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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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9. Love the Housewives, but Where’s Our Feminism?



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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