Desperate Housewives: Uncovering the Veil of Domesticity

Photo: Ron Tom/ ABC

Media is ubiquitous nowadays, and it has shaped at various levels the perception of the viewers’ reality. Desperate Housewives may be considered as one of the most popular TV series. It depicts the lives of four diverse housewives in Fairview. The suburban setting might be ideal but the characters somehow express their own discontentment and struggle to abide by the norms imposed upon them by society. Given the various explicit themes such as crime, suicide, and illicit sexual affairs, “hardcore critics consider it an example of ‘trash TV’’’ (Olsen and Morgan 332). Can this series be considered as such or can it be a form of entertainment that delineates social issues, which challenge American society today?

I think that the character and story development propel the viewers to discern what they have seen in the series and compare it to what is the socially acceptable image and behavior of a housewife based on their cultural norms. For example, the character of Bree has been the “perfect” lady. She can groom her lawn well; she can cook great dishes, and she has always been an active member of the church and the community. But when she can’t satisfy her first husband’s sexual fantasy, when it takes longer for her to accept her daughter’s teenage pregnancy and her son’s homosexuality, she still always wears that smile as a facade of her own emotions.

Photo: Moshe Brahka/ ABC
Photo: Moshe Brahka/ ABC

Her problem goes beyond her fulfillment of her domestic obligation. Unavoidable imperfections exist, no matter how hard she tries her best to be that “perfect” wife and mother, which the people in her community expect her to be.The problems that these housewives experienced are “far more than anyone recognizes” (Friedan 78). Focusing on their domestic role as a housewife, they are just primarily defined by their own houses, lawns, children, and husband by the people around them. The characters may be considered as “a perfect example of the pressure that patriarchy puts on women- and that most women end up placing onto themselves” (Fernández-Morales 678). Various scenes from the series might be a mediated representation and construction of reality but these are still some of the themes that have been based on American’s suburban experiences.

Desperate Housewives might not be advisable for minor audiences due to its explicit depiction of multifarious social “taboos,” but I cannot considered it as a trash TV since it still contains substance and has a story to tell. No matter how petty the characters are or how shallow their plotline is, it still shows the common problems that real people experience. When we uncover the veil of domesticity of real housewives, no matter what the period is, wherever we are in the world, inter- and intrapersonal problems always exist. As an outsider, we might see their perfections but as we delve deeper, we can find a housewife that is trying to decipher that problem brought about by that ideal “suburban” situation.

I therefore conclude that this show gives us a glimpse of various social issues that we are currently facing, no matter where we come from or how conservative or liberal our society is. It is up to the viewers’ discretion whether they will consider the show as a shallow TV series or they might deduce from the values, themes or lessons that they can obtain out of these episodes.


Olsen, Richard K., and Julie W. Morgan. “Desperate for Redemption? Desperate Housewives as Redemptive Media.” Journal of Popular Culture 43.2 (2010):330-47. Print.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. 1963. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. Print.

Fernández-Morales, Marta. “Illness, Genre, and Gender in Contemporary Television Fiction: Representations of Female Cancer in Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 38.6 (2009):670-91. Print.