Our IWF home page regular Cathy Seipp never disappoints, and her take this week on Desperate Housewives, ABC’s runaway Sunday night hit, is no exception. (I’m fascinated by “Desperate Housewives” myself, and The Other Charlotte and I may begin to blog weekly on it, as we did with “The Apprentice” until it went into its lackluster second season and we got bored.)
Cathy admits with sorrow that she hates “Desperate Housewives” and that she hates to hate it because it’s got a great title, “subtly evoking the world of cheesy retro porn,” and it’s one of the few women’s shows on television that a sizable number of men also watch. But the problem, writes Cathy, is that the show “continues a long and irritating feminist tradition of celebrating domestic female incompetence.” As Cathy points out:
“The lead is Teri Hatcher’s Susan, a single mom/recent divorcee so helpless around the house that in some 20 years of marriage she’s never managed to cook anything but inedible macaroni and cheese. She’s also a giant klutz, constantly falling down or accidentally setting the neighbor’s house on fire. How we’re supposed to see Susan: Spunky and adorable.
“Susan’s polar opposite is Bree (Marcia Cross), a repressed, Martha Stewart clone who’s alienated her now-estranged husband and two demanding teenaged brats by constantly serving them delicious meals and maintaining an immaculate, picture-perfect house and garden. How we’re supposed to see Bree: Controlling and scary.
“The sexiest character is Gabrielle (Eva Longoria), a rich businessman’s bored trophy wife having an affair with her teenaged gardener. Like Bree, Gabrielle is energetic and also quite enterprising — fully capable, when it looks like her husband might fire the gardener for slacking off, of rushing home from a party and secretly mowing the lawn while wearing an evening gown and high heels. How we’re supposed to see Gabrielle: Spoiled and naughty.
“Then there’s pill-popping Lynette (Felicity Huffman), a career-woman-turned-stay-at-home mom of a baby and three horribly behaved small sons. Why Lynette can’t control her boys or hire at least a part-time babysitter is never explained; her sorry situation is presented as no more her fault than the weather. How we’re supposed to see Lynette: Harried and understandably frustrated.”
In other words, says Cathy, despite the domestic-life setting of “Desperate Housewives” is the same old rad-feminist propaganda: housework bad (and mind-numbing), work outside the house good. And what these fictional unhappy hausfraus need, says Cathy, is a dose of the good old-fashioned domestic arts at which their mothers excelled but at which the rad-fems turn their noses up at. Cathy writes:
“I suspect that much of the current malaise depicted so stylishly in ‘Desperate Housewives’ is caused by a loss of ordinary skills for which we can thank the feminist movement. Far too many women now are living with the results of the Sisterhood’s agenda that smart women don’t know how to cook, or sew, or clean, or even type. A corollary is that children are demonically willful creatures who can only be medicated, never disciplined, and giving up your career for them is a recipe for disaster.
“So now we have an exhausted, complaining generation of women who find everything an immense effort because they never learned the basics of getting through the day. It’s ridiculous, for instance, that I — who almost failed Home Ec because I was terrified of the sewing machine bobbin — was the only mom in my daughter’s Girl Scout troop to sew on the patches. Everyone else either used a stapler or made the Girl Scout’s grandmother do it.
“The new Everywoman, in the ‘Desperate Housewives’ view of the world, is hopeless at home. She burns casseroles and lets her kids run wild. It’s a patronizing media message that American women have been hearing for some 30 years now, and I can’t see that it’s done them much good. Maybe if they learned a few simple old-fashioned skills, these housewives wouldn’t be quite so desperate.”