ICYMI, the “Real Housewives” are coming to Salt Lake City. Bravo’s love-to-hate-it reality franchise announced the outgrowth of its 11th tentacle in the Salt Lake Valley on Saturday, promising mommy moguls, snow-capped mountains and, most likely, lapsed Mormons. I am here today in your inbox to defend these grotesque female caricatures and cat-scratching elites as a necessary evil in our ongoing class war. If women’s studies have taught me anything, it’s that women are allowed to be backstabbing dirtbags, too.
Popular culture that depicts women exhibiting joy, greed or narcissism — often in soap operas and reality TV — are often been dismissed as fluff. This trend pre-dates reality television, really, with chicklit, rom-coms and other genre-fication of women’s fiction. I’ll admit to having conflicted opinions about the value of this programming, but still defend its right to exist. As critic Emily Nussbaum writes in her review of Vanderpump Rules, a RH spinoff: “It’s an easily mocked mass artistic medium that’s corrupted by half-hidden deals, but it also provides a magnetizing mirror for the culture, dirty and mesmerizing. It’s television’s television.” (Nussbaum also advances a compelling theory here that RHONY became a hit in 2008, in part, because it distracted us from the evil all-male Wall Street villains who tanked the economy.)
The Salt Lake Tribune’s TV critic has already dismissed the latest Bravo venture thusly: “Other than nuclear waste, it's difficult to imagine anything more toxic hitting SLC.” I like to think of it more like circus coming to town. There will be things that shock and surprise you, maybe even upset or anger you, but overall you will be entertained. By seeing these women in their toxic and often controlling relationships with their husbands, we can actually cast a critical eye on the patriarchal, misogynistic structures they both represent and glorify. Furthermore, by writing criticism about these structures, we bring their edges to light.
These women are allowing themselves to have fun, to be made fun of, and to make fun of us for our gawking. These are empty calories we’ll be consuming, but they are nonetheless delicious.
Pick Your Sides
“Odd Ball,” a podcast about an unidentified metal sphere found in the backyard of a Jacksonville, Fla. home in 1974, combines all my favorite genres, i.e. history, UFOs, news of the weird.
Finished Emily Nussbaum’s book, I Like to Watch, repackaging her excellent New Yorker essays on the big, popular shows of the last decade — Sopranos, Girls, Breaking Bad. If you like criticism and TV, this is a good book that both praises and probes our conventional wisdom on the past, present and future of TV.
Marie Yovanovitch’s femininity is her superpower.