A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this installment of the Real Housewives franchise follows the same formula as its predecessors. Material wealth and social status vie with raising children and maintaining relationships, and, true to form, lots of high-end brands (Gucci, BMW, etc.) are prominently featured. Expect lots of catty arguing, strong language (though the worst is bleeped), and drinking, as well as some rather explicit discussions about sex. The series also feeds into existing stereotypes about Italian-American families and women from northern New Jersey.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
Not falling very far from the Real Housewives tree, THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY follows five of the wealthiest women living in the suburbs of northern New Jersey. There's Caroline Manzo, matriarch of the wealthy Italian Manzo family, and her younger sister, Dina, who happens to be married to Caroline's brother-in-law. Also part of the family is Jacqueline Laurita, who's married to their brother. Rounding out the group are Teresa Guidice, a young mother of three, and Danielle Staub, a divorced single mom who doesn't let previous relationship missteps deter her from finding Mr. Right. Cameras follow the women as they spend their time and money and cope with the challenges of daily life -- including motherhood, marital tensions, and, in some cases, trying to be accepted in a very tight-knit, image-conscious community.
Is it any good?
Like the other Real Housewives series, the show offers a voyeuristic look at how these women negotiate having money and status while also trying to stay true to themselves and their relationships. Unfortunately, most of the stories being told -- from some of Teresa's well-meaning but gaudy makeup choices to the dynamics of the Manzo family (which leave you wondering whether the Sopranos are living next door) -- seem to be embedded in stereotypes about the Italian-American community. Meanwhile, while most of the featured women are educated and/or have some kind of professional experience, they're openly satisfied with living off the wealth of their current (or former) husbands.
The tight-knit nature of the show's community leads to a lot of tension with those who don't seem to "fit" into the well-established elite. While having "new" money doesn't seem to be an issue, some of the women's past and current relationships risk making them social outcasts. As a result, accusations fly and cat fights are a regular occurrence. Of course, it's exactly these moments of over-the-top drama -- along with the material excesses and obnoxious behavior -- that makes the Real Housewives shows the guilty pleasures that they are.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of the Real Housewives "brand." What's the appeal of these shows? What kinds of messages do they send about consumerism?
Do you think people really want to be like the women in these shows? What would be the hardest part of living like them? The easiest?
Do you think the show is stereotyping elite communities to make the show more entertaining, or are they just showing “real people” as they truly are?
For kids who love TV about families
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