When I first heard of the show I thought it was a reality show. After all with a title like “Desperate Housewives” how could I imagine otherwise–another entertainment offering for the folks who cannot get enough reality at the office. Like “Survivor” and “The Bachelor,” another reality show with more show than reality.
I later heard sponsors and religious leaders were upset with the content, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. Oddly enough, after a few viewings, I have concluded it is more of a reality show than I first imagined.
Its network defines it as a comedy. While it does provide a few laughs, the conversations and characters reveal more reality than one of Gabrielle’s dresses.
The women of Wisteria Lane represent us all, female and male alike–the married, the divorced, the yet to be married–all those who have felt desperate at one time or another.
While their ethics are highly questionable, nevertheless they are the patron saints for us desperados. These women look together from all outward evidence, but on the inside they are struggling to keep it between the ditches.
Below their—and our–highly polished and protected surface, you will find desperate housewives, bookkeepers, preachers, bankers, parents and husbands–people who live in the land of plenty but are still searching.
Everyone in “Desperate Housewives” has things going on beneath their perfect surfaces. In all the ways we define success these women have everything anyone could want. Yet, something is still missing.
Thus every day and night they look desperately trying to find meaning in their perfect lives. Like these ladies we strive for perfection: beautiful bodies, Southern Living homes, Fortune 500 spouses and Lake Wobegon children.
We purchase perfection only to discover we should have bought meaning.
When asked, “Don’t you just love being a mom?” Lynette Scavo reminds herself, and us, “For the person who asked such a question, only one answer is acceptable.” So she grins her best grin and lies through her teeth.
Life is full of such encounters. We struggle with a longing to be genuine and our need to look together. Our constant need to build and protect our image is what makes us desperate. As Susan puts it, “Sometimes people pretend to be one way on the outside when they are totally different on the inside.” Sounds more like preaching and reality than entertainment and comedy.
“We all have moments of desperation,” according to the narrator Mary Alice Young. Desperation is a sign; it warns us of a hole within us, a hole that needs filling. Susan, Lynette, Bree and Gabrielle are more than characters; they are symbols of our restlessness, symbols of our time.
“Desperate” is a most fitting description, not without hope but on a quest to discover. As the musical group U2 would sing, “They still haven’t found what they are looking for.” Haven’t we all?
But don’t give up, “for those who ask shall receive and those seek shall find.”
Gabrielle sums it up well in some pillow talk with her gardener-turned-lover. When asked why she married her husband, she answers, “Because he promised to give me everything I ever wanted.”
Since her husband, gave her all those things, yet this gardener still finds himself in bed with Gabrielle, he logically asks, “Then why aren’t you happy?”
Gabrielle admits, “Turns out that I wanted all the wrong things.”
John Roy is pastor of Pelham Road Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C.