Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Term Paper Presentation: The Television Housewives

Posted by 90210code on May 6, 2013

     The television housewife has been a fixture of popular culture for decades. There are different portrayals and characters of housewives like Barbara Billingsley’s performance as June Cleaver in the 1950s cult classic, “Leave It To Beaver.” She was the epitome of perfection when it came to how people thought a housewife should be. She cooked, vacuumed in pearls, and always had a snack for Wally and the Beaver after school. Many men in America wanted to marry her and women aspired to be this “perfect housewife.”

         The antithesis of June Cleaver was Roseanne Barr’s performance as Roseanne Conner in the 1980s hit sitcom, “Roseanne.” The Conner’s were the poster family for working class. They were a functioning dysfunctional family on television, and that wasn’t shown much during these times. Roseanne was brash, loud, obnoxious, and labeled herself as a “domestic goddess.” Sometimes their dinners were TV dinners or from cans, the children argued, and the Conner’s marriage was usually hanging on by a thread. Somehow, though, there was still a lot of heart and love that ran as a theme through the show.

         I just wanted to give a couple of examples of housewives before I explained my topic because it’s all about the television housewife. I’ll be delving into two different television shows and relate them with each other. “Desperate Housewives” was a huge popular culture phenomenon when it premiered back in 2004. America was captivated by the ladies of Wisteria Lane and couldn’t get enough for a long time. This was really one of the only primetime soap operas during the millennium. It had all of the drama, hysterics, and campiness of a daytime soap opera. It was television gold.

         Only a couple of years after “Desperate Housewives” premiered, “The Real Housewives of Orange County” premiered on Bravo and thus “The Real Housewives…” franchise was born. The producers for “The Real Housewives” wanted to mold the show after “Desperate Housewives.” All of the women from the cast needed to be somewhat affluent, live in pristine homes, travel in the same social circles, and be well-to-do within their communities. The show wanted to portray them as wives, mothers, and businesswomen. They were “documenting” their lives while they socially interacted with one another.

         I want to compare and contrast the two shows. They are vastly similar, but very different as well. Now that Bravo has created a franchise of the series, each city that is portrayed has their own style. NYC is known for being cosmopolitan and decadent while Beverly Hills is labeled as glitzy and ridden with plastic surgery driven cougars.

         Also, I want to look at the four to five main characters of “Desperate Housewives” and show how each of them are different, but they all possess such great character strengths that make up the “perfect” woman. I’ll do this also with “The Real Housewives” and show how they portray each cast member as a character on the show. All of these women are labeled in some way, shape, form or fashion. 


2 Responses to “Term Paper Presentation: The Television Housewives”

  1. Sam Ford said

    Thanks, Coleman. I’m especially interested at the conclusions you come up with when you conduct this comparison. Do we find that the “Real Housewives” franchise finds “real” women that confirm to a similar narrative and division of personalities types that we saw in “Desperate Housewives,” even as it plays out across various cultures within the U.S.? Do we find that the “Real Housewives” instead play a much different role as an ensemble cast than the “Desperate Housewives” do…and, if so, what does that mean in terms of a shift of representation of the housewife? If you are going to bring up briefly the trajectory of the history of the housewife as an image in U.S. television, what are we to make of the impact “Desperate Housewives” and now the “Real Housewives” franchise has had on that imagery and what “housewife” conjures up in terms of popular iconography…Very interesting in seeing your answers to some of this, at least inasmuch as these questions fit into where you head with your final analysis.

  2. I really like your comparing and contrasting of the television wives of the past and the image of the “housewife” of the present. I’m excited that you’ve chosen to analyse Roseanne Connor and her brash sense of “killing” the image of the traditional housewife and how that has led to housewives as portrayed in modern reality television.

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