“The Real Housewives”: What it says about our society’s collective conscience

I have always disliked (to put it mildly) shows like The Real Housewives and Basketball Wives. To me these shows represent a system of declining social values, and a confirmation of all of the possible negative stereotypes that there are about women. On a typical episode of either one of these shows you are sure to find a bunch of women who married into wealth and are now parading around in their ridiculously tall heels, spending millions on cosmetic surgery, gossiping and cat-fighting while making no worthwhile contribution to society.

On one extreme women are working very hard to be taken seriously in the global workforce and to overcome the deep-rooted patriarchal notions that seem at times impossible to be reversed. This show however, is telling the world that “Real Housewives” spend their time making sure that they have the perfect nose to match their overpriced boob-job. However, what is given much less attention than it should be given is that a lot of these women that appear on these shows are actually entrepreneurs. Many of them have their own fashion line, their own high end restaurant, and are capable of planning the most FANTASTIC parties and events I have ever seen, while taking care of their children. So contrary to the impression that they seem to want to leave behind with the viewer, not all of these women are gold-digging airheads.  Many of them are actually independent women who are very good at what they do (acting, managing a high power career and a family).

Yet, the show places so much focus on the drama, the hair-pulling and the name calling. There is in fact a separate instigator to read off rude and judgmental comments and questions from the viewers to these women and ask them to respond to these. Now we know that media companies are primarily profit seekers and they will do pretty much anything for ratings. If viewers respond more to an episode where one woman pounces on her fellow housewife for calling her out on her nose job, that is indeed what the viewers are going to get. The show from then on will focus on creating as much drama among these women as they possibly can.

It is important therefore to think about what this says about us as a society.  The topic at lunch the next day is more likely to be on Bethany Frankel’s divorce rather than the success of her “Skinny Girl” line of products. Is it our collective conscious that is reflected back at us through these TV shows? Here is some research that says yes indeed.

Lauren Zalaznick: The conscience of television



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