I have an embarrassing admission. Since Hulu made every season of every Housewives franchise available for streaming, I have become horribly addicted to Real Housewives of Orange County. This show makes me feel so dumb for watching it, I would not be surprised if Andy Cohen himself were sneaking into my bedroom every night to pluck brain cells through my nose with tweezers in my sleep since midsummer. On the surface, I can’t figure out what I like about it. Certainly nothing about the lives of the women on the show is like my own. I don’t live in a giant, new construction in a gated community in Orange County. I don’t walk around in public in high-end, designer clothes and full makeup. I have never had my nose, my boobs, or my face “done.” I don’t drive a Mercedes or a Hummer. And I don’t drink Chardonnay with every meal. Maybe it doesn’t matter that I can’t relate to their lives in any meaningful or shallow way, because I am completely obsessed with it
I like quality, Emmy-worthy TV. Breaking Bad. Mad Men. The Daily Show. Modern Family. Orange Is the New Black. But I also love a lot of shit. Dancing with the Stars. Survivor. Downtown Abbey (sorry, but it’s so bad now!). And yes, Real Housewives of Orange County. The amount of manufactured drama on that show in one season could keep the average soap opera afloat for years. On one episode, the girls all went on a camping trip together. Really, it was glamping with high thread count sheets and bathrooms and kitchens and lots and lots of wine. But, they did have to barbecue their own dinner and dispose of their garbage. Watching Vicki, Heather, and Alexis wave away bugs and complain that they were pissed they couldn’t just order a pizza did give me a small swell of joy and a sense of superiority. Even I could have dealt with camping better than those high-maintenance bitches. (My husband disagrees about that.)
Crap entertainment has always been around. During the Renaissance, a popular form of entertainment was what was called “bear baiting,” where dogs fought bears chained to a post. The dogs were trained to attack the bear’s throat, while the bear could take potentially lethal swipes at the dogs with his paws. This is what passed as entertainment for the aristocratic class. Commoners had Shakespeare, the rich had bear baiting. In fact, Elizabeth I loved bear baiting so much, she’d watch it for hours at a time. She was binge-watching. Comparatively, this puts Real Housewives in an entirely new perspective. Obvious parallels aside, at least the ladies are only trying to cut each other down with insults and gossip, not their fangs and nails. But if I have some time to kill, I can settle in sometimes and watch three episodes in one sitting. I don’t feel very proud of myself after, but at least now I can think, if bear baiting is good enough for the Queen of England, RHOC is good enough for me.