The latest season of The Real Housewives of New Jersey is drawing to a close and I have to admit that I watch the show with regularity and in horrified fascination. I am not a great housewife myself so watching these ladies’ antics is fairly reassuring to my less than fabulous house-frau-ness.
Last year was pure insanity with the table-flipping Theresa seen all over the net and re-run on every cable outlet. I really couldn’t figure out the vendetta between the Manzo’s and Danielle Staub – who just might be the most hated woman in America. After last year I was sure that Danielle would figure out a way to spin that insanity in her favor. I have to admit to being greatly disappointed that she didn’t manage to fare any better over the course of this season as we all watched her being terrorized and bullied by Theresa, yet again. Adding insult to Danielle’s injury, having Caroline Manzo demand that Danielle forgive and forget all Manzo-transgressions after it was she who spent all last season dredging up Danielle’s secrets without any forgiveness or forgetting on her part was almost too much.
Too many of us tuned in every week to watch Danielle being bullied. Most of the world cheered on Theresa & the Manzo’s while they spewed vitriolic hatred in Danielle’s direction almost at every turn, even dredging up Danielle’s misdeeds in the wake of their own uncivilized antics… drunk driving Joe , bankruptcy court Giudice’s? And the whole world seems hell-bent on Danielle-bashing, even Entertainment Weekly got in on the game this week when they announced Danielle’s firing from the show and stated, “[i]magine a world without Danielle’s delusional stage mothering and paranoid fantasies of victimhood” completely ignoring the culpability of the the Manzo and Giudice families.
I find this sentiment to be incredibly disturbing. Danielle is not a likable person to be sure, but delusional and paranoid she is not. Danielle’s daughter has actually continued her modelling endeavors even after Bravo’s efforts to get her jobs for the show’s publicity had wained. Theresa’s reign of terror finally culminated in Danielle being embarrassingly chased through a country club only to have her weave pulled out by her ex-besty – Jacqueline’s daughter. So imagine this entire situation from Danielle’s perspective. She shows up to “work on the show” and has tables overturned on her, explicatives screamed in her face, her ugly past (that she has tried so hard to leave in the past) dredged up for all to see, and her expensive hair ruined by Theresa and the Manzo family.
Danielle Staub would be an idiot to not be paranoid about these kind of people.
If you cannot call her paranoid, I do think we can safely say that Danielle is needy and attention-seeking. Surely she has placed herself in the company of all kinds of people who will victimize her, including this little show called the Real Housewives. Even as the other Housewives acknowledge their own ugly behavior, they blame Danielle for it. Caroline admits of her ill-fated showdown with Danielle, that she is “… not proud of the names I called her, but that’s my truth” and that such conduct, “makes absolutely no sense…” Or how Theresa can look right into the television camera without an ounce of shame and declare herself “a classy woman” after she has acted with such violent contempt. The Real Housewives of New Jersey will become pointless without Danielle to exclude or otherwise bully.
People like Danielle Staub are not made on an island unto themselves. And while the less interesting subplot of this last season regarding Danielle’s biological mother and her adoptive family did not render titillating drama, there was lots to be gleaned about how Danielle has changed from the “prostitution-whore” she is said to have once been. There were some nice moments watching Danielle encourage and mother her children to be the good kids they seem to be – especially when compared to Theresa’s ill-behaved, over-dressed brats. Danielle being Danielle without all the lambasting hatred was a stark contrast with Caroline’s admittedly “cruel and childish” remarks to and about her.
To be sure, none of these women will ever be friends. Whatever drew them to want to be on a show like this is far beyond my pedestrian grasp of pop-psychology. However, I do see the whole lot of Housewives – whether from DC, Atlanta, Orange County, New York or New Jersey – to all suffer from varying degrees of Danielle’s needy and attention-seeking behavior. And maybe that’s what is so attractive about these shows.
At a time when many households are being disrupted by difficult economic hardships, watching a bunch of newly rich (rather than the inherited wealth variety who would never air their dirty laundry for all the world to see) act out their angst about house-frau-ness is quite a change of pace from our everyday kinda struggles. On teevee these women can shed the invisible housewifey status that overwhelms them in the real world while they make charities function and successful dinner parties happen. They are the spoiled, over-the-top, caked-make-up versions of ourselves. We are the same in our insecure Americanized access to too much credit and not enough manners.
The best lesson we might learn from watching these shows is really how not to behave with one another. Since American access to credit has all but dried up and jobs are on the chopping block, this Desperate Housewives model of ethical behavior cannot stand. In these tight financial straits, we are going to be spending a lot of social time with family and friends. I urge everyone to avoid Theresa’s table manners and skip on Caroline Manzo’s glib “it is what it is” attitude. Very few of us would want Danielle to bring her gun-toting Hell’s Angels posse to our house.