Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Desperate Housewives Desperate for Idealistic Families

It is apparent in each of the four main female characters of Desperate Housewives that “The equilibrium of a happy, stable family is constantly there in the background, but is never achieved” (Fiske). Each woman claims at one point to want an ideal family life but their actions in the series never fully allow them to achieve this desire. Gabrielle for example moved to a suburban town without any intention of becoming a “housewife”. She had an affair with the gardener, and her husband Carlos took her back. They decided to start a family in hope to mend their relationship but needed a surrogate mother to do so. Carlos had an affair with the surrogate mother and the baby she was carrying turned out not to be Gabrielle’s and Carlos’s. Bree, the perfectionist strives for a picture perfect family perhaps the most out of the foursome. She’s polite, well spoken, and a perfect host; however she has two rebellious children and suspected murderer for a husband. Susan is the divorced single mother who wishes for a prince charming to sweep her off her feet so she too can attempt to achieve stable family status. However she slept with her ex husband who was engaged to Eddie Britt. Lynette has the only stable family out of the four main characters in part due to her husbands’ apparent love and devotion towards her. She is also the only woman who works outside of the home while her husband stays home with their four children. I think Desperate Housewives is a comforting and comedic outlet to many women who can relate to this reach for the unattainable idealistic family.

Fiske, John. Gendered Television. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 470.

I found all of the pictures in my collage at starpulse.com

Post #3

I have been an avid viewer of Desperate Housewives since the first show aired in 2004. The dramatic story lines, the lies, betrayals, and sneakiness of the characters captivated my interest, as it did millions of other viewers, leading the show into its third season. I never took the time nor felt the need to reflect on or question the elements of gender and popular culture apparent in the show which is why I decided it would be a good site of analysis for this project. A closer look at this captivating primetime soap reveals layers of gender inequalities displayed by every main character and in every story line which tend to be overlooked by the typical viewer. I decided to devote this blog to exposing the intersections of gender with race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality within Desperate Housewives.

The mere title of the show implies a satiric element, feeding the hegemonic norms associated with housewives while at the same time dismantling them. However the characters aren’t meant to be depicted as desperate at all. They are four women who have given an entirely new meaning to the term “housewife”. Don’t be fooled by the “Leave it to Beaver” style houses on Wisteria Lane, drama and deception are taken to an extreme behind the white picket fences lining every green grassed lawn. However, along with this drama and deception comes empowerment and independence. These modern day women serve as an outlet to every wife and mother who feels overwhelmed and unappreciated. Desperate Housewives empowers women who slave over their families and allows them to believe that they too can be sexy, mysterious, and unpredictable.

Although Desperate Housewives is meant to empower middle aged women while challenging the hegemonic norms associated with the term “housewife”, there are notable instances of gender inequality intersected with race, ethnicity and sexuality which reinforce hegemonic ideals and stereotypes. For example the only African American characters in the show appeared only in the second season. Mrs. Applewhite kept her mentally disabled son (who was framed by his brother for raping and murdering a girl) locked up in the basement. This reinforces the “the image of the Black man as a sexual monster” (Dines).

The only homosexual character on the show is Bree’s son who she abandoned in the second season for his rebellious and malicious attitude. Bree’s disappointment at her son’s sexual orientation supports hegemonic norms however alters stereotypes once she accepts her son for who he is. This can be applied with the trend of recent television programming that is “sympathetic to glbt communities must appeal to mainstream liberal viewers who today most likely know someone gay in the workplace, family, or among friends” (Raymond).

Desperate Housewives provides viewers with hegemonic and counter-hegemonic elements while also reinforcing and challenging normative popular culture. Desperate Housewives could be considered controversial due to the fact that it alters the normative perception of a “housewife” in US society. The four main characters are females who hold an apparent power and status among the other residents on Wisteria Lane. This show reaches out to women as well as men by offering the perspective of a group of women and their thoughts on work, family, men, and love. Although the storyline of some episodes may seem overt, the messages being sent through the dramatic actions are empowering which influences the power the women possess and redefines social norms.

Dines, Gail. King Kong and the White Woman. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 452.

Raymond, Diane. Popular Culture and Quess Representation. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 102.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Response to lecture from Dr. Susan Wood

I recently attended a lecture given by Dr. Susan Wood, the resigned Assistant Commissioner of Women’s Health. Her resignation was in part due to the controversial issue of Plan B, the emergency contraceptive and FDA’s effort to prolong it’s over the counter status due to ideological purposes. Plan B is a set of two high progestin pills that prevents unintended pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Plan B does not cause abortion and is very safe. It was approved by FDA in 1999 but did not reach over the counter status until 2003. Plan B cannot be purchased by people under 18 unless given as a prescription not because of scientific purposes but because of ideological reasoning.

Advertisements in popular culture promote public displays of sexuality. Children are subjected to these eroticized advertisements as soon as they are exposed to popular culture whether it’s through TV, movies, or magazines. It’s hard to distinguish between sex and sexuality in advertisements, allowing teens to accept and often attempt to duplicate the images they see represented in today’s popular culture. With emergency contraceptives accessible to teenagers, some of the people at FDA were concerned that this would allow teenagers to be careless with their bodies, therefore preventing its advertisement to people underage. So it’s okay to watch men rap about sex with half naked women dancing around them in a music video but it’s illegal for a teenage girl to prevent an unintended pregnancy in a safe way by buying Plan B? Sex is being advertised through popular culture but there is no advertisement for Plan B in an off label prescription.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Finale wrap-up: "Desperate Housewives" By Heather Havrileskyhttp


Furthermore, the big mysteries of this season don't feel character-driven, organic or remotely compelling. Unlike the death of their shared friend last season, the arrival of a stranger Betty (Alfre Woodard) with a dark secret is hardly enough to spark our curiosity. Orson (Kyle MacLachlan) the evil dentist replaces the evil pharmacist in romancing Bree, and even when he unexpectedly runs over Susan's beau, Mike, with his car in the last few minutes of the finale (presumably because Mike seems to have known him when he was an evil prison dentist) that back story already seems about as fascinating as Betty's go-nowhere son-in-the-basement mystery. Looney Zach (Cody Kasch) kills his mean grandfather and inherits a fortune, leaving his nasty father to rot in prison, all of which feels utterly inconsequential. And Carlos (Ricardo Chavira) really is sleeping with the maid/surrogate mother of his and Gabby's unborn child.


This article confronts the issues of gender and the media with an in depth analysis of the roles the characters play in comparison to the expected message the show was thought to convey through the ironic title Desperate Housewives. However, there were many notable race and class issues apparent throughout the second season which weren’t mentioned in this article that are related to the gender dimension of the show as well.

The only African American characters in the show are Betty and her two sons, one of which she keeps locked in the basement. Kaleb suffers from mental disabilities and was framed by his brother for the murder of his brother’s girlfriend. Betty is trying to protect her son by chaining him to the basement wall as her other son, the real murderer pursues Bree’s daughter Danielle. Matthew and Danielle run away together however when Bree finds out that he is the real murder she escapes from the institution in which she admitted herself to save her daughter in hopes of protecting her daughter from the wrath of the African American man. Matthew becomes rough with Danielle, portraying the stereotypical role of the violent and murderous African American man. Bree shoots him in defense, killing him and the Applewhite’s fail to return for season three.

When the surrogate of Gabby and Carlos’s baby gives birth to their supposedly child, an African American baby emerges instead of the expected white one and the expressions on the characters faces are of obvious disappointment and shock. The doctor’s implanted the wrong DNA and Gabby and Carlos do not wish to keep the child, instead they separate. All of the characters live on the same street and have around the same social class. Gabby and Carlos don’t have any children so their house is more immaculate then Tom and Lynette’s who have four children. The only character in the second season that is portrayed as having a lower social class is the Solice’s Asian maid/surrogate who is from another country whose freedoms are much more limited and restricted to that of the United States. She came to America in the hope of obtaining freedom and for a taste of the “American Dream”.