As a teen, anytime I heard my parents walking down the basement stairs, I would quickly change the channel before the piercing voice of Teresa Guidice reached their ears. But it was always too late, and I knew what was coming next.
“Why do you watch that crap? Go read a book. Remember you used to be such a good reader?”
It was true, I was quite a voracious reader. But in high school, when I discovered the world of Vicki Gunvalson and heard the infamous “You have a little family van,” my interests shifted just a bit.
For nearly 15 years, The Real Housewives franchises have induced eye rolls, scoffing, mockery. But if we’re looking at it through the lens of the modern zeitgeist, they’ve transformed and have immensely influenced pop culture.
The Real Housewives has been a source of comfort for me. Like a bowl of ramen on a cold day, those girls have continued to soothe my soul. If I had a bad day, I could at least revel in the fact that someone didn’t call me a “slut pig” or accuse me of “doing crystal meth in the bathroom” during my poorly organized game night. The gaudy fashion, complete lack of self-awareness and witty one liners fed a part of me I didn’t know was hungry. The show offers a level of escapism which, especially during the pandemic, has been most welcomed. Much like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Real Housewives can often be used as background noise, something to cut the silence and distract your mind, all while scrolling simultaneously on your phone.
Or perhaps it takes on a more impactful role in your life. Consider the social aspect of meeting someone new and soon discovering you have a shared interest. I can’t begin to tell you how many connections I’ve formed for a mutual love of quoting “Wow Bethenny wow.” The entertainment of The Real Housewives extends beyond the show itself, and is expanded upon on social media and podcasts. In 2015 on my public blog, I wrote a love letter to Bravo (some of the opinions expressed here have since changed). And podcasts like Comments by Celebs: Bravo Edition make me feel like a more intelligent consumer of pop culture.
This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the sticker aspects of the show. Long gone are the days of a seemingly genuine cast moments. Will we ever receive another Scary Island? Most likely not (of course not, it was too iconic to ever be replicated). The ladies who have been on the show for years now know their character roles and are often playing to the audience, and the newcomers have a better understanding of the game (especially if they’ve already been longtime fans).
I would be remiss to not mention the show has at least learned to acknowledge — more recently that is, as older episodes are absolutely cringe and completely out-of-touch — social and racial injustices, domestic abuse, LGBTQ+ issues and more. That is certainly not to say that these ladies are the pillars of social justice, but at least we can appreciate they’re not shying away from it, with some housewives using their platforms even more to advocate for change.
So my defense is this: The Real Housewives — some of the most unhinged people to ever be on television — have kept me sane and happy during the pandemic. They’ve given me something to look forward to every week, for month’s on end. When I’m doing “not well bitch,” I can always turn on a rerun. It’s given me the opportunity to connect and re-connect with friends. And I do believe you can be an intelligent human being and still indulge in trash reality TV to relax yourself.
Am I able to observe The Real Housewives with a critical eye and appreciate the absurdity? Absolutely. Do I acknowledge the contrived drama of it all? Of course, although I’d prefer not to.
As with many of my coping mechanisms that help me through the daily horrors of the world, I wonder if they’re genuinely healthy. Not that it really matters to me at the end of the day. I will continue to snuggle into my bed, covers up to my chin, while watching the latest episode. So before you begin to mock someone for their love of the reality show series, remember that it’s filling their love tank and may be preventing them from spiraling. :) Oh, and bring back Alex and Simon.