Critical Essays on «The Real Housewives»
1. Queering “Housewives”
The Real Housewives is a broken promise, a paradox. The casts’ surgery-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 housewife. 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 stretching conceptualizations of housewives. Many of Bravo’s Housewives have thriving businesses and multiple sexual partners. They also drink a staggering 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 debuted 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 happened to Carrie Bradshaw a few years after the treacherous Sex and the City sequel. Since Orange County’s premiere, I have not missed a...
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