I’ve fallen off the wagon again. Well, I can’t even say I’ve fallen off the wagon, because I haven’t been able to stop – not yet, at least. No, it’s not alcohol or drugs and it’s not gambling or anything like that. But it’s just as bad. I can’t stop watching the Real Housewives.
My usage started out recreationally. At the gym, with not much else to do, yes, I admit it - I found it mildly entertaining to scoff at a bunch of women trying so desperately to one-up each other – with the cars, houses, husbands, kids, vacations and social lives. But soon, sooner than I could have even anticipated, there I was, watching Housewives Marathons from 4 different cities and changing the channel whenever my husband walked into the room.
How did this happen?
The first person I blame is Andy Cohen. That guy, with his cute and mischievous smile, knows not only how to egg the ladies on but to build a successful franchise based on women around the country happily agog at the pathetic antics of other women. Maybe he’s taking revenge for all of the gay men out there who’ve had to listen way too long to their neurotic “straight wives” complain about the inane details of their over-indulged lives.
I wonder if he ever feels the slightest tug of guilt, especially now, after the suicide of one cast member’s husband, that he’s part of a business (because, let’s face it, the R.H. is a business that seeks to keep us needing and wanting more) that exploits the worst in all of us - our impulse to cut down those we envy, the need to gloat that our lives are better than even the women desperately trying to have it all, and our regrettable choice to encourage behavior that’s detrimental not only to the women on the show but to all women.
After I’m done blaming Andy, because let’s face it, he’s only a pawn in a much bigger game, I place responsibility squarely on my own shoulders. Why couldn’t I have been stronger? Couldn’t I have avoided getting sucked into this nonsense?
I hear you naysayers out there. It’s just entertainment. If you don’t like it, turn it off. Everyone knows these women aren’t typical, it’s just a show, a show that’s been heavily staged and edited. They’re not hurting anyone. Maybe before all the divorces, table throwings and suicide I would have agreed with you. I would have even taken it a step further by saying this show motivates moms to get off our butts, get to the gym and give ourselves some much-needed TLC.
But the message they’re sending, and the message we soak up with every episode, is that their drama, tragedies, and even their children are our entertainment. And the more dysfunctional, tragic and conflict-ridden their lives are, the better it is for them (lucrative contracts, celebrity treatment), for Bravo (higher ratings), for the media industry (US Magazine, E News, People, TMZ, need I go on?) and for us.
So, here I am, about to hitch myself up and get right on the Bravo-free wagon. Like trying to kick any habit, it’s not going to be quick, it’s not going to be pretty, and it’s certainly not going to be easy. But I’m ready to be a little more consistent with the message I send to my daughter and to myself about women, status and society. And I’m ready to stop supporting an industry that portrays women as superficial, money-hungry, catty, narcissistic, and well, pathetic.
So the next time you see me, don’t even try to have a conversation about Luann, Jill, Taylor, Theresa, Vicki, Frasier’s ex-wife or Kim. Hopefully, I’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.
And in case you’re wondering what other shows make us women look pretty stupid, here’s a list I’m compiling. Please feel free to add whichever ones I’m missing.
The Real World
The Millionaire Matchmaker
Just about anything on Oxygen
Keeping up with the Kardashians
~by Wendy Widom, Partner, Families in the Loop
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