I’ve been thinking a lot about what draws me to target-female TV, especially shows on Bravo. I think I’ve narrowed it down to this little nugget:
Bravo’s created a brand for self-reflexive women and gays that has allowed us to be collectively outraged by and critical of the materialism and stereotype-driven drama depicted in The Real Housewives, The Rachel Zoe Project and/or Pregnant in Heels, yet remain enamored enough with the women’s lives to tune in regularly. This dynamic reaffirms my perceived power over the media while simultaneously promoting female competition, criticism and ridicule as the ultimate privilege.
I’ve also noticed that Bravo consistently centers conflict around women struggling with “having it all”. Bravolebrities like Rachel Zoe & Bethenny negotiate power, control, love, respect, work and family all while giving us, the target audience, contradictory answers about how to actually achieve this ourselves. Rachel Zoe’s pregnancy after an entire season of telling her husband she’d rather focus on her business comes to mind as a memorable example. One could assume that these contradictions keep us insecure enough to buy the products advertised. And this is how Bravo’s content has come to represent and reiterate the ultimate female juggle: you can be or do anything you want, as long as you look hot doing it and don’t ask for too much.
Want to do what you want and not conform to societal standards of femininity? Want to see women negotiate the juggle without becoming a neurotic crazy person? I’ve filed those under asking too much… from an ad driven TV network that is. I switched the channel to 30 Rock then to Mad Men on demand thinking millions of college educated viewers can’t be wrong. In the end I settled for dialog that broached these subjects in a smart, substantive manner only to back peddled and scurry away at the punchline or conclusion to a product placement-defined plot device. Typical.