Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Invasion of the Pop Culture “Housewife” Phenomenon

The glitz and the glam of private jets, personal chefs, make-up artists and stylists, homes in Aspen, shopping on Rodeo Drive, walk-in closets stocked with haute couture clothing and top-of-the-line cars to cruise your city of choice in “class!” These are just some of the elements of the lifestyle of the “housewives” that America has fallen deeply in love with. This inside peep into the “real” life of these ladies of leisure exploded onto television networks about 4 years ago and has been growing incessantly ever since. Never being a fan or avid viewer of shows such as these, I often wondered what this fascination with the Real Housewives of New York, Beverly Hills, Atlanta, etc. and Basketball Wives was all about; my question was....let's just say  well-informed while home for the holidays.
In between my endless outings to restaurants, movies, lunch, parties and clubs with my family and friends, I found myself watching some programs on the tube to find out “what I’ve been missing,” since I’ve chosen against having cable in my place of residence. As I flipped through the numerous stations, I saw several marathons of the Real Housewives of Atlanta and Beverly Hills, along with Basketball Wives on VH1 scheduled to be aired. Having previously heard so much hype about it, I thought, “ok….let me see what all the fuss is about.” I only watched these shows for a few minutes at a time, as that was about all I could stomach given the overly dramatized and superficial nature of each of the shows; the fights and gossiping, the limitless conversations about “Gucci this” and “Fendi that,” and the empty rhetoric about the “glamorous life.”  I LITERALLY felt as though I was losing brain cells every single second I watched the highly publicized shows.
What is it about these [and other] “reality” television shows that have caused such a sensation among viewers? Could it be the presumed “affluent” lifestyle of these specific people? Does merely watching someone else’s life, a life that society at large deems as “desirable,” make a person feel better about their own existence?!  Maybe it’s the sheer mentioning of designer labels, expensive jewelry, etc., that makes people think “hey!!!.....I want MY life to be like this!!!” Or could it be the constant sensationalized verbal and physical fights, (i.e. throwing water in a women’s faces, excessive use of the word bitc*, hair pulling, etc.) bickering, and exaggerated storylines that keep viewers glued to the tube? In my deep, albeit short-lived study of this pop culture spectacle, I’ve come to the realization that all of these aspects, [and I’m sure many more,] fuel the beast better known as the Housewives. The question in my mind is….. “is anyone else disturbed by the multi-layered subjugation and obtrusive stereotypes within these highly popular voyeuristic shows?”
For me, one of the most troubling features of these particular shows, [apart from the EXTREMELY superficial, self-indulgent, and artificial nature of the shows,] are the stark gender-based stereotypes heavily present among the Housewives’ programs. We’ve all heard it before right?..........…”women are catty,” “women are gossip-fiends,” “women are materialistic and gold diggers,” “women are full of drama,” and the list goes on and on and on! We all know [or at least I hope that people know that these conjectures MUST be taken on a case-by-case basis, as generalizing one group of people is highly dangerous, ignorant, and harmful; blanketed oversimplifications of an entire group of people fails to acknowledge the vast diversity within that group as no two people are the same. With that said, these hyped-up Housewives shows only perpetuate and reinforce those very same gender-based labels that link ALL women together in a pool of undying bondage. These and other shows, like Desperate Housewives for example, portray women in such a destructive and antediluvian manner, placing women back into an 18th-century Victorian era where women were equated with property and mere objects of male-oriented socially constructed projections of femininity. The term “housewife” in itself is quite offensive due to the numerous implications of domestic servitude and isolation among women due to some “innate” or “biological” inclinations. Do men not also possess genetic codes, but more so basic human characteristics to nurture and care for the ones they love and adore or are they too bound to the oppressive determinants of our society? Short answer…NO! That stated, the very obvious element to the term housewife is ACTUALLY being a wife and interestingly enough, most of the women on these shows ARE NOT MARRIED! So I guess I too can create a show called “World’s Wealthiest Unknown Woman” or “World’s Best Surgeon” and cast myself as the star! For those women, [while the minority,] that are married, they typically lead incredibly lonely lives as their husbands are habitually away from home
fulfilling their masculine destinies of being the “bread winners.” Is this aspect of the “lifestyle” that viewers so voraciously crave alluring at all?! I would think that utter happiness, (i.e. constant laughter and joy stimulated by substantive moments with deeply loved ones and the ability to make pure and authentic memories from beautiful life experiences) would be the lifestyle sought after because as we’ve seen from these “ladies of leisure,” even with the diamonds, luxury cars, designer clothing, and large bank accounts [or maybe just extensive lines of credit,] you can be more desolate and alone than the person with even the most economically depressed circumstances; TRUE happiness is not attached to, nor determined by material possessions!
I know that most people would say that the Real Housewives and Basketball Wives tv shows are just that…shows. Innocuous, guilty-pleasure programs that people only view, but never take seriously. The truth is, these shows are highly influential, persuasive, and harmful just like many films, books and other vehicles of propaganda due to the infusion of capitalist, Western, and gender-based stereotypical ideologies that exist at the core of these entities. Sure...people have freewill to watch, consume, and subscribe to any and every facet of life that they desire. The danger exists, however when a) there is no alternative to the mainstream phenomenon that holds those viewers so firmly in its clutches, b) people begin to actually desire and identify with this way of life and c) when we exist within a global society that thrives and sustains on the race of androids it purposefully produces; an entire group of people trained and programmed to adopt mandated belief systems, economic philosophies, “leading” racial/ethnic cultural traits and habits, and “socially acceptable” ways of life without question. If one never questions the hidden meaning of…well everything, then manifestations of our “modern-day” culture will always be seen as just a show or just a movie, etc. Nothing is ever just… like humans, there is always so much more than what’s on the surface!  

1 comment:

  1. I have also found myself quite disturbed by all of the these oxymoronically named Reality shows since the so-called 'Survivor' series first aired. Reality? Really? To start with, there are production crews & cameras everywhere while these people go about their tasks or so-called daily lives. Seriously, just how realistic is that? My suggestion to those who have become obsessed with this nonsense is to better utilize the time wasted indulging in this buffoonery & instead go volunteer at a school, shelter, orphanage, hospital or the like. These are the places where true reality resides. Check on the elderly in your community and beyond, take them some food and supplies, clean up for them inside & outside of their homes, runs errands for them, give them a ride somewhere. Help in an adult literacy program. Assist in community programs that offer guidance to our youth instead of sitting back and complaining about how bad these children are. Care for a young child or baby at an orphanage and give them the beauty of a simple hug--some children are never hugged! Make care packages and send them, emails & letters to our troops. These are the people who are dealing with life's realities, many of them very harsh realities. Where are the cameras & production crews now? Oh that's right - TRUE REALITY doesn't sell! It's not a money-maker. Sponsors won't back that project. It's just too depressing to watch poor, sick, homeless, struggling people. It just wouldn't be PC to try to capitalize on their blight. Besides don't they have social programs to help them? Do your part to make some of their daily walk easier while saving your brain cells in the process, better utilize your time by helping those dealing with some of life's true realities. In fact these so-called Reality TV stars, especially the ones with all of the pseudo-wealth & time on their hands could very well benefit by volunteering some of their time on a regular basis. Maybe then they can finally get a dose of True Reality.