The Real Housewives: Innocent Indulgence or Harmful Addiction?


Are the Real Housewives a guilty treat for the nation’s disenchanted, unhappily married women or are they selling lies to a nation of gullible viewers?

“These shows are irresistible,” says Judy Joseph Hamlin, author of the new book “From Riches to Happiness.” “People tune in to them faithfully every week. But why?”

The Real Housewives TV series—now set in Orange County, Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, and Beverly Hills—is a crowd-pleaser complete with nipped, tucked, and injected glamazons in the latest fashions. But many critics wonder just how real they are.

“These women present a mythical world—a scripted lifestyle—that they and the producers of the shows want you to think is real,” says Ms. Hamlin. “I can tell you, the true life of an Orange County housewife is just not that glamorous. It’s not all fabulous parties and endless shopping sprees. They might have money, but it doesn’t mean they’re happy.”

Still, these shows are fantasy fodder for harried housewives who want to believe there’s something better than what they know. For sixty minutes each week, they can tune in and see husbands earning big bucks, paying for everything from jewelry to plastic surgery and doting on their beautiful, seemingly ageless wives.

“What they don’t see is the masquerade behind it all,” says Ms. Hamlin. “Viewers never witness the marriages gone sour, the abuse, the fights for custody of the children, the financial problems, and all the other real-life situations that these women undoubtedly face. All they see are the glitz and the glamour, much of which is fake.”

Ms. Hamlin believes that women watch the Real Housewives because they:
• Seek escapism from their everyday problems
• Subscribe to a counterproductive “keeping up with the Joneses” mindset
• Are dissatisfied with their own social standings
• Admire the shows’ stars, leading them to try to live beyond their means
• Believe the shows portray how “the other half” lives
• Like drama

“I find these shows reaffirm that money cannot buy happiness,” says Ms. Hamlin.

Judy Joseph Hamlin, a former Orange County housewife, earned a master’s degree in special education. She is a teacher in Newport Beach, California. This is her first book.

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