Critical Essays on «The Real Housewives»
10. Every Housewife’s Best Friend: The Sidekick
During a touching, if not arguably overly rococo, scene of a civil ceremony between Jamie Laurita and his partner Rich on The Real Housewives of New Jersey (RHONJ), the pulse of the moment is perceptively taken by Jamie’s sister-in-law Jacqueline Laurita, who summarizes, “Leave it to the gays, they do everything right” (“Uncivil Union”). In the world of the Housewives, gay men may not do everything right, but they certainly do a lot.
In a television franchise that is ostensibly about heterosexuality, the number of gay storylines, scenes, and characters on all iterations of The Real Housewives is staggering. From the beginning of the multi-city franchise, the television program about straight housewives has maintained a distinctive gay male sensibility. Since premiering in 2006, The Real Housewives has routinely included gay men in supporting roles that serve as close confidants, and more often than not, comic relief or villains, in the middle of weekly controlled chaos. Partly appealing to narrative need within the series, and partly appealing to the target audience of the franchise, these “gusbands” (or “gay husbands;” a term used by New York Housewife Jill Zarin in relation to her gay best friend, Brad Boles) fall into a much larger trajectory of gay characters in popular culture that define normalcy through their otherness. These gay and, to a lesser extent, lesbian characters also, however, represent more varied images of queerness than are typically permitted in scripted commercial media.
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