I'M feeling hard done by. This week during an idle moment between making dinner and folding washing, I found myself on the couch watching a reality show that I should have starred in. The Real Housewives of Auckland was, after all, only a few hours' drive away from my own suburban housewife life, right?
Except as the first episode unravelled (in so many, many ways) I couldn't help feeling the absence of a Rolls Royce, art-buying sojourns and rambling country estates in my own life as a housewife.
In fact, as the hour played out in ever-expanding circles of conspicuous consumption, I began to wonder what possible shred of DNA I shared with the show's "stars" and I was frankly quite relieved at the end to concede there was very little.
Real Housewives is about as real as some of the physical attributes of its characters. And before you start calling me out for showing my claws, in my defence I am simply getting into the spirit of the show.
What became evident very early on is that in a small enclave of the most lofty echelons of society there are women whose whole lives revolve around the spending of other people's money, and the demonstration of that. As the show's expensively sculpted centrepieces were brought together and introduced, it was extraordinary to observe how women whose lives revolve around the pursuit of personal beauty can render themselves so ugly simply by opening their mouths.
The "are you a plus-sized model?" one-liner from former-model Michelle Blanchard must surely go down in history as one of the most epic moments of reality telly. It was so casually brutal you just wouldn't have believed it if it had been scripted. Quite frankly, it was the most hideously brilliant hour of television I've ever watched in my life. My husband agreed.
During the ads while I was scanning Google for evidence of all this prolific former modelling (correction; one of them is currently modelling), my husband was taking equal delight in searching the companies register to see just how rich you had to be to secure one of these fading flowers of Auckland high-society. The conclusion here was "very rich indeed", which to me presented a bit of a contradiction, because presumably one has to be fairly smart to amass great wealth, and yet I couldn't imagine anyone with half a brain cell finding the Auckland Housewives set attractive life-partner material.
While the trade-off of youth and beauty for wealth is a long-standing tradition, surely if you cast the net wide enough you could hook up with a hottie who has a few lashings of integrity, humbleness and kindness along with the willowy legs? Or is that not the point?
It's certainly not the point of the show, and my hat goes off to the show's producers, who must have cast nets very widely indeed to find women of means who were prepared to be so grotesquely frank about their wealth and so unkind to their fellow women. For a bunch that cares so deeply about their public image, it seems mystifying why they would sign up for a show clearly pitched at portraying them as vapid, mean and shallow. These are no real housewives, and the "reality" of this TV is as far from anything most of us could imagine.
-Eva Bradley is a columnist and photographer.