Why So Desperate to Parse Popularity of 'Housewives'?

By Adamson, Rondi | The Christian Science Monitor, February 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Why So Desperate to Parse Popularity of 'Housewives'?


Adamson, Rondi, The Christian Science Monitor


Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a television show is popular because it is good, not because it reflects some great truth.

This is the case with ABC's hit "Desperate Housewives" - in spite of the storm of parsing that the ladies of Wisteria Lane have weathered since last fall. Few television shows have inspired this much criticism and analysis from both the feminists and the family values corners - strange bedfellows. But given that Marc Cherry, the creator of "Desperate Housewives," is a gay Republican - maybe not so strange.

Regardless, the program took home two Golden Globe Awards last month. You have to hand it to main characters Bree, Gabrielle, Lynette, and Susan. Unless you're Jurassic feminist Germaine Greer, who recently asserted in The Guardian that, never mind the "focus on women, our sympathies are instantly enlisted for the men" on the show. Feminism, she adds, has no place in discussions of Wisteria Lane. Misogynists, she concludes, could not have dreamed up worse female characters.

Companies such as Kellogg's and Tyson Foods have pulled their advertising over the show's content, which includes blackmail, adultery, and the occasional murder. Members of Women Influencing the Nation and the American Family Association, among others, have voiced disapproval. What will happen to our sense of right and wrong if we keep watching Martha Stewart-esque Bree strive to make the perfect borscht? And if we like this show, do we even know right from wrong? Both The New York Times and Newsweek have puzzled over its popularity in ... red states! Why would people who care about family values want to watch the desperate and the hot? Are red- staters self-righteous hypocrites?

I find it difficult to believe any of these people are watching the same show that I am. And Ms. Greer's take seems at odds with her legacy. Are we to believe that women are not feminists because they choose to look after their families? …

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