Desperate For A Housewife

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I debated starting this blog for awhile, based on the amazing job the Slate girls (Meghan O'Rourke, Emily Bazelon, and Hanna Rosin) are doing on their analysis of S3 of Friday Night Lights, and also just based on my general involvement with pop culture.

The funny thing is, one of the posts I thought about writing was totally random - and I actually felt I needed to post this, now that the worst case scenario just might happen! I'm talking about Edie Britt's possible death on Desperate Housewives (her second of the series ps). Now...I'm sure I could go look up spoilers and IMDB Nicolette Sheridan, but I'm a traditional girl that likes to enjoy her TV on a weekly basis.

Before I get into Edie - and why she must live on - let's take you back on the Desperate Housewives train.

When the show premiered five seasons ago, it caught the attention of America - a nation surprised that a show with such camp, such archetypal characters could be so subversive and provocative in showing that we maybe haven't come such a long way baby. The title said it all - whether playing the role of ever-devoted wife for life in the 1950s and 60s (see Mad Men's Betty Draper) or trying to be a modern woman in the new millenium, things were still not okay for the 'housewives'.

So here's the real reason why the show succeeded. Yes, each of the core characters was extremely flat, campy, zany, archetypal, to the point of becoming caricatures of themselves. But...the way the show refused to let the women just be these caricatures, to actually break out and surprise you with their angst and emotion and heart and spirit - hell it was Peyton Place 2.0. These women were showing the housewives of America (all over again) it's OK to not feel good about certain things in your life.

The show suffers from two problems today. The first is what I call the slate wiping effect - a problem that plagues wayyy too many shows nowadays. The characters - despite the increasingly heightened dramatic hijinks on Wisteria Lane - are thrust into these insane scenarios, only to continually walk away unscathed. Other than the occasional death or disappearance of a minor character, there are very little consequences for anyone on the Lane, particularly the core cast.

The second is the fact the women - although supposedly more complex and less archetypal - are anything but. They no longer have their boxed-in roles to break out of, and because of the slate-wiping effect, it rarely makes sense how they've 'evolved' into the roles they play today. What we're left with is a bunch of predetermined outcomes that can be seen way too many miles away, and the odd scene that plays into each woman's initial character type.

Let's review...

Gabby was the trophy wife. A former model (at 5"2?) with a superficial lust for life, Gabby simply wanted to be loved - or at least wanted attention again - and found it with her hotness personified gardener John. Today, Gabby has already shuffled through several bouts of being poorer than she'd like, fatter than she'd like, and loneliness in an extended break from her husband Carlos. And what does she have to show for it? She's become a money-grubbing, somewhat superficial trophy wife again - but with no motivation in her life. What is the future of Gabby, really?

Lynette was the unwilling stay-at-home mom. A former shark in the advertising world, she was constantly neglected by her uber-busy (and still working) husband who could find no more joy in life than sleeping with his wife - and getting her knocked up, again. Today Lynette has survived cancer, gotten back into and quit the ad world (and jumped in again), owned a pizza parlour, and still dealt with the mistrials of motherhood. But again, what's next? Lynette no longer seems to be the career-hungry woman, nor does she seem the pained mother. Her once dreamy relationship with her husband Tom seems continually on the rocks, with little to no progression in the 'together forever' or 'hitting the rocks' direction.

Susan was the scorned single mom. A children's book illustrator, she was busy raising the world's most perfect teenager while trying to let her own messy dating life seep into her daughter's. Not a whole lot changed for Susan over the years - she's got her first job on the show as an assistant art teacher, and she's still supposed to be quirky and cute, but she hasn't aged a day mentally (or via plastic surgery) since the first season. Also...come on writers. Susan and Mike are going to get back together. Just do it already.

Bree was the Stepford wife on speed. Her conservative values had her family buttoned up so tightly it was like the third reich of housewifeness. After her world continued to come crashing down around her - dead husband, failed romantic endeavours, gay son, unwed pregnant daughter - Bree loosened the reins and realized only she could build her perfect life, thus starting her own mega-business as an archangel housewife (or, cookbook author). The problem is, while Bree's complete lack of social normalcy in season one was laughable and at times, painful - today it seems downright justified, and almost sad.

edie-britt

Finally we have Edie Britt, the fifth wheel of the Desperate trajectory. Edie has always been the neighbourhood bitch, gossip, seductress, full of machismo guy's girl. This has not changed - but unlike Susan, in a good way. The character of Edie is still who she was in season 1, the writers have not softened who she's always been - upfront, honest, and generally right, no matter how hard it is to hear. This generally means Edie is on the outskirts of the social happenings on Wisteria Lane, which has probably served her well. Edie is allowed to make controversy and speak up and have the gold scenes that snap these b*tches out of their simulated dramas. Consider this current season - it was Edie that woke Susan up to the fact Jackson was a pipe dream, and it was Edie that told Gabby to snap out of her bratty state during the workout camp. These kinds of scenes are really had between the core four anymore, because their friendships just don't allow it. Edie is also continually diabolical, not afraid to bring other people down if it puts a little spring in her own step, causing a lot of the juicier (i.e. not ridiculous season-long arcs) episodic tension.

So now, it's possible she'll die. Which again, it's the second time around for her - the previous being a silly suicide attempt with a silk scarf a couple of seasons ago. But I'm here to say that if Edie dies, this show will not only lose one of their core cast members, they'll also lose the hub of what's still keeping me (and others) watching the show's spokes continually roll on.

Sure it's easiest to kill off Edie (after Katherine, who's been horribly underused in both of her feature seasons), but is it really worth it? This is the woman that's driving the show, providing much needed humour that isn't playing to the actress' demands or glamourous self-perception.

Also, the death to drive ratings? Never a good plan. See the OC.

With that in mind, I bid you adieu for now. My blog is not named for ms. Britt, although I do enjoy the name - since it's my own.

Till next time - Britt's On.

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