Why Are Viewers Obsessed With ‘The Real Housewives?’
The Real Housewives of Orange County started as a Bravo experiment that tapped into an untouched nerve in society. The ABC series, Desperate Housewives was ruling the ratings world. So in 2006, Bravo wondered what would happen if viewers took a peek behind the gates of some actual wealthy women who lived in a bedroom community in Orange County, California.
The rest is history as 12 years later, the franchise is stronger than ever. The original The Real Housewives of Orange County prompted spinoff shows, with each new edition drawing salivating viewers to find out how the other half lives.
So why does The Real Housewives franchise have such staying power? And why can’t we stop watching, even after more than a decade? Psychologist Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. explains what draws us in season after season.
We get an inside peek of celebrity
Especially in a news cycle of divisive rhetoric, who wouldn’t want to escape to Lisa Vanderpump’s closet? “Being a part of this privileged altered universe is much more fun than our daily routine of bills and laundry,” Greenberg wrote in an article for Psychology Today.
Plus you never know who might drop in on a glamorous housewife either. For instance, “The Beverly Hills Housewives are just a heartbeat or two away from legendary Hollywood royalty,” Greenberg wrote. “Kyle’s good friend Marissa Zanuck, is the cool daughter in law of the legendary Richard Zanuck, producer of “Jaws.” whose father, Daryl Zanuck built 20th Century Fox studio. And Kyle and Kim Richards’ other sister just happens to be Kathy Hilton, husband of Rick, the owner of the Hilton hotel chain, and mom of the infamous Paris Hilton – known for her blonde hair, long legs, sex tape, and ‘blinged out’ miniature dogs.”
And all their glitz and glamour
Many of the ladies take the camera crew to not only their plastic surgery appointments (Vicki and Shannon). But also their lavish vacations and parties. It is fun to see a catered, extravagant “house party” at Erika Girardi’s. Especially after throwing your own backyard bash sans 10 bartenders and a DJ. “What would our worlds be like without limits – if we had endless supplies of money, assistants, good taste, and time – and a posse of glamorous girlfriends to share it with?” Greenberg wonders.
She adds the reality of maintaining a perfect image with cameras rolling is both fascinating and tragic. As viewers ride along while cast members blow ridiculous sums of cash on cosmetic surgeries, parties, and shopping.
But we’re really here for this reason
The Real Housewives is like being on the inside of a gripping piece of gossip. “Watching The Real Housewives is like reading the tabloids – the really juicy, sordid magazines we’re too embarrassed to buy at the supermarket checkout stand,” Greenberg pens. “Each season audience members vicariously enjoy the shock and thrill of outrageous social boundary violation.”
Viewers come for the scandal and sex, but also to watch clashes and redemption. “The continual opportunity for redemption is another uplifting theme,” Greenberg writes. “We humans love nothing better than welcoming a reformed sinner back into the fold – be it Kim Richards in recovery or Brandi Glanville apologizing for yet another uncensored, offensive outburst.”
Plus don’t forget about the hierarchy shifts. Each franchise has a queen bee, but that social shift moves from season to season. Vicki Gunvalson from The Real Housewives of Orange County touts being the OG. But was shunned by the other ladies in recent seasons for dating a shady character.
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