The Gaze: Performing Independence, Career Porn

A few days ago a friend posted a succinct interpretation of the appeal of Entourage, calling it “career porn”.  It got me thinking about why I love The Real Housewives of New Jersey/Atlanta so much.

Of course, some things don’t need to be explained (even less explanation needed around 2:50):

But I figured out that part of the appeal in watching these women is that they are performing a hyper-consumerist version of feminine independence for us through the live-action interpretation of an extended Beyonce video. 

It’s like if the second wave of feminists would have been sponsored by MAC and Channel, they wouldn’t have burnt their bras, they would have just bought prettier ones. These housewives aren’t the timid, bored, mousey marms of the past! They have power! Mind you it is only spending power so, since prom and the wedding day are over, the only way to exhibit any kind of personality or individuality is to create charity events and luncheons that require extensive wardrobe preparation, but they are not to be messed with. At least that is what they love to say.

In fact, that to me is the ultimate appeal of these shows, nearly all of the women at one point talk about how they can go off, or nobody messes with them, or soandso better not f with me.. (no one does this as well as Caroline from RHONJ) and you really never know what they are talking about or why they feel the need to assert their toughness to a bunch of other suburban moms.  Eventually you do get the idea that they feel some kind of phantom threat deep in their souls – possibly that feeling of eternal emptiness one gets when they are performing for everyone but themselves. And we do love to watch misery. (Mad Men coming August 16)

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