Alright, so it’s time I admitted that we’ve been avidly watching The Real Housewives of New York City. With eyes almost as crazy as Ramona’s. It all began, somehow, in Venice. We’d heard of and seen some episodes of these Real Housewives show, but settled on the NYC edition, I suppose, because it at least took place in a familiar city (not that that actually makes much difference that I can detect).
It really is an amazement of a show. As with the various of these shows we’ve watched over the years (Top Model, Project Runway UK, Make me a Supermodel, The Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant), we like to imagine that we watch for pop-cultural anthropology (or something). There’s some truth to that, but also to the all-consuming power of windows into radically different lives and the chance to scoff, raise an eyebrow, or scream abuse in the privacy of your own home.
When I manage, I bracket all my crazed assertions about the people in the shows by saying things like “I’m sure she’s a nice person in reality, but…” or “I’m sure it’s just production making her look that way, but…”. But most of the time it’s just a torrent of retorts and criticisms of these people who put their (produced) realities on show.
Today, not for the first time, I was thinking about the purpose of these shows and the reasons people watch them. Obviously for us it has some kind of therapeutic rage-inducing qualities that are useful (clears the bile or something). But I wondered about other people watching the “real housewives”. In particular, I wondered if there are people who watch the show as an aspirational kind of thing. Are there people who think Ramona is, basically, a really amazing woman who they would love to step into the shoes of? Does something actually take sides in the inane (to me) disputes and fights that are the staple diet of those televised lives?
And, of course, yes, that’s the case. Cursory searching online will land you on fan pages where someone is vehemently taking the side of one group over another. Right after today’s episode, still shocked by how insanely rude and cruel Ramona had been in an argument with (the equally rude and cruel) LuAnn, we read a blog post by someone who felt Ramona had carried herself well and dispatched the clearly evil LuAnn with aplomb. So, yes, there are people watching the show with a particular allegiance in mind. There are people who look at Ramona and see some form of role-model, rather than a crazy-eyed semi alcoholic psycho (though I’m sure it’s just production that makes her look that way).