“The Real Housewives of Atlanta”

Posted on February 5, 2012


I’m trying to figure out why the Real Housewives franchise started existing. Am I right in thinking, like, early 2000s, maybe some smart executive had a nightmare about a cross between Desperate Housewives and MTV Cribs with a little bit of Laguna Beach thrown in…? All I know is, this show is spin-off CITY, and kind of in an embarrassing way. I like to think that when its time came to crawl out of the muddy waters of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee river and onto the TV, God saw it and gave himself a pat on the back while saying “I said it all along: This evolution thing is bad news.”

For those who don’t know, the Real Housewives premise is pretty simple. The creators hand-pick a group of society ladies who kind of vaguely know each other and follow them around while they go for coffee, throw glam parties and occasionally “work”. Voice-overs of the women telling us how rich their husbands are and how exclusive they think their lifestyles must seem ensue, and all the while the audience is meant to get a feel for how the so-called societal upper crust operates in the context of the particular town being featured. The result is that despite their common roots, the various franchises have evolved into quite different shows – the New Jersey version is nothing like the New York or Orange County versions, for example.

The Real Housewives

From what I gather, Atlanta is sort of the L.A. of the south (I know the real L.A. is geographically southern too, but you know what I mean), except that its social currency is sport instead of film. Now take a moment to picture the kinds of women that a city like that might hypothetically produce. If you’re thinking women whose highest aspiration in life is to have “murrr fake hurrrrr than thurrrr gurrrlfriends” and marry an “ath-a-lete”, whose idea of fashion is to pair monogrammed Louis Vuitton bags with rhinestone-dusted D&G tracksuit pants, and whose names are things like “DeShawn”, “Kandi” and “Phaedra”…

Then you’re correct. A plus. You deserve an honorary sociology major or something, because I wouldn’t even have thought people like this existed, let alone RULED A TOWN.

Straight off the bat, the ladies are kind of great. Kim, aka “the white one”, might look like a crazy barbie-doll… but ACTUALLY she’s a singer-slash-wigmaker (not making this up) who calls her boyfriend “Big Poppa” because he’s too much of a celebrity ath-a-lete to be named on the show. She has a song out called “Don’t be tardy for the party” and in the first episode of season one we see her getting changed at a gas station.

Kim or Barbie?

Another fave is Kim’s best friend, Nene. She’s married to a geriatric, likes a good bitching sesh with her stylist over a glass of red wine, and didn’t die of embarrassment when she had the following conversation on national television:

Nene’s son: “I don’t get fractions.”

Nene: “Let me help you, honey.”

[They both stare at his homework intently.]

Nene: “Let’s get daddy to help us out, OK?”

Husband: “Son, Nene, the thing with fractions is that one third is actually smaller than one half, even though the number three is bigger than the number two.”

Nene: “That sure don’t make any sense, baby.”

Husband: “Well, Nene, would you rather share something with one other person, or with two other people?”

Nene: “Honey, that’s going to depend on what that something is!”

Combine these two with bitchy but beautiful Sherée, Ritolin Lisa and cheerful, chubby DeShawn and you have season one. Mmmmhmmmm grrrrrrrl.

I would like to say that The R.H. of Atlanta is like The R.H. of New York City with bigger hair. But… I can’t. Sure, the ladies from N.Y.C. are also psycho. And they are also wannabe-singers (who could forget!!!??!).

But at least they live on a planet I can recognise, where women go to high school, have heard of irony and sometimes even have a job. Chillin’ with the girls from Atlanta, on the other hand, makes me feel like Scarlett O’Hara’s uglier friends have been time-warped all the way forward to the fashions of 1995 and the technology of 2002. Exclamation marks! That’s what happens when you team iPods with tartan miniskirts and hookerboots! There is just so much decade confusion going on that I don’t know how to construct a normal analogy anymore.

Anderson Cooper’s Nene

I have a bit of a fetish for tastelessness on TV. I love watching ridiculous people in ridiculous clothes saying ridiculous things. But the problem with this show is that as much as it’s a carnival of absurdist delight, occasionally, the tastelessness kind of crosses that line into… eww. It’s like watching a really done-up girl walk down the street, and thinking, “whoa, you got it goin’ on gurrrrl,” and then getting closer and realising she forgot to shower. I have a weird reaction to watching too much of it, which is that I get the sudden urge to hang around near university even though classes aren’t on at the moment.

I couldn’t get beyond the first season. Because whereas the girls from The Real Housewives of New York kind of… do things with their lives, the “real” (haha!) ladies from Atlanta feel no such compulsion. The smallness of their world is so stifling that even as an audience-member you start feeling claustrophobic.

It’s really depressing. But fun! But awful. But hilarious!

You know what I mean?

Posted in: Television