Critical Essays on «The Real Housewives»
3. Race (Re)visited: It’s a (Mostly) White World
NICOLE B. COX
In 2011, hot-tempered Italian, outspoken African American, partying Latina, and narcissistic White women graced the screens of Bravo TV as part of The Real Housewives. A welcomed change from the series’ 2006 debut of a nearly all-White cast, today the programming powerhouse has grown to encompass seven series locations in the United States (Orange County, Atlanta, New York City, New Jersey, DC, Beverly Hills, and Miami), which collectively are framed as more “diverse” than Bravo’s prototype, The Real Housewives of Orange County. Following the lives of wealthy women as they balanced martinis, shopping sprees, Botox injections, and luxury vacations, The Housewives documents the trials and tribulations of the women’s personal relationships with their children, husbands (or male partners), and most importantly, each other.
But amidst the extravagant galas and Gucci shoes, lavish parties and Prada purses, The Housewives’ proliferation has proffered more than a glimpse into living a life luxuriously: it offers running commentary on race and gender in the United States. As a pop culture phenomenon that has amassed more than 350 episodes, the franchise regularly attracts millions of viewers and continues to grow (Cox & Proffitt, 2012). At a time when race relations and discussions of a “post-racial” America are situated squarely in the cultural milieu (Plummer, 2013), Housewives’ success begs the question: How is race packaged and “sold” to Bravo’s female audience?
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