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The Fantasy of Reality

Critical Essays on «The Real Housewives»

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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8. Do Mean Girls Grow Up? Watching “Queen Bee” Stassi Schroeder on Reality Television



In January 2012, Bravo premiered Vanderpump Rules, a spinoff of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (RHOBH), featuring Housewife Lisa Vanderpump. The show follows the exploits of the young and beautiful servers and bartenders at one of Vanderpump’s Beverly Hills restaurants, SUR. The majority of the stars of the show are wannabe models, musicians, and actors, and at least one of the servers—Stassi Schroeder—is not new to reality television (RTV). In July 2008, Stassi was a contestant on the RTV show Queen Bees. On Queen Bees, seven girls, who believe they have come to Los Angeles to participate in a “Biggest Diva” contest, learn friends and family actually nominated them for the show because they think the girls need to change their “mean” ways.

In featuring Stassi, Vanderpump Rules provides access to a grown-up “mean girl.” The mean girl has been a staple in popular culture since 2002 when Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees & Wannabes and Rachel Simmons’s book Odd Girl Out claimed to document a hidden aspect of girl culture where bullying and female aggression is widespread and undetected. The image of the mean girl developed in these books is predicated on the idea that popular girls are maintaining the power associated with their elite social status in increasingly treacherous and brutal ways. Conscious of popularity’s attendant rewards—boyfriends, parties, awe and fear in others (Kelly & Pomerantz, 2009)—mean girls are framed as using indirect aggression,...

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