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Too Real for ‘Reality’?

Posted By Jolyn Rudelson On 08.24.2011 @ 4:29 PM In General | Comments Disabled

There has been so much this past week about the “Real Housewives” franchise.  Since these popular city series have started, there have been complaints that these shows are staged, not possibly showing real life.  “Normal lives” don’t have that much daily drama, confrontation, mean girls ganging up together to pick on the vulnerable, or bickering between family members.  Maybe the fascination with these shows is that it really does show normal life issues, just magnified in a wealthy setting.  They provide the viewer an hour long escape from their own problems by letting them see that money doesn’t solve everything.

I must admit I am one of the million weekly viewers.  For those of us who have always wondered what it would be like to be “the fly on the wall,” this is our guilty pleasure.  I for one watch these groups of women with interest.  What I see are individuals reflecting problems that surround us all.  Some of the women are married in a stable home with well adjusted children, some are in the blended modern family with stepparents, step siblings and the shadow of the ex hovering in the background.  Some are not really housewives at all but single mothers handling the family problems of raising their children of divorce alone. There are also glimpses into unhappy marriages that seem to disintegrate before our eyes.  Certainly once the fancy trappings are removed these families and their problems can look very familiar.

Watching these people deal with real issues has proved very informative. Divorce seems to rear its ugly head over and over.   Paying attention to the effect it has on the children or how the past husbands are referred to, either with respect or diminished by subtle innuendo, provides many lessons to be learned.

One thing I personally miss is that grandmothers and grandfathers seem to be mostly removed from these family scenes.   The ones that have been included, I must admit, look like something that has come from central casting.   However, the hint of the presence of grandmothers seems to be one of the explanations for these wives being able to indulge in those long wine filled luncheons or trips to exotic and glamorous locations.

Since my little town is one of those that have been chosen to have its own set of wives, I have been disturbed by one thing: it doesn’t seem that any of the wives actually live there. I guess driving through each day or doing business their counts.   Over the years my town’s name or zip code being assigned to anything has developed a meaning of its own, no more real than when it had hillbillies attached to it.

One major difference between the lives we watch and the one we live is that in the viewers’ lives there are no storm warnings.  But in the “reality” shows filmed several months ahead of viewing, the news leaks out about what is to come.  The viewer watches intrigued by knowing what the effect of the actions they are seeing on the screen will actually be.  It is almost like the horror of watching the towers of the World Trade Center being struck and falling over and over again.

Now like watching a train speeding toward the inevitable wreck, we are being asked to deal with the reality of life. Tragedy is all too real.  Many of us have experienced it personally, whether intentionally or accidentally inflicted.  So if the real in “reality” has become a little too real, dealing with the tableau of life that is playing out before us might be an important lesson to be learned. Condolences to us all!

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