This summer I’ll be branching out from my usual photographic obsession and entering the tumultuous world of news and current events. I will be picking an article (ranging in seriousness) per week to discuss and over analyze.
Today’s subject is reality television. Far be it from me to tell you what to watch. I do, however, think that I have earned the right to question it. I’d like to focus your attention on one program in particular that seems to be dominating every single screen (well, at least the ones in the gym, which sadly do not feature twenty-four hour Buffy marathons per my request) The Real Housewives of something-or-other is literally on every single day, all day.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking, by the way, that spreading this show all over the continent is a technique to peak interest in life throughout diverse locations. No- it’s so that every time you turn the TV on there they are, in California, New Jersey, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, or Manhattan. Next stop, Real Housewives of the MOON.
So let’s run down the list of useful things that can be learned from Real Housewives.
NY Times Neil Genzlinger wrote last week, “So many questions with no clear answers. Does a significant chunk of the universe really consist of dark matter, and why can’t we detect it? Is free will real or just a carefully orchestrated divine illusion? Who is still watching “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” one of the most idiotic shows on television?”
A great question, Neil. I’m hanging my head in shame here, but I have seen Real Housewives and after literally feeling my IQ drop a few hundred points until the end credits saved me from a complete intellectual death, I wondered why a show that eulogizes all the things modern society should be fighting against is so popular. I desperately hope that my generation recognizes the ridiculousness of this program and sees the classist, bigoted, sexist, overly dramatic people for who they really are. But don’t be fooled by the maturity ratings. I was a kid once, too, and I can tell you that I snuck peeks at shows my parents definitely would not have approved of. What is this show saying to these kids about our world and their place (and unless they’ve got a house in the Hamptons or huge breasts, lack thereof) in it?
My point here goes beyond playful sass. My issues with the show (and others like it) do not pertain exclusively to the mundane plot or the monotonous characters. My main problem with Real Housewives is its portrayal of glamorous lives and how those lives (in their inherently inaccessible accessibility) are marketed as superior to others. The show reinforces wealth as the ultimate marker of social value, markets the female body as a toy for plastic surgeons to poke and prod until they’ve satisfied their kids’ college, graduate or law school AND retirement funds, and devalues men to arm candy status.
In addition to the cheapening of human relationships, the objectification of the male and female body and explicit championing of gluttonously wealthy lifestyles, Real Housewives also says that these things are not only acceptable but desirable. And this is what really scares me.
So the next time you flick your remote to Bravo, think carefully not only about what you are doing but what you are, however passively, condoning. And if you don’t immediately turn Real Housewives off due to crippling nausea within the first five minutes, I would sincerely like to know why. Really. Help me out here.