Critical Essays on «The Real Housewives»
9. Love the Housewives, but Where’s Our Feminism?
JUDY BATTAGLIA, ASHLEY CORDES, KATHLEEN NORRIS, AND ROXANNE BAÑUELOS
Elements of narrative—such as character, message, and story—work together intertextually to reveal underlying structures and metastructures of both situation comedies and reality television shows. Through feminist narratological and intertextual methods, we examine a key spin-off from The Real Housewives franchise, “Bethenny Getting Married?”/“Bethenny Ever After,” as a case study. We compare her story, character, and message to that of the most famous feminist spin-off, Rhoda.
In both Rhoda and Bethenny, we see a textual performance, an embodied feminism, a textual disruption or ludic nature within the characters, as well as in their relation to others in the story. We see messages to the audience as both feminist and post-feminist. As narrative personae, both Bethenny and Rhoda are the focal points in their respective life-worlds. All challenges to the maelstrom of the mainstream are great, but how progressive are they in a system of constraint? We (as a mix of fans and critics, and coming from a feminist “both/and” perspective) love The Housewives, but we have to wonder, in all of it, where’s our feminism? Before conducting a comparison of these women’s stories, we offer a brief genesis of both Rhoda and Bethenny as television “leading ladies” as well as the zeitgeists and contexts that supported them and which they reflect.
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