I have been watching the Real Housewives since the OC series first went on the air about nine years ago. One crazy cat fight and I was hooked! It became my guilty pleasure. As the franchises grew, so did my DVR list to include NYC, Atlanta, Miami, New Jersey, D.C., Beverly Hills, and even Melbourne. I loved their drama, pseudo-scandals, silliness, lavish vacations, all of it. I followed every detail of their lives and probably knew more about Kim Zolciak and Vicky Gunvalson than I did about my own best friends.
But more recently, I’d been dreading clicking “play.” I would let three or four episodes build up before finally watching, and then I’d just feel, for lack of a better word, icky the whole time I watched. Finally, as I laid in bed at 11pm one night cringing through another episode of the Orange County franchise, it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t be watching a show that made me feel, well, icky. So, I went through, deleted them all from my DVR, and started binge watching the Good Wife instead.
The next day, I relayed my decision to my BFF/Housewives gossip buddy. I told her I’d given up on the Housewives due to the ick factor. After the initial shock wore off, she asked me why it was making me feel icky. She’s a therapist, so I should have known I was headed for some head shrinking, right? Here’s what we figured out …
The ick feeling was actually guilt.
All of these women’s lives seem to fall apart as the show progresses. I know that I’m not directly responsible for this, anymore than I am for any other celebrity gossip that I may consume, but I still feel that I’m a party to it. I also know that they willingly sign up for these shows, understanding what it entails, but I can’t help but think that they all believe they’ll be “different.”
I don’t know anyone whose life could truly survive the microscope that is reality TV. Every white lie, every fight, every slight is magnified for everyone to see. What could be a little easily forgiven spat becomes the story line of an episode, topic of interviews, and rehashed conversation at a “reunion.”
Drama is manufactured to increase viewership.
At least, I hope it’s manufactured drama, because it’s better than believing women that petulant and mean spirited exist in the world. But unlike Grey’s Anatomy’s never ending stream of drama, this drama seems to actually impact women’s real lives. Real relationships are strained, real families separated, real reputations are smeared.
Moreover, some of these women appear to have real emotional or mental problems, engage in seriously self destructive behavior, and need professional help. I feel wrong to watch their mental breakdowns as entertainment. When the women from NYC joke about Sonja or the Beverly Hills cast snickers about Kim, I want to scream, “Be a friend! Get her help!”
I can’t help but wonder – is it too much to ask for them to make a reality show about women who love and support each other? Imagine sitting down in front of your TV for 30 minutes to watch a group of women cheer for each other in success and comfort each other in failure. How empowering and inspiring could that show be? Perhaps I’m just too #blessed, but that’s the way the women in my life behave.