Desperate housewives is one of my old time favourite shows. It is an American Television series created by Marc Cherry and produced by ABC Studios and Cherry Productions. I will analyse the traits of gender, race, class or sexuality in the characters of the show. The film was produced in 2004. Television has become a source for individuals to view and form gender roles. What is viewed on the television becomes the social norm which is then mimicked through what they watch. The series uses the opening credits to set broader themes of art-historical images of housewives through the ages, for instance, Lucas Cranach the Elder’s “Adam and Eve” (1526) displaying Adam being crushed by the forbidden fruit (a giant apple). This suggests that men don’t have an important place in women’s lives and that men are not as usual as women.
As the season begins, the character Mary Alice Young is confronted with the possibility that her secret will be revealed. Her inability to cope with such exposure causes her to take her own life. Her unanticipated suicide causes a scandal on Wisteria Lane. Her suicide shocked her close friends and neighbours who thought she was happy and secure. As the show unfolds, she reveals the secrets of the other housewives highlighting their struggle to maintain their perfect family image.
The series can be regarded as drama because of all the deception involved. Countless things that fit this statement are how neighbours attempt to kill one another because of secrets, teen pregnancies trying to be covered up and immoral acts of dishonesty in regards to stealing other housewives men. In a sociological context, the series demonstrates a social world yet is fictional. The setting of the show is based on the street of Wisteria Lane in a fictional American town of Fairview in the Eagle State. It centres on the lives of a group of five main housewives in a suburban neighbourhood but through the eyes of their dead neighbour who committed suicide in the first episode. She became the narrator for every intro and ending for each episode. The main characters are Bree Vande Kamp, Susan Myer, Gabrielle Solis, Edie Britt and Lynette Scavo who are exaggerated depictions of suburban motherhood in the post-feminist age.
Wisteria Lane is a neighbourhood full of drama and twists in stories that makes you want to watch episode after episode. The first scene shows Wisteria Lane, almost as if it has been made computerised, representing busy lifestyles all at once. Nearly every house on Wisteria Lane has a white picket fence surrounding the outside; this is seen as a symbol of the ideal, middle-class suburban lifestyle but is often countered with negative aspects of the seemingly perfect lifestyle it demonstrates. A white fence can enhance a properties appearance by creating a sense of balance and stability but at the same time warning off prying eyes and shameful secrets locked behind the front door.
The show centres on beautiful appearance and social class achievements featuring some of the women being dependent on men for their wealth while others are depicted as their own source of support. The entire cast appears to be wealthy and living a life of luxury as in the first series every family drives a car and owns a house and money is never seen as an issue. This stability is far from reality. This particular lifestyle makes people believe that this is the norm and that they should strive for lavish lifestyles.
The phrase desperate housewife suggests someone who’s unhappy, as in disillusioned, frustrated and disappointed. The life she thought destined for her would make her happy, has not. Something is missing and the housewife believes that when she finds it, she’ll be content.
Desperate Housewives represents that times have not changed dramatically since the nineteenth century as all the men on Wisteria Lane show little emotion, for instance they are the providers for the most part in each relationship.
The definition of ‘‘a housewife is a woman: a housewife does housework.’’ (Oakley, 1974)
This suggests that the man can’t be called a housewife. A man who says he is a housewife is an anomaly.The social stereotype of women is domesticated; a view of women as people is always mixed with a perception of their social difference to men: they are housewives.
In a time when women are supposed to be more empowered and liberated, the show portrays women as more ‘desperate’ than ever though desperate housewives’ and it is just another example of cultural sexism. These old stereotypes of women show a male dominated media forcing old stereotypes of women back into society.
Perhaps Desperate housewives is a male fight against feminism which shows an understanding to why men are content in acknowledging women who can’t cope with having a career and the pressures with being a mother at the same time, which is emphasised via Lynette’s character.
These women love to be involved in the neighbourhood gossip but they also have a strong network of friendships. Each of the characters is close friends with one other and helps each other to get through the hard times in life, with laughter and company when hanging out. Strong relationships with other women tend to make life easier and share an initial bond. This is a classic stereotype that women need to have their friends in order to vent and talk things over with.
Oakley, A. Housewife. Oxford, 2005.
Sennett, R. Flesh and stone, the body of the city in Western civilisation. New York & London: Norton & Company, 1994.