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.