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The Fantasy of Reality

Critical Essays on «The Real Housewives»

Edited By Rachel E. Silverman

With over twenty different casts, multiple spin-off series, and five international locations, The Real Housewives franchise is a television phenomenon. The women on these shows have reinvented the soap opera diva and in doing so, have offered television viewers a new opportunity to embrace a loved, yet waning, genre. As the popularity and prevalence of the docu-drama genre of reality TV continues to increase, the time is ripe for a collection of this sort. The Fantasy of Reality: Critical Essays on ‘The Real Housewives’ explores the series and the women of The Real Housewives through the lens of race, class, gender, sexuality, and place. The contributing authors use an expansive and impressive array of methodological approaches to examine particular aspects of the series, offering rich analysis and insight along the way. This collection takes seriously what some may mock and others adore. Chapters are both fun and informative, lending themselves well to Housewives fans and media scholars alike.

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Part I: Getting to Know The Real Housewives

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Part 1 Getting to Know The Real Housewives 1. Queering “Housewives” Ragan Fox The Real Housewives is a broken promise, a paradox. The casts’ sur- gery-sculpted faces and busts stand in ironic juxtaposition to the “reality” upon which the programs’ titles are premised. Women featured in Bravo’s The Real Housewives empire hardly fit the popularized notion of a house- wife. A housewife traditionally had “no reason to think of herself as vitally linked with the world outside the home” (Matthews, 1987, p. 4). Bravo’s rendition of the homemaker gains much of its appeal by casuistically stretch- ing conceptualizations of housewives. Many of Bravo’s Housewives have thriving businesses and multiple sexual partners. They also drink a stag- gering amount of alcohol, discuss their sexual exploits, manage successful careers, and engage in public acts of physical and emotional brutalization. The franchise helps demonstrate that housewife is a performative construct constrained and enabled by an era’s popular dramatizations, literature, and journalism. I began watching The Real Housewives of Orange County when it de- buted in March of 2006. I was drawn to the program’s mix of comedy and drama and thrilled to see a rare televisual sight: multiple women over the age of 30 on an hour-long, primetime show. The Real Housewives of Orange County filled the absence that Sex and the City’s 2004 departure left in my overly mediated life. The Housewives lets me imagine what might have hap- pened to Carrie Bradshaw a few years after the treacherous Sex and the...

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