by Maya Brown
Desperate Housewives is a T.V. show made to explore the lives of middle class women living in a suburb in America. What happens in the show is so bizarre that at first glance I thought it was more a satire of the life rich people live. Unfortunately, at least according to the creator of the show, Marc Cherry, it’s not. He said that he is not making fun of the suburbs; to the contrary, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said, “I love the values the suburbs represent. Family, community, God.”
But what sort of values are these shows really portraying? The title itself sums up a good portion of the problem. It implies that women have nothing better to do than lounge around the house all day while their husbands work. Only one woman had a job, and the general plotline is them getting into mischief. They are desperate for something to keep them busy. The events in the show are outrageous, the women fight, they cheat on their spouses, people get murdered, they abuse prescription drugs, and that’s not all.
This show portrays women as homemakers. It not only shows them as the ones who are in charge of the home, but it ads a touch of teen drama. The women are supposed to be friends, but their relationships with each other are shallow. They are rich, snobby wives who only care about themselves and their appearance. There are constant “cat fights” and insults. Likewise, their relationships with men aren’t at all healthy. They use men to their advantage, sleeping with them and using them to get back at their friends. Some critics proclaim the show for depicting independent women, but really, is this the only way women can be independent? How about giving one of them a successful job instead? The women spend their time being cruel to each other instead of doing anything worthwhile.
The sad part is, Desperate Housewives is an international phenomenon. According to Wikipedia, it is the third most watched TV show in a study of 20 countries, and the most-watched comedy series. The series makes 2.74 million, per half hour. Even scarier is that while this show is meant for an adult audience, they wind up marketing it to kids, too. A study in ’05 (after only 2 seasons of the so far 7-season show) showed that Desperate Housewives was the most popular broadcast-network television show of children ages 9-12.
This is what they may believe what adult life is like. Women are supposed to get married, have children, and then make each other’s lives a living hell whenever they feel like it. The companies are smart, they know stuff like this sells and that’s why they make it so outrageous, but young viewers don’t always know that.
Desperate Housewives didn’t just stop there. The show spawned multiple reality shows. The most closely related is the Real Housewives of…” show. This show finds “real” circles of housewives in different cities and follows them. So far there have been seven different cities, all with their own multiples season series, the longest one being seven seasons. These women mirror the women of Desperate Housewives: They are rich, 30/40 something wives whose only joy comes from fighting with each other and ruining other peoples lives. This reality series may even be worse than the real show.
Even beyond the Real Housewives of… series, there are many more reality shows about rich wives. There is Basketball Wives, focusing around Shaquille O’Neal’s ex-wife and her group of friends in Miami, and Football Wives, based on wives of football players in Dallas, Texas. Two new shows are Mob Wives, a show “filled with fierce catfights, foul language, and coping with loved ones behind bars” supposedly centering on the mafia. And not to be ignored is Wrestling Wives, on–you guessed it–wives of famous wrestlers. These shows in particular enforce the fact that women can’t be out doing anything. They have to be the bystanders, not good for anything but causing each other misfortune. They can’t be the ones playing basketball, or even being in the mob. They are the rich counterparts to their husbands, worth nothing more than what their appearances can get them.
Wikipedia describes these Reality Series as “a voyeuristic look into the wealthy lives of these housewives, as they shop, get plastic surgery, gossip, fight and live lavishly.” Is this kind of show we want on TV? These shows are all about appearances and about living a privileged, self-centered life. And that, is a very sad reality.