The Real Danger of the “Real Housewives”Posted: July 22, 2011
By Becka Wall
I’m the first to admit it: I watch the Real Housewives of NYC. I eat that stuff up. I used to watch Flavor of Love and I Love New York. It may be trashy, but it’s juicy – and entertaining.
But what kind of harm is that doing to the way we view women?
In a recent article on Huffington Post Women, a fellow reality show junkie examined the shows he loves so much – and felt that it could possibly have a detrimental effect on future generations. I can’t say I disagree with him.
There are a few smart, successful women on these programs – ones who use their exposure to fame for good; who want to be a role model for young women. But then the claws come out – and these women fight with their so-called best friends and call them “whores” and “bitches”. Some would say that this is somewhat realistic – we’ve all gotten into fights with friends, and sometimes we use such strong words. But are programs like the Real Housewives pushing the phenomenon? The women
talk behind each others’ backs almost exclusively, whispering to one another until conflict bubbles over to ridiculous proportions. Friendships on the show seem so fake, and behavior is so petty – i.e., Alex’s husband Simon’s “mean-tweeting” habit to those who have dissed his wife in the past in the NYC series.
Not to mention programs like Flavor of Love and Rock of Love (both about young
girls fighting over skeezy older men and off the air now – but ENORMOUSLY popular
when they were on, and remnants of them live on in any kind of dating show).
The worst thing to do there is to appear to be “fake” – which you are constantly
under attack for by the other girls in the house. Your primary drive must be only to impress a man both sexually and intellectually, and you can’t make any friendships. Those who do are accused of losing focus on the “game”. It goes the other way, too – on I Love New York, she constantly voices her love of any guy who plays the traditional role of “alpha-dog” – despite her cries that she is an independent lady who can take care of herself.
This takes a different turn in shows like America’s Next Top Model – where girls compete to model their bodies, and are under a tight microscope – and when Janice was still around as judge, risked some pretty intense scrutiny over their bodies. On shows like Teen Mom, girls are shown often making not the wisest decisions (Farrah said that she needed a breast implant job for her daughter? I don’t thiiink so!) – and on programs like Extreme Couponing or Sister Wives, they’re cut off from
the reality of the world – in a bit of their own bubble. An extreme couponer spends hours, days planning a trip to the grocery store; and the Sister Wives live in secret –hiding their lifestyle from the government.
Now, of course – these are reality TV shows. They’re a little scripted, a little extreme,and there are always a few “middle ground” people in any program. And they’re probably not going to disappear anytime soon. But instead we should be aware of and point out these things as they crop up – awareness of the problems in portrayals of women is the first step in fixing things. After all, even if it is partially scripted, shouldn’t we fight for that script to be a little better?
Becka also writes for her own blog, Becka Tells All.