Thursday, December 08, 2005

Soap Opera Meta-Analyses



Monday night we got around to watching Sunday's episode of Desperate Housewives that was stored on our TiVo. We hadn't seen last season and had no idea that Bree's strapping young buck of a son was a member of the Empire. The scene with his new beau in his bedroom playing X-Box passing the anticipated moments before homo coitus was hot. I don't care if the characters are underage it was hot (I hope the actors are at least 18 otherwise I'll feel dirty). Then the scene changed focus and we learn that Bree's son is out for revenge on his mom. We got to thinking and we arrived at a conclusion.

All of the characters on Desperate Housewives are flawed but it seems that some are more flawed than others. The white heterosexual characters do terrible things to people. Bree didn't call an ambulance when George Wilson overdosed on pills and thus let him die because she knew he killed her husband. Susan sent that kid to Utah in order to protect her daughter even though he was the biological child whom her boyfriend was seeking to reconnect with. Lynette is always manipulating people at her place of work to the advantage of her and her family. Yes the white heteros on Wisteria lane all have good reasons for doing bad things. But what about the other characters?

Lets take a look at the sultry Gabrielle and her husband Carlos. Together they are portrayed as selfish materialistic social climbing latinos. They care nothing for people or families but only for things to fill their empty lives. Gabby forged a paternity test to prove that the illigitimate child she was carrying was her husbands so that she wouldn't get divorced and left with nothing but her young gardener boy toy. Message: Latinos want nothing but money and they'll use it for depraved purposes.

Then you have the newest additions to Wisteria lane, a single black mother and her son, Betty (played by one of my favorite moral stoplight actresses Alfre Woodard) and Josh. They're secret is that they hide Caleb, supposedly another child of Betty's, who murdered a young white girl. Both are involved in a shady subplot to keep their secret and are seasoned in the art of deception. No motive of redeemable nature is mentioned in their plight though. Message: Blacks are shady and have no respect for the law

Finally you have the gay son of Bree Vandekamp, Andrew. Because he feels betrayed by his mother for not accepting his sexuality, he vows that once he learns a dark secret of hers he will "take her down so far that she won't be able to get up again." We see yet again the emergence of the gay uber-villian who will stop at nothing to not only defeat his nemesis but publically humiliate them. Message: Gays are evil.

I'm just making an observation and I cannot make any conclusion if the framing of the characters is on purpose. I'll leave that up to GayProf. Subliminal messages that are placed in mainstream entertainment that uphold archaic gender roles and stereotypic racial and cultural profiles are damn entertaining though!

9 Comments:

Blogger jjd said...

Interesting analysis.

What about the name Vandekamp, like the fish sticks?? Message being: Gays are FISHY. hmmm... !

I was going to write something about that stupid show: War at Home, which suffers from overt homophobia and other stereotypes... but that's actually a show I can't stand to watch whereas I've like the few episodes of Desperate Housewives that I've managed to see.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

My ideas:

Bree: She had recently discovered that George had killed the love of her life. I would do the same thing.

Susan: She is very self centered, yes, but she sent the kid to Utah beacuse she was afraid he would harm her daughter. I would do the same thing.

Gabby: Some people do much, much worse things for money.

Bree's Son: Oh yea, that was a wonderful scene. It was nice to see them just hanging out like kids, but not so much like kids. (Haven't we all been there?)

Betty: She will do anything to protect her family. Who wouldn't?

All in all, I think DH is a soap opera. Sit down, turn off your brain, and enjoy. Sometimes you need to switch off the old noggin.

But the biggest theme about DH is family. Love them or hate them, you'll do almost anything for them.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Nathan said...

I've actually noticed the same thing myself. I'm glad you blogged about it.

I know everyone on the show is required to have some dirty secret...but a part of me was hoping the gay characters could have a more positive role.

I don't mean to over-analyze the show, but we know how a lot of straight people think.

They are immediately going to dismiss gay people as being evil because Bree's son uses his sexuality as a weapon.

I understand that he has to have some dirty laundry. That's part of the show. But why does being gay have to be it?

10:28 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Good analysis, Adam!

This is the only TV show I watch and I definitely watch it purely for entertainment value and snappy one-liners.

What appealed to me early on was the sordid palor it's creators cast on suburban living. The contrast between the white picket fence and 2.5 children facade and the reality of what lies beneath.

12:35 PM  
Blogger tornwordo said...

I had the same reaction when I saw where they were going with the gay character. Still, Bree deserves it. Can you imagine being as uptight as that? She should be put out of her misery.

6:55 PM  
Blogger . said...

Well I guess I am not all that overanalytical. I just watch it and think abotu each subplot without looking for some deep meaning. I can see it now that YOU mentioned it but I would have never noticed before that!

10:32 PM  
Blogger Knute123 said...

You know I don't watch the show, but I read an article back in July on alternet.org about the show's creator. Supposedly he's a big Republican. He doesn't overtly inject that idealogy into the show of course because at heart he's more of a money-grubbing producer, but it comes across in these subtle ways.

I think not only does the show subconsiously remind us of Latino/African-American/Gay stereotypes...it also suggests that women are manipulative sluts. But c'mon...I guess we all know that one is true.

Like I said I have never seen the show and I'm sure it's mindless soap opera fodder, but reading between the lines is always fun.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Knute123 said...

My boyfriend sent me this link. Desperate Housewives is spawning new words to add to the American lexicon! Yay!

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Slunt

3:26 PM  
Blogger GayProf said...

It's not nice to pick on poor GayProf and his media critiquing shtick.

Since you asked, though, let me toss out:

A fiery, hypersexual Latina hardly seems like a new idea for mainstream media. Plus, a single, domineering African-American mother? I could have a field day with this show.

Overall, though, you hit all the fun points.

6:34 PM  

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