Pop Culture Confessional is a weekly column where our writers can divulge and indulge in their most deeply embarrassing cultural passion — and then tell you why it actually rocks. Everyone has a few dirty little secrets. Only the truth shall set us free.
The career-driven personas of Northwestern students are reflected in the TV shows we watch. It seems that only thought-provoking shows such as House or Lost deserve public viewing parties.
But what are the guilty TV pleasures, only revealed behind closed dorm doors?
For me, instead of learning about cardiac arrhythmias or getting infuriating fits that accompany WTF moments in Lost, I choose to venture beyond the orthodontist-approved white smiles, clean white picket fences in the Stepford Wives-esque neighborhoods and understand how housewives operate — desperate ones, that is.
Desperate Housewives features five housewives who reside in Wisteria Lane: Bree Hodge, Gabrielle Solis, Lynette Scavo, Susan Meyer and Angie Bolen. At a glance, these women seem to have perfected their roles as housewives. But behind these exteriors, viewers discover all their skeletons in closets. These five women also have the roles of business entrepreneurs, teachers and a few are even murderers.
Five years ago, when Desperate Housewives first aired, my mom forced me to watch the pilot with her as part of our “family night activities.” Evidently, it was all the rage amongst her group of housewife friends. In hindsight actually, her social circle bore some resemblance to the show’s characters (hopefully with the drama in check). At age 12, I sneered at the thought that pre-menopausal, aging, botox-injecting housewives would interest me.
Whatever the reasons were, Desperate Housewives clearly reeled me in, hook, line and sinker. My mom tried to stop me from watching the show as she deemed it to be “too steamy” and wrongfully endorsing extra-marital affairs (a la Gabrielle Solis and John the hot gardener) and other immoral acts.
After 130 episodes, or six seasons of faithful viewing, I finally have a justification for this incurable addiction. I like Desperate Housewives because it simulates real life. Sometimes we pretend to be one way on the outside when we are different on the inside. We struggle with our longing to be genuine versus our need to present ourselves as having things together. There is a constant longing to share, but the need to maintain our image usually wins out.
To fit in at college and grasp a sense of identity and belonging, some of us put on accepted covers, presenting ourselves as someone entirely different from the true person we really want to share. And on Wisteria Lane, the facade is that everyone is happy, but the show does not ever pretend that there is a happily ever after.
Wisteria Lane, a Hollywood cutout of a claustrophobic, stylized suburb with perfect lawns and picket fences, should epitomize a happily-ever-after setting. Yet, this perma-sunny prison isolates and magnifies the women’s escalating struggles as housewives, whose struggles and roles in society are overlooked – until now. Bree, for example, is the epitome of the Martha Stewart housewife, yet that image is the only thing she can cling on to, as her real life crumbles apart. In six seasons, she experienced the death of her husband Rex and a failed marriage with Orson.
The show is based on real life situations, including the “touchy” issues that are openly embraced and dealt with in the show: homosexuality, death, cheating, lies, bankruptcy and the like. Although the events are obviously exaggerated, this isn’t your everyday soap opera — it never feels “fake.” It deals with real feelings, addresses issues of the heart and shows the consequences of actions. It doesn’t lie to us and follow the cheesy “everything is okay in the end” storyline. It tears down the facade. Thus, their recognizable pathos triggers our connections and sympathy to the likable housewives.
Of course, reading this much into a TV show can also suck out my last sources of energy, manhandled by Northwestern’s quarter system. After taking a mid-season break, Desperate Housewives will resume Sunday night. I will once again have the option of sitting back and just taking the show at “face value.” I can laugh at Gabrielle’s crass one-liners, Susan’s clumsy antics, Bree’s OCD and the men on Wisteria Lane’s reactions to their perfect wives. No matter how I choose to watch this show, it will certainly leave me desperate for more.