Free-Floating Hostility

Monday, November 28, 2005

Biting Social Commentary, One Year Late

In his columns, Frank Rich (No links here, Times-Select fuckers) often uses the television show Desperate Housewives as shorthand for red-state hypocrisy. The argument is that while red-staters are claiming to vote their morals and ethics, they are tuning in weekly to watch naked Teri Hatcher lie in the bushes or Marcia Cross make the bed instead of take her dying husband to the Emergency Room. Their Sunday night TV has little to do with their Sunday morning church services. We have recently finished watching the first season on DVD, and I feel a duty to respond, even though this whole thing happened last fall and the show is, on many scorecards, starting to decline.

The problem with using something real as shorthand is that its symbolic meaning is usually divorced from the reality of the situation. That's true here. The protagonists are women with families and husbands who are trying to hold things together in their lives. Sure, the issues they face are a little more out there than the ones the average person is dealing with, but the underlying values of the show affirm (while also skewering) American middle-class ideals. Social critics are paid to jump up and down pointing out hypocrisy whenever they see it. That's their job. But most people don't think that way unless they're trying to win an argument. Sure Eva Longoria is fucking the gardener and Felicity Huffman gets addicted to her kid's ADHD medication. But those characters are readily identifiable as people who just trying to get through the day. And as long as they are decent to their neighbors and supportive of their kids, they're not bad people at the core.

Also, the show's popularity is a rare testament to American taste. The show's first season has some of the sharpest television writing I've seen in years. The cast is strong, the stories are fast moving, though not always coherent. It's just an entertaining hour of television, especially if you are watching it without commercials.

I can't wait for the second-season DVD.

0 Comment(s):

Post a Comment