Desperate Housewives: The Suburb as Social Space

Timotheus Vermeulen

in Scenes from the Suburbs

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2014 | ISBN: 9780748691661
Published online January 2015 | e-ISBN: 9781474400909 | DOI:
Desperate Housewives: The Suburb as Social Space

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In the public mind, there is a correlation between women and suburbs. “Women and suburbs, Susan Saegert notes, are thought “to share domesticity, repose, closeness to nature, lack of seriousness, mindlessness and safety.” Sociologist Barry Schwartz has even suggested that suburbs are an essentially feminine environment. Drawing on close textual analysis of camera movement, plot and performance the Fourth Chapter presents a reading of the gendering of space and the social construction of womanhood in the popular dramedy Desperate Housewives. Often praised as a prime example of a liberated postfeminist culture, it is argued that, on the contrary, Desperate Housewives naturalises the suburb as a female retreat, restricts and manipulates the movements of its female protagonists (and explicitly condemns those who are mobile), and stimulates an inhibited performativity and self-consciousness. In the process, these findings are discussed in relationship both to more classical women’s texts, like the films by Douglas Sirk.

Keywords: Desperate Housewives; Postfeminism; Gender; Performance; Performativity; Social space; Spatial mobility

Chapter.  10703 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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