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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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It’s the beginning of the New Year and I’m catching up on a few weeks of The Housewives I’ve missed while away for winter vacation. On The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (RHOBH), now in its fifth season, Lisa Vanderpump hosts a tea party to collect dresses to donate for charity. As the Housewives sip their tea amid lush pink roses and endless bottles of rosé, they discuss beauty and confidence and life in their fifties. Four women—Kim Richards, Yolanda Foster, Eileen Davidson, and Lisa Rinna—sit with each other, chatting about their lives and their experiences as older, mature, confident women. Yes, they may have all had work done, there may not be a real set of breasts or a face without Botox or injections in the bunch, but so what? Because four women, in their fifties, talking about themselves, particularly their beauty and self-confidence at an age when women are rarely seen on television, still makes for radical television. Radical because in an era when the term feminism is gaining popularity (e.g., Beyoncé and Emma Watson), it is still very much a word many women actively dissociate from (e.g., Meghan Trainor and Kaley Cuoco) and the Bechdel test is still very much a relevant standard by which to judge media texts. The Bechdel test, developed by graphic novelist Alison Bechdel in 1985, is a simple test to judge a work of fiction for gender bias. A text passes the test...

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