In an article about The Real Housewives franchise, a person with a TV on their head featuring four members of the show's cast
"The Real Housewives" might help us confront our reality. (Illustration by Adam Rappe, Columbia College Chicago)

‘The Real Housewives’ Franchise Reveals the Cost of Wealth and Publicity

The long-running reality television series shows the downsides of a decadent life on camera and their lasting implications.

Screens x
In an article about The Real Housewives franchise, a person with a TV on their head featuring four members of the show's cast

The long-running reality television series shows the downsides of a decadent life on camera and their lasting implications.

It has become increasingly hard for young people to be content with their socio-economic status, as social media has made it easier for wealthy influencers to flaunt their money and lifestyle. Bravo’s “The Real Housewives” franchise, too, provides an example of this kind of wealth-flaunting. However, the show presents this wealth in a very different way than Instagram influencers; between the thousand-dollar champagne glasses and designer dresses exists a petty and elaborate drama between privileged women. While watching “The Real Housewives” may leave viewers yearning for a night out, the show is eye-opening in that it helps viewers realize the consequences that come with being a wealthy socialite. 

Problematic Marriages

One of the problems with this lifestyle is seen in the first couple seasons of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Taylor Armstrong, who marries into wealth through her relationship with Russell Armstrong, faced both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her former husband. The abuse eventually goes so far that Taylor needed reconstructive eye surgery following a physical assault. Throughout the first few seasons, one of the major plotlines involves the cast of the show attempting to convince Taylor to leave her abusive husband. Eventually, Taylor does leave, only for Russell to die by suicide a month later. While this situation seems toxic enough, there are many circumstances in the show where Taylor is blamed for staying with her abuser, all while she deals with the death of her former husband, and father of her children.

Other instances of problematic marriages in “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” include Camille Grammer’s marriage with Kelsey Grammer, as well as Brandi Glanville’s marriage with Eddie Cibrian. Both of these marriages end with cheating, when the male counterparts are exposed as having mistresses. These marriages end in radically different ways, with Camille ending her marriage with a $30 million settlement, and Brandi finding herself swamped with lawyer fees and only occasional child support payments. While internet culture has glamorized marrying into wealth, the way these women are treated makes viewers think twice.

Exploitation for Drama

Putting the dysfunctional marriages of many wealthy socialites aside, the drama that exists between these women exhibits another part of the lifestyle. There are plenty of examples of “The Real Housewives” turning private and sensitive matters into glamorized drama. Throughout the first six seasons of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” Kim Richards’ struggle with addiction becomes a key plotline. Richards, clearly fighting the consequences of drug abuse, is seen exhibiting signs of addiction during a gathering. An argument between Richards, her sister Kyle Richards, and Brandi Glanville, ends in Glanville accusing Kim of smoking crystal meth in the bathroom. While Richards disputes the accusation of meth use, the destruction is done. Outside of this lifestyle, where the actions of these socialite women are spread to the world, attacking someone for their struggle with addiction would be instantly condemned. In this world, on the other hand, drama ignores all social boundaries and sensitivity.

The effects of Richards’ struggle with addiction are also exploited to create a dramatic plotline between Richards and her sister. One of the most dramatic moments on the show involves an argument between the sisters in which Kim accuses Kyle of “stealing her house,” which leads Kyle to publicly expose Kim as being an alcoholic. While it was always known that Kim exhibited signs of addiction, Kyle was the first to announce it on the show, allowing it to become part of the plot. This plotline continues throughout the first six seasons of the show, with Kim constantly calling for discussion of her addiction to end. The exploitation of Kim’s addiction can be seen as another consequence of the wealthy socialite lifestyle, where no matters stay private and everything is up for discussion.

Family Consequences of Stardom

The children of the “The Real Housewives” stars are not protected from drama either. Throughout the show, there are numerous examples of the children of the “Housewives” being used for controversy. Many of the women seem aware that their decision to enter the community and appear on the show may draw their children into similar lives. The problem is that their children don’t get to decide their future or the way that they’re presented to the world.

In Season 5, Yolanda Foster takes a trip to Spain with co-star Kyle Richards. Foster’s vacation takes a sour turn when she receives a call informing her that her 17-year-old daughter, Bella Hadid, was charged with a DUI after blowing a .14 on a breathalyzer test. While drinking and driving is inexcusable, it is clear that Foster’s role in the series, as well as Hadid’s modeling career, led to her incident being publicized. Hadid’s punishment, and the consequences of her DUI, made it into the plot of the show and her mistake was put under public scrutiny. This part of the show leaves viewers content with the knowledge that their childhood mistakes will never hit TV screens or the tabloids.

Being Content in Your Status

While watching “The Real Housewives” franchise provides an inside look at the wealth of socialites and influencers, it also provides an examination of the problems associated with the lifestyle. For viewers seeking an entry into the lavish way of life, the unintended consequences are presented. Are fancy dresses and five-course meals worth an unhappy marriage? Does attending a dinner party validate your darkest secrets being publicized? Would the status and wealth affect your children’s futures? Watching “The Real Housewives” allows viewers to feel safe and content in their own lifestyle by comparing their lives to the dramatic and problematic lives of the “Housewives,” because wealth and status do not come without a price. Money can allow you to live a great life. “The Real Housewives” will show you how money can change you.

Writer Profile

Michael Boland

DePaul University
Political Science, Journalism

Hello! My name is Michael Boland and I am a double major in political science and journalism at DePaul University. I am passionate about all things politics and just recently moved to Chicago!

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

Must Read