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BravoFan, Mental Health Professional

Perhaps you’ve noticed from reading this blog or following my twitter: I quite enjoy the Real Housewives of Affluent Cities franchise. While most reality TV shows keep their contestants “tired, tipsy and pushed to the brink”, working under sweatshop conditions with little sleep or outside communication a la Project Runway, the Real Housewives characters seem to live their lives as ‘normal’. I often witness these “housewives” work, or talk about working, despite the series title which is antithetical to the ethos many of the women of wealth live by. I watch them walk around their own homes, bicker with their husbands and try to prepare lunch for their kids.  It’s Free-Range Reality TV…or at least it’s Cage-Free.

I’m fully aware that the series uses cat fights as viewership draws, a tactic that perpetuates that sick cultural norm of gender essentialism where women are inherently catty bitches out to get one another, to never be trusted and should be kept at arms length. However, this season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills seemed different. The women talked openly about being there for each other, held hands, confided in each other and, despite their enhanced facial and body features, frequently opened up about wanting genuine companionship both with each other and their male partners.

The two ‘cat fights’ that fueled the season were based on intentions of ‘clearing the air’ and ‘ending the drama’, an intention that seem to set the psychoanalytic ball rolling across the Bravo-sphere. It was quite impressive to witness so many women actively dissecting the inner workings of female relationship, diagnosing mental illnesses and referring to on-camera interviews as if they on-the-couch talk-therapy sessions.

From the Housewife blog for Adrienne Maloof:

From the Gossip Blogs:

Andy Cohen, the resident (gay) male gave his diagnosis (@ 0:55 mark):

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…Bravo fueled the mental health madness with their own tongue and cheek montage called “Crazy Kyle’s Neurosis”:

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While Maloof, the ‘wealthiest’ Housewife (she’s actually a cut-throat business woman who believes all women should learn self-defense, both mental and physical) was often over looked. Perhaps it was psychosomatic but I made my own remix/super cut for Adrienne who, throughout the season, was the peacemaker and psychotherapist of the group, and thus, the most relatible and adored Beverly Hills “housewife.”

Finally, is all this reality TV watching beneficial to my own mental health? In someways, I think it’s definitely worthy of analysis. At least Tina Fey thought so and therefor, I believed it because it’s WAY easier than NOT watching reality TV.

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But seriously. It’s oh-so easy to feel beaten down by network driven reality-TV and market-driven popular culture. It’s downright depressing at times and watching some of these clips back, I was sort of ashamed that I had taken such delight in viewing them the night before. The critical component of media literacy, feminism and even just judgment has a place in this discussion but I believe it’s one piece of a larger puzzle. If we believe in the cultural values that reality TV sells us (don’t be friends with women, women can’t be trusted, all your girlfriends are just jealous of you) we miss out on having those important relationships with women that are both political and social. We need other women to organize for better jobs, higher pay and more resources. We also need female friends to help us survive and share commonalities to ensure us that we’re not alone (or crazy).

We also need female friends for watching things like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I could critique Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and its effects on women and their sense of self and their wallets until the cows come home. But no doubt someone has done that and I’m totally in support of that critique. But that critique is only one part of the ongoing process of consuming, critiquing, and creating. The key is turning the anger and resentment into something practical and simultaneously gaining subjectivity as an author of something. I’m still trying to figure it all out but in the meantime, I really don’t want to spend my time hating myself for enjoying reality TV.


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3 thoughts on “BravoFan, Mental Health Professional

  1. Pingback: Women at the center: a valentine to The Good Wife and a challenge for Mad Men « ladyelocutionist

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