My guilty pleasure is… *drumroll please*… the Real Housewives. And not just New York or Beverly Hills (although those are my favorite), but all of them.
I can name just about every housewife, recap the latest drama for you, pick sides during the sensational reunion episodes and talk about them practically all day if given the chance.
I love the Real Housewives franchise because it is one of the most absurd productions I have ever witnessed. The materiality is stunning and captivating while simultaneously being so excessive that it is nauseating. The fights that are so staged all boil down to the fact that the producers picked women with enormous egos. There is rarely anything of substance which makes it a perfect break from any sort of reality that weighs me down.
And while I love the franchise for the escape it creates for me, I’m not sure how I can support such an enterprise particularly as a feminist.
There are some things people find problematic about the show that I don’t personally take too much offense to. The term “housewife” for example, doesn’t bother me. I’m supportive of the wives on the show who have chosen to be full time mothers, just as I am supportive of the ones that have chosen to balance motherhood with a career. I don’t think the term is necessarily pejorative, rather it attempts (with little success) to be descriptive. Others claim that these women are exploited. While certainly there are moments on the show where the women (and their families) would rather the camera be off, they signed up for the show themselves. Besides for this voluntary contract, most women actually end up benefitting financially from the exposure (and at times notoriety) that they gain on the show.
My problem with the Real Housewives can be summed up when Madeleine Albright said, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” If you watch the show, you know that during expensive dinner parties, trips to Bali, etc. all the women end up doing is bashing one another. Drinks fly, prosthetic legs get thrown and oh boy do they cry and cry and cry. There is backstabbing, gossip, outright yelling and physical altercations ad nauesam. And I grab dinner, recline on my couch and watch all of the malice and spite unfold.
How can I possibly get enjoyment from watching women tear one another down? Hint: I shouldn’t; thus the “guilty” in guilty pleasure.
And how do I justify this to myself? Simply, deluding myself.
My grand conspiracy theory (which you are free to borrow) is this: The women have a master plan. They know when to fight and how to fight and what to fight about just to get the most views possible. Their ratings go through the roof, they get more money, all while calling each other behind the scenes to plan their next fight. They drink white wine together and scheme, giggling as they tap their scripts into their iPhones, ready for battle. Soon, one day, at a reunion, they overtake Andy Cohen and the rest of the Bravo executives who are making bank off of them show. In a grand demonstration (all being filmed, of course) they cast off their exploitation, debunk the entire myth, hold hands and giggle as they prance out into the sunset. Their work here is done.
This is how a self-proclaimed feminist can justify her pleasure in an outright problematic form of entertainment.
Moral of the story? Anyone can delude themselves about anything.