The dissident feminist has made no secret of her love for The Real Housewives, but now Camille Paglia has written an entire essay explaining the appeal of the franchise, how it's revived and redefined the soap genre, and why it appeals to appreciators of "grand opera."
In an essay for Bravo's website, Paglia has written the most relatable paragraph of text I've ever read:
The Real Housewives franchise isn't entertainment to me—it's a lifestyle. I watch virtually nothing else on TV now, except for occasional documentaries and Turner Classic Movies. I can see the same Real Housewives episode multiple times with equal enjoyment. I love the frank display of emotion, the intricate interrelationships, and the sharp-elbows jockeying for power and visibility. I appreciate every snippet—the rapid scene set-ups, dynamic camera work, and crisp editing, with its enchanting glimpses of fine houses and restaurants and its glowing appreciation of beautiful objects, from flowers and tableware to jewelry and couture. And I applaud the Real Housewives master theme of the infectious hilarity and truth-telling delirium induced by copious alcohol, that ancient Dionysian elixir!
She goes into her love of soap operas, and how The Real Housewives are updated, real-life versions of women from Knots Landing and Dynasty. Paglia mourned the decline of soaps and "their great female 'trash-and-sleaze' style of old Hollywood." She turned to movies like Valley of the Dolls and Mommie Dearest to get her soap fix, but also liked The Group and Black Widow for giving "good soap, with their intense competitive, woman-on-woman psychodramas." She credits Andy Cohen with "alter[ing] and redeem[ing] the pop culture landscape—which had been suffering for years from snide snark and pseudo-hip cynicism."
The best part of her essay, perhaps, is how she so succinctly articulates why this genre has a particular resonance with the gay male audience:
Gay men understand the burden of secrets and the ecstasy of the extreme gesture.