I used to get a certain amount of snarky enjoyment out of the “Real Housewives” franchise. All that fake-y, pretentious social climbing and scheming—modern versions of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair mashed up with Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. But the most recent trainwrecks on the New York and New Jersey franchises have been bad enough that Michelle and I—who consume a prodigious amount of reality TV, often together via gchat—are giving up on the “Real Housewives” franchise. It’s boring except when it’s vicious, and a couple of woman appear to be genuinely mentally ill, which makes us feel icky and voyeuristic. Recently while watching “Real Housewives of NJ”, we both had the same response about twenty minutes into the show: “These people are all horrible assholes. I’m out.” We turned our TVs off. Because, really, if I want to watch horrible delusional assholes, Fox News is on 24-7.
I was starting to wonder if we were the only ones who felt that way, given that Bravo keeps cranking out new “Housewives.” Then I read the review of “The Real Housewives of D.C.” in today’s Washington Post. It’s by Hank Stuever, a fairly recent arrival to the Post’s Style section who’s mostly taken over from the reliably misogynist Tom Shales. I’ve got a Harpy crush on Hank, because he’s brilliant at picking apart all the sexist threads in television that most mainstream critics—especially male critics—either don’t notice or don’t care to discuss (read his review of “Hot in Cleveland” for a prime example). Not only is Hank’s review of the new “Housewives” extremely witty—almost as good as Richard Lawson’s epic “Real Housewives” recaps on Defamer—he accurately calls out nearly everything that’s wrong with the show, concluding that:
…the thrill has waned. The overall effect is one of mutual contempt — the Housewives hate one another, and the women who watch decide which woman they hate the most and which woman they hate the least. Men who like to watch women fight tune in, too, and the circle is thus complete: “The Real Housewives” imparts a sinking feeling that it’s made by and for people who can’t stand women.
The shark, it has been jumped. Time to watch something else.