Desperate Housewives is an American television series created by Marc Cherry and produced by ABC studios. The series’ pilot episode aired on 3rd October, 2004 and has been on for eight seasons now. It focuses on a group of suburban housewives and their stories told through the eyes of their deceased neighbor, Mary Alice. It is aired on ABC, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Seven Networks. It features a cast of Teri Thatcher (as Susan Meyer), Eva Longoria (as Gabrielle Solis), Marcia Cross (as Bree Van De Camp), Felicity Huffman (Linnet Scavo) and Brenda Strong(as Mary Alice). The series shows the lives of these women as they go through domestic struggles and relationships. In order to get a clear picture, I have watched 3 episodes from the eighth season namely “Secrets that I never want to know”, “Making the connection” and “Watch while I revise the world”. There was a murder at the end of season seven in Gabriella and Carlos Solis’s house, and all the wives witnessed it, and there are some behaviors noted here that are frequently repeated in the TV series.
Lying and conspiracy is common with all the residents of Wisteria Lane, and when Carlos kills Gabrielle’s Step father, the other three wives become involved in the cover up. They hide the body in the chest a few minutes after the murder and continue with the party. After the party, they bury the body in the woods and vow to keep the secret, and not involve the police. This is not the first time there is an occurrence that the desperate house wives conspire, and lie about something. Linnet Scavo is separated from her husband, and they decide not to tell the children. They pretend to be living together for a while. Since the wives were sworn to secrecy they cannot tell their respective spouses about that incident, and guilt starts to consume and control their behavior.
Deep friendships are characterized in this programme, which is what holds the housewives together. After this murder, their friendship is tested to the limits as they all try to deal with their guilt in different ways. This friendship is what brings the drama and happiness into these women lives, and despite everything they always find time to bond over a drink or play some poker.
From the first season to the eight (which is the final season), the audiences have been captivated by the lives and families of the housewives in Wisteria lane. It is common to find people identify with different characters in the episode. Gabrielle Solis is the glamorous, former supermodel turned housewife, who struggles to balance having a happy family, and living life as she did before marrying Carlos. Linnet Scavo is a former business woman turned stay at home mum with her children. Women can identify with the struggles she goes through of raising children, keeping a home and dealing with relationships. Apart from identifying with various characters in the series, people tend to accept and incorporate some views portrayed in the show, for example, the gay couple that lives in Wisteria lane. From their portrayal as a sweet, adorable couple, this influences the audiences’ perception about gay people. Another effect this may have on the audience, especially the younger generation, is the fact that infidelity and other evils in the society are treated as comedy and entertainment. The young people are easily influenced by what they watch in the media.
The several types of stereotypes that are present in this TV series are racial, sexual and gender (Cerulo & Ruane, 114). Racial stereotypes is portrayed when the only African American family moves to Wisteria lane, the male are predominantly violent with a tendency to commit a crime. The Apple gates family had a violent mentally challenged son, and another who was a rapist and a murderer. Gabrielle had a Chinese maid, who was their surrogate at some point. The fact that some races can only be cast for a certain role is racial stereotyping.
The other stereotyping is sex, that it is the role of women to stay home, and be house wives. Every time a character in desperate housewives tries to deviate from the role of a house wives, it only works out for a while and then they are back to being housewives. Bree started her own catering company which she, eventually, gave when she was blackmailed. Lynnette was an executive in advertising and, throughout the series; she tries to go back to work but some thing always gets her out of employment.
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Another stereotype of women is that they can only be perfect mothers (Lynette Scavo), House keepers (Bree Van De Kamp), Trophy Wives (Gabriella Solis) and sex objects (Eddie Britt). The women in this lane are portrayed as people that need to be looked after by men as one feminist write said that women know that they are failures if they are not beautiful despite their other achievements (Gauntlett, 77). The stereotype of a perfect family and marriage is what all the women in Wisteria lane strive to have. However, in essence there is no perfect marriage; this can be seen through one of the characters -Susan Meyer. Her desperate search for love led her to find her perfect man who marries her, but her perfect marriage does not last long.
The target market for desperate house wives is working women and wives aged between 18and 49 who have little leisure time (Outdoor Advertising Association of America, 1). Before it was launched, the advertising campaign was intensive, broad reaching and the most notable was the use of laundry bags with the casts’ faces and a tagline “Everybody has a little dirty laundry”.