Remembering Victoria Beckham's Iconic Trip to the DMV
Posh Spice's reality show may have failed, but her trip to the USA's First Circle of Hell will live forever.
Photo by Stephen Dunn via Getty Images
This Week in 2007 is a weekly column looking back on Lindsay Lohan, the first iPhone, George W. Bush, and everything else we loved about the year 2007.
Victoria Beckham stormed the United States in July 2007, vowing to dominate American celebrity. This month marks the ten-year anniversary of her spectacular failure.
The former Spice Girl's botched attempt originated with her husband, soccer legend David Beckham, joining the Major Soccer League's Los Angeles Galaxy team in January 2007. He promised to import soccer mania to the United States, while she would headline an NBC reality show engineered by Spice Girls manager and American Idol producer Simon Fuller. Its plot: Victoria making it as a star in America—a goal that had previously eluded British icons like boybander Robbie Williams and Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher.
"This show is really something different, it's pushing the boundaries and I think it's going to surprise a lot of people," Victoria bragged to People magazine. But her show never aired. According to Grant Wahl's book, The Beckham Experiment, NBC soured on Victoria, but compromised with Fuller by showing the one-night special Victoria Beckham: Coming to America on July 17, 2007.
Only 4.9 million tuned in (less than a repeat of Wife Swap, according to the Hollywood Reporter) to watch Victoria, but she managed to cement herself into reality television history because of an awkward scene where she causes chaos at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a.k.a. the USA's First Circle of Hell.
Victoria wears an expensive-looking black dress to apply for a license. Her blue high heels click across the DMV's blue linoleum tile, and she has vertically layered her dyed blonde hair into a look best described as a chicer version of the Kate Gosselin.
She and her "American personal assistant," as she calls her employee, treat the DMV like it's the Met Gala, but the DMV is the rare enterprise where class does not buy you better service. "Have a seat and good luck," an employee named Bill growls at Posh Spice, either fucking with her or unaware of her fame despite the accompanying camera crew.
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Victoria crouches into a wooden school desk with a written driver's test, as Bill spies from behind a counter. "How do you change lanes?" Victoria wonders aloud.
"Victoria," whispers her American personal assistant from the side. "Do you need anything?"
"Is it illegal to have one or more lights on when you're driving?" she asks.
"Excuse me!" Bill shouts. Victoria jumps out of her seat. Bill is standing behind her. "I thought you were going to hit me!" she wails. "I'm paranoid about people in my back." He interrogates her about cheating, and she offers a very Victoria denial: "I'm asking about my hair."
Subsequent shots show Victoria tearing up pieces of paper and staring into the distance. "Victoria," Bill cries out. "I'm watching you." She drolly responds, "I'm watching you too, Bill."
Victoria delivers a clever one-liner in between faked stupidity, deploying Paris "Do they sell walls at Walmart?" Hilton's playbook of mixing rich dumb blonde stereotypes with self-aware jokes. Victoria inhabits the best reality television characters' defining qualities at the DMV, and her trip to get a license remains a GIF on Twitter.
But her celebrity prowess falters throughout the rest of her one-hour special. Looking at houses in Los Angeles, Victoria remarks, "This is so American! I've seen Desperate Housewives." She thinks people turned to Coming to America for satire, but as Entertainment Weekly critic Michael Slezak points out, "I had Being Bobby Brown-size hopes for Posh & Becks." Audiences wanted to see the British version of Bobby pulling a "doodie bubble" out of his wife Whitney Houston's rear end.
By the end of the summer of 2007, Victoria remained as irrelevant in America as soccer. She mistook poised A-listers as the center of the zeitgeist, but 2007 was a very different time. Britney Spears's personal problems made her the most googled person of the year, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars attracted the most viewers, and the media mostly paid attention to Cruise because he practiced Scientology. Victoria believed she had moved to a Los Angeles centered around Barney's, but she had relocated to a city defined by Kitson. To succeed in America, Victoria would have been better off acting like she had behaved at the DMV.