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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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6. The Real Entrepreneurs of New York City: Selling Elegance and Class in the Marketplace




Product consumption often drives female characters on television in their pursuits of status and cultural inclusion, from Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession with shoes and clothes to the fashionable dream world of Gossip Girl. Bravo TV’s popular reality TV (RTV) show The Real Housewives of New York City (RHONY) has taken the relationship between class construction and product placement to a new level. RHONY is a popcultural lovechild of RTV and an infomercial. It’s where Bethenny Frankel conceived her lucrative Skinnygirl brand, and several other cast members created and promoted endless lines of clothing, books, and jewelry. The flexibility of RTV enables these socialites to pose as campy “housewives” in a loving embrace of Susan Sontag’s (1966) notion that, “(c)amp sees everything in quotation marks” and essentially perceives life as theater (p. 280). Sometimes, campy artificiality exists in an audience’s ability to read alternative meanings into pop-cultural products (see e.g., Feuer, 1995), or it can be part of a seemingly intentional mode of resistance and transgression (see e.g., Shugart & Waggoner, 2008). On RHONY, camp is an active marketing strategy, and these “real housewives” know that RTV does not require them to perform the traditional labor of a US homemaker. Instead, they become branded socialite-entrepreneurs, and they use their screen time to deliver tender moments and raucous drama, while promoting their business ventures. ← 93 | 94 →

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