for a spa day. While the rest enjoy their manicures and mouth massages, DJ Kim Lee and singer Guy Tang explore Shay’s home. Upon entering her bathroom, the two find a penis pump and chuck it out of the window. The two collapse onto the floor laughing, which Shay finds disrespectful. Sounds like classic Reality TV.

Kevin Kreider is supposedly the only main cast member who’s not crazy rich, but he’s sassy as hell. In one scene that fans went crazy over, Kreider confronts Lee over the whole penis pump issue. “Who raised you? Wolves?” he yells, before she throws a drink in his face. 

One thing Bling Empire fans have united over is a hatred for Gray, Mi Li’s boyfriend in the series who also played the red ranger in Power Rangers Megaforce.

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Gray and Mi Li are known to constantly fight, break up, and then get back together again. In the second episode, Gray has lunch with Kreider and Lim and talks about how he’s doing with Mi Li.

“I don’t want that 180 relationship. We got that 360,” Gray tells them. 

Confused, Kreider says, “180’s good because [with] 360, you just go back to where you were. You want a 180.”