Is there more to the housewives than what immediately meets the eye?
WORDS || Joanna Marciniak
For some, last year represented an entire summer of commercial teasing and elongated suspense for the premiere season of The Real Housewives of Melbourne. Inspired by the American ‘Real Housewives’ television shows, the first Australian version was clearly a massive success with the return of season two in February 2015.
This time around, the ever so ‘busy’, list-making, Gina-hating, Andrea Moss has now been replaced with two new women; Gamble Breaux and Pettifleur Berenger – and yes, those are their real names. The sneak peak of season two revealed Gamble’s main concern of coming onto the show was whether she had ‘a big enough wardrobe’, whilst in the first season, Janet announced that she never washes her hair, electing instead to visit the hairdresser every time. Even more bizarre is Janet’s statement that she doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t undergone a regular Botox procedure. As Lydia puts it, ‘Wow’.
It’s examples like these that make you wonder just how ‘real’ these housewives are? Their lives may be a reality to them; however their standard of living is not on par with the average Australian.
I’m not suggesting the producers intend to create the illusion of reality. Indeed they do not represent the majority of Australian women. But I suppose the interface I want to interrogate are the more disguised elements of the show. Why, for instance, do I find myself sedated on the couch, eyes glued to the screen, watching the show ritually? And furthermore, why do people secretly – or openly, in some cases – dream to one day live a lifestyle equal in lavishness.
According to the latest data by the ABS, the average full-time working Australian earns $1,476.30/week. With income figures of that calibre, it would be quite difficult to attend regular Botox appointments, hit up your hairdresser three to four times a week, afford luxury getaways, nannies for your children, and a chef to prepare gourmet meals. So how can we get this all-wrong and call this television program ‘real’?
Well, Foxtel has recently announced The Real Housewives of Melbourne as the highest rating reality production EVER and the second biggest local series (just behind SoHo’s Wentworth).
*Lydia voice* ‘Wow’.
Although many critics would argue this type of program is rubbish and as far away from reality as possible – sometimes, it definitely is – I strongly believe that there are also positives to this style of television. For example, the choice of women is very interesting in the sense that they all are strong, independent, and clearly successful. I see role models to the younger generation.
When thinking in these terms, the first housewife that comes to mind is Chyka. She co-owns The Big Group (one of Melbourne’s biggest catering and event companies), The Design Depot (hiring company) and Capital Kitchen (retail) with her hubbie, Bruce. At the same time, although she’s continuously labelled as a ‘drag queen’, Gina is in fact a practising criminal barrister, while Pettifleur is a very successful property developer. At the end of the day, aren’t we all taught not to judge a book by its cover?
I appreciate where the critics are coming from, but sometimes we simply need to look at both sides. (Most) of these women worked hard to achieve their wealth. So instead of rolling our eyes, we should be encouraging women to get out and stand up on their own two feet, follow their dreams, and become barristers like Gina, create their own brand like Jackie, or found a company like Chyka.
On the other hand, the men on the show need a good shake back to reality, and by this, I’m referring to Gamble’s recent engagement to her partner. I mean, what kind of a man in today’s world proposes without the ring? It’s not that he can’t afford one either! Or maybe that’s what you get for meeting your future husband on e-Harmony?
The proposal was revealed in the second episode, which was followed by a scene of slight embarrassment from Gamble when she hosted her party and was unsure whether to announce her engagement pointing out that there was no ring. And my God did he take a risk deciding to propose on national television. It reminds me of a story from my work when one of the managers decided to propose to his girlfriend over the P.A at a Coles supermarket and getting rejected! How embarrassing!
At the end of the day, we need to realise what this show is really about. It obviously doesn’t focus on average Australian women, because let’s face it; it would be a bit boring if it did. It focuses on a minority of real women who have come far in their lives and built empires from hard work. I believe this isn’t an area that is recognised and celebrated as often as it should be and living in 2015 we need to acknowledge that women can make it as far if not further in the success compartment as men. After all, this world needs more women to “Shine, shine shine!”