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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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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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