About BMC 277: Media and Diversity

This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

“Desperate Housewives:” Ideology of women

Kristen Fisher

“Desperate Housewives” is in the middle of their sixth season and, although the story lines always seem relatively similar from one that has already occurred, viewers are still drawn back with each new season. While the show may be filled with all kinds of “juicy” drama, the show is also filled with many different values that are often taken for granted. In particular, the show’s ideology centers on the connection between happiness and beauty. In fact, as presented in the show, these two are interchangeable. The television series often promotes the ideal that to be happy one has to be beautiful and to be beautiful one has to be skinny and a sort of femme fatale. The following is a clip from season that displays these ideals that skinny is beautiful.

In this clip, the joke centers on the assumption of female sexuality; women with big breasts is sexy, and pregnant women are not because they‘ve been “taken” by another man and are off limits. Gabby is not aware that Lynette is actually pregnant, so while she thinks she can make her “beautiful” again by helping her work out, there is actually nothing Gabby can do. No one on Wisteria lane knows that Lynette is pregnant and the men continue to comment on how “hot” she is lately because her breasts have grown in size. The irony here is that the men would no longer think she was “hot” if they knew her breasts were larger due to the fact that she is pregnant.

The following promo for season two of “Desperate Housewives” also displays these ideals that we tend to take for granted. Each video displays the ideal that women need to take care of their bodies so they can use them to get what they want. The sort of skinny femme fatale is beautiful, and if a woman is beautiful then she will be happy and successful. This show invites women to believe that beauty is only on the outside and forget about the fact that there is more to beauty than just looks.

The apples throughout the promo represent the story of Adam and Eve, and are a clear indication that this commercial is about temptation. These are all dangerously seductive women who are strong, successful, and beautiful. However, what this show invites viewers to believe is that they are successful simply because of the fact that they are beautiful. The women in this commercial do not say a word, yet their nonverbal body language speaks it all for them. The men in this promo seem to be dominated by the women, and all of the movements made by the women are very slow and again seemingly dangerous and seductive. Women’s power is, ultimately, in their bodies and not in what they have to say. This again enforces the idea that it should not matter what is in their minds because their bodies should be doing all of the talking for these women. Lynette may be the smartest, most successful woman on Wisteria Lane, but Gabby tries to nonchalantly tell her that she needs to keep her appearance if she wants to keep her success. The second video also portrays these ideas that women don’t need words, just their bodies to get them where and what they want.

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