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The Real Housewives of O.C.

This show is based off of five women and their families who apparently represent the “real� households of Orange County. This particular episode delves into the daily lives of the “housewives�, exploring what they do on a daily basis and how they do it. The women go shopping, visit their kids, discipline their kids and work on their careers. Throughout the show, the viewer gets to know the “wives� a little better, allowing us to hate or love them even more. The show is aired on Bravo (owned by NBC Universal) a network known for other shows such as, Project Runway, Top Chef and Queer Eye. The target viewers (gathered from the commercials as well as content) are women ranging from mid twenties to mid fifties.

I think it is imperative to start with the title of this show, since it implies so much. The word “real� implies that these five, white, upper class women represent all that is real about Orange County, California. What does that mean? Are all the other people that don’t fit into this narrow category of real, fake? Does it make a difference that only 60% of the people living in Orange County are white? Are the people cleaning these women’s houses not real? Obviously this title is completely inappropriate and degrading for everyone who doesn’t fit into this category of real. Moving on; the word “Housewives� throws many stereotypical images at the viewer. A housewife is viewed as a woman who runs a smooth, put together household, which is clean, proper and functional. A housewife is there to greet her husband and teach her children. The women in this show do everything and anything but what I just described, however; not conforming to the word “housewife� earns these women some harsh criticism from the viewer.
Myra Mendible states, “While contestants are often shown in an unfavorable light, the fact that millions are paying attention makes them important. Humiliation here occupies a second-order of meaning in which any televised activity – regardless of how embarrassing – is elevated in status.� I think it is important to note that everything these women do during this show is scrutinized and they are subject to humiliation. The camera angles (often on their bodies), content that is aired and the ridiculous things they say all make it to our TV sets. All things that might be intelligent or view these women in a positive light are ignored. A perfect example of this blatant humiliation is when Vicky, one of the women, surprises her son at his university in Colorado. She gets upset because her son doesn’t want her there and cries in his bathroom. When she starts feeling better, her and her son work it out (without any apologies on either side) and she ends up doing a keg stand with her sons friends. Is this proper behavior of a “housewife�, or is this how real housewives act from Orange County? Clearly many of the viewers will have opinions for this type of behavior and they will criticize and humiliate Vicky. Since one of the quotes from the intro to the show is, “Here is to not being fake�, I can only assume these “housewives� see themselves as above any criticism or critiques from society. This is also part of the humiliation aspect of reality TV because the women have an “elevated� status because they are on TV, so they can behave any way they want to and not feel ashamed.
My second point is about the stereotypes these women are fulfilling by participating in this show. The whole premise of the show is to see how these women live and since they are of an upper class, they live “rich and fabulous lives�. The women go shopping quite often, deal with their kids and run their households. More often than not, their lives are chaotic and disorganized. Divorce, dating and being single are discussed throughout the show. Kristy Fairclough (in reference to Wifeswap, but it applies here as well) states, “The premise of the series is based exclusively around the women’s place in the home and any reference to careers and the workplace is inconsistent and alarmingly limited. Allusions to the women’s jobs is often portrayed as troublesome, an interference in the lives of those who have to live with them.� There are many good examples of this theory throughout the Real Housewives of O.C. where the women’s careers are often viewed as a joke or cause conflict within the family. Lauri has many problems with her daughter who is living in a house Lauri owns. The daughter is messy and unmotivated, living off of her mothers (and fiancé’s) dime. Lauri wants to sell her house and make a buck, but her daughter throws a fit and won’t let her mom do it. I think in this situation, Lauri isn’t furthering her career or finances and at the same time is hindering her daughter’s ability to live independently. In this case, Lauri’s career/life is negatively affecting her family’s lives.
It was big news when Jo moved into a house and was now on her own. She was now paying for everything and needed to budget her life now that she wasn’t being supported by a man. She ends up buying $1,500 shoes towards the end of the show, confirming the stereotype that women will shop no matter what their situation is. Not only are female stereotypes amplified by this show and the behavior of these women, the show concentrates only on the men in their lives when the men are providing something for the women, and it is often in a patriarchal manner. A good example of this is when Jo was meeting a producer for her music and her boyfriend did all the negotiating and “protecting� her in the business deals between all the men in the room.
The housewives of this show represent a very small population of women in America and what they experience in their lives is not representative of “real�. The women are humiliated throughout show because their behavior is scrutinized by the viewer and their careers are often overshadowed by superficial and domestic problems. The viewer should have a more critical mindset when watching this show.


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