The Real Housewives of …

Real? Real? Real housewives? What does this word “real” mean? Why aren’t those shows simply called The Housewives of… Why the need to add the word real? I suspect, and that’s all it is a suspicion, the word real is in the title to create a sense of authenticity. These are genuine housewives we are being told, whatever that means. But that makes me ask, who is a fake housewife? Would those be the women on Desperate Housewives? Are they fake because they are actresses playing housewives? Ah, life’s confusions.

Thinking things out, I believe the word real is meant to go beyond suggesting the opposite of fake. I think the titles of those “housewives” shows have the word real in them to create a sense of relatability. Maybe, real is meant to mean typical, though by all indications the women on those shows are not typical housewives.

If we renamed a show The Typical Housewives of … and chose settings more like where most folks in America live, what would that show look like? Going by statistics, might we get a show with six women, half of whom traveled to work by bus? Because, yes, plenty of housewives in the U.S. work. And yes, plenty take public transportation.

Can a woman who works full time be considered a housewife? Ask enough women, and I think you’ll get the answer that they are housewives and working women at the same time. And the fact that these women have jobs does not relieve them from cleaning the house, helping their kids with homework, picking up those same kids up from activities, etc.

What might a typical housewife program show? It could follow a tired looking, middle-aged woman, 40 lbs. overweight while she boards a bus and heads to a job she hates. Then after the excitement of dealing with an idiot boss, we could follow her home and watch as she scours a toilet, wielding toilet brush with gusto.

We could see her hurriedly prepare dinner, deal with screaming kids and then later that night balance the family checkbook while her equally overweight hubby lies passed out in his easy chair, snoring like a buzz saw. What viewership might we hope for this real reality?

The plight of housewives, househusbands, husbands, wives and people in general in middle class America is filled with lots of work, lots of chores and little personal time. How many people have time for drama? Perhaps, the drama is suspended because people are too darn busy working. Free time, which is hard to come by, is a time to rest and recuperate.

And no, not everyone is overweight or working in an unhappy situation. But, that does represent a big slice of reality, doesn’t it?

But, do we really want to watch real anything? Do we care about reality? Or, do we want reality programming that has little to do with reality? Is reality television like professional wrestling? I mean professional wrestling has scripted outcomes, but you wouldn’t want to call it fake to the face of some of the wrestlers. There’s nothing fake about getting belted around in the ring. So too, it’s not “real” in the sense that there is choreography and predetermined outcomes.

Being an actual housewife is tough stuff, especially in a day and age when many women who do the job of a housewife also hold down full time jobs outside of the home. I suppose lots of folks confronted by that grind day in and day out may not want to see it on the small screen, at least the way they live it.

Are the housewives in these shows like professional wrestlers? And if they are, how typical of most housewives are they. Then again, “typical” is not in the title of those shows.

Image: digitalart /

You can reach me with your questions and comments at Like today’s column? Check back frequently.