I've recently become really addicted to the Real Housewives franchise. If you aren't familiar, the popular Bravo series covers groups of elite (or self proclaimed elite) socialites and women living in a variety of cities. Most of the cities, like New York City, Beverly Hills, Orange County, and Atlanta, are large and commonly associated with wealth. I guess people really like to watch shows about rich people (hey, if you can't achieve the American dream, the next best thing is to watch people that have, right?). I started watching, though, because the latest addition to the the Real Housewives franchise is Potomac, MD, which borders my hometown. Many of my friends and classmates were from Potomac. My dog used to go to a doggie hotel in Potomac.
When I first heard that Bravo was producing this branch of the Real Housewives, I was shocked. First of all, no one ever makes a tv show about Maryland, yet alone PEOPLE in Maryland. Our county/area is known for its highly educated population, good schools, wealthy suburbs, proximity to DC, and general first world problems, but we aren't really known for anything special. The people tend to be rather bland.
The other Real Housewives shows tend to be very dramatic -- I remember seeing one particular episode of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, where one upset cast member overturned a dining table at another woman. Could Maryland really pack the heat?
Honestly, no. I may be biased, but the Real Housewives of Potomac really isn't that interesting. The drama is (of course) very petty, and while Bravo casted a series of interesting women, knowing the area they come from, they are not really representative of the typical Potomac population. Many people know that "reality" television is contrived and self-constructed to portray a particular image, but this show really conveyed to me how misleading it can be. All of the women in the show are African American, or mixed race. In reality, Potomac is one of the whitest areas of Maryland. Less than 3 percent of the population is African American. The ladies portray themselves as the elite members of the stuffy Potomac social circle, but in reality, very few people in Potomac act like that. The Washington Post recently wrote an article about the "fakeness" of the show and its inaccuracies. The show prides itself on showcasing areas of Potomac, but in reality, most of the eateries and places the ladies frequent are in Bethesda, MD, or in ritzy parts of NW Washington D.C.
I may be overly nitpicky and critical of the show because I'm from there, but in picking it apart, I made a few realizations about reality television. The first is explained above; all "reality" in these shows are self constructed. We see exactly what the producers want us to see.
The second is that the prestige of celebrities or "celebrities" is declining. With the emergence of shows like the Real Housewives, anyone who is rich or claims they run in important social circles can, feasibly, become a star and get on tv. These women are on primetime television...and they are mentioned in tabloids and gossip websites just as often as Leonardo DiCaprio and Beyonce. The idea of being a celebrity is obviously still desirable (why else would these women want to become famous?), but the novelty of being an actual celebrity (i.e. A-list talent) is diminishing. I wonder how this will continue to impact star and celebrity culture in the next decade or so. Reality television is here to stay, so will actual celebrities become less special with the influx of "now-famous average Joes"?