(July 21, 2011) –In this continuing series of profiles, we identify and document the seven prototypical species of the Real Housewives, their habitats, evolutionary roles, range, nesting characteristics, and behaviors.
Often one of the best looking housewives in the cast, the Scapegoat is targeted because she does not or will not adhere to the Queen Bee’s rigid values. Unlike the Enabler, who gains a sound-bite identity by personifying the party line, the Scapegoat promotes a message that runs completely contrary to the Queen Bee’s central theme. But it is not that she is a rebel; she’s not trying to buck the system that the Queen Bee has created. On the contrary, the Scapegoat is happily living her life her way. But the problem is she cares about what the Queen Bee thinks. Giving the Queen Bee the power to affect her mood, the Scapegoat inspires the Queen Bee and her Enabler to set their sights on her as the Scapegoat, the perfect target for expressing their disapproval.
- Ramona Singer is the scapegoat in the Real Housewives of New York City. Affluent, beautiful and successful, Ramona has attained a social status almost identical to that of Queen Bee Jill Zarin. While neither is a crème de la crème socialite, both are living well and well-known in their respective fields: Jill (fabric) and Ramona (overstock garments). But Ramona did it on her own, rather than by following Jill’s rigid orthodoxy that a woman only gains social status through marriage. Instead Ramona married Housewives hottie Mario for love. And she’s never kept quiet about it and instead makes public proclamations like, “I like making my own money, I find that an aphrodisiac,” and “Mario, you are an amazing lover.” It is not that she is judging Jill, LuAnn or Kelly negatively for establishing their place in society through marriage. It just wasn’t how Ramona sought to live her life. But because Ramona cares very deeply about being friends with Jill, the trio of brunettes are able to place a target on Ramona’s back and take aim at any chance they get.
- Over in Orange County, Gretchen Rossi is the picture perfect Scapegoat for Queen Bee Housewife Vicki Gunvalson who values self-sufficiency and a strong work ethic above all else. Although she is a three-season veteran, Gretchen has never held what Vicki would call a “real job.” During her rookie year, she was supported by her fiance Jeff who died before he could make her his sixth wife. And Gretchen continued through seasons two and three with Slade Smiley, an unemployed former title salesman who appeared to be taking it easy and living off Gretchen’s Reality TV fame without providing child support for his ailing son. Sure Gretchen has had projects. She did attempt to launch Gretchen Beauté make-up and is now designing handbags, but Vicki is very suspicious of both businesses, noting that Gretchen cannot compete with large cosmetic companies like Estée Lauder and that brand conscious shoppers want to wear Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags – not Gretchen purses.
- In past seasons, Danielle Staub was an easy choice for the Scapegoat of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Adopted and divorced with seemingly little contact with her ex-husband and her childhood family, Danielle could never measure up to Queen Bee Caroline Manzo’s family-first values. Plus she consistently puts her own daughters into adult situations that a good mother would shield them from. Naturally suspicious with an impulse to exclude outsiders, there is no way that Caroline was going to accept Danielle on any level. However, now that Danielle is long gone, the Scapegoat role is up for grabs and Caroline has yet to decide definitively which lucky lady will get a target on her back. It looked for a while there that Teresa would be successful in nominating her arch rival Melissa for this role, but we think there is no possibility that will happen because Caroline is starting to like Melissa. She has said Melissa is young and fun. She’s a devoted mother, gets along with her own sisters and cousin and takes good care of her husband, Joey G and the girls. As season 4 continues we suspect that Teresa Giudice will become the Scapegoat. No longer “so funny,” Teresa has proven to be a tremendous threat to her own family. For starters she’s helped to bankrupt her family with her compulsive shopping. She created a tremendous amount of family friction by fighting with her sister-in-law, inspired a fist fight at her nephew’s christening and simply will not even try to get along with her cousin Kathy Wakile, a new cast member. If Teresa doesn’t change her tune very soon she is going to turn around and find out that while she was raging at her family, a certain redhead over there in Franklin Lakes will tattoo a bull’s-eye on her back.
- Kyle Richards is a complicated pick for the Scapegoat of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But the tricky nature of this cast and its first season should come as no surprise to anyone who watched as Queen Bee Camille Grammer’s world imploded on-screen. Just like the other Scapegoats in other habitats, Kyle was not actively rejecting the Queen Bee’s values, in this case that access to Hollywood fame is a woman’s means to power. On the contrary, Kyle is very proud of and derives an enormous amount of self-esteem from her own acting career and the Reality TV achievements of her niece Paris Hilton. But in Camille’s eyes the cardinal sin Kyle committed was when it sounded like Kyle was questioning why the Bravo camera would film Camille in Hawaii when no one else – not her then-husband Kelsey Grammer or any of the other ladies – was there. For Camille it did not matter what Kyle actually said or what she intended to communicate. The only thing she heard – just before she saw a red – was that Kyle was questioning whether Camille alone had enough star power to warrant an expensive Bravo shoot in Hawaii. And like all the other Queen Bees, Camille enlisted a troop of Enablers to help her smear Kyle into the ground. To underscore just what kind of access to Hollywood fame she had, Camille dragged in psycho psychic Alison Dubois, the woman who inspired the television show Medium, to put Kyle in her place. None of these efforts to make Kyle a Scapegoat would have worked for even one minute if Kyle didn’t care very deeply about what Camille thought. After all her husband Maurizio stood to gain financially as the real estate agent to the Grammers.
- Like Beverly Hills, Orange County is a tricky place for spotting and identifying different species of housewives. In the case of Beverly Hills it is because we have only had one season and the Queen Bee lost her position before it was over. In the case of Atlanta it is because the underlying theme is not as immediately tangible. But years of observation has led us to see that the overriding highest value in the Real Housewives of Atlanta is the power of self-reinvention that is offered in the mecca of African-American upward mobility. Nene, our Queen Bee perfectly personifies this. Her personal story is nothing short of extraordinary: single mother dancing in gentleman’s clubs to affluent wife/television star/media darling with a memoir, all after moving to Atlanta to reinvent herself. And who is there, seemingly mocking the significance of her cathartic journey? None other than Atlanta Scapegoat Sherée Whitfield, who finds herself in Nene’s cross hairs after snubbing her as though she still doesn’t belong, by accidentally or intentionally excluding Nene from her fabulous birthday party and by
discounting her journey by telling Nene that she herself grew up middle class and therefore did not need Atlanta to transform her from humble beginnings. None of the other Atlanta ladies has this effect on Nene. Though she and Kim have an on again-off again friendship, Kim validates Nene’s belief that Atlanta is the place to reinvent one’s self by settling there after her divorce to launch her music career. And Kim also validates Nene’s interest in African-American upward mobility by calling herself a “black girl in a white girl’s body,” while our Scapegoat Sherée giggles that she is the opposite “a white girl in a black girl’s body.” That kind of attitude is never going to fly with Nene Leakes. But it is not like Sherée can just ignore Nene. Afterall Nene is the break out star of their habitat and a media darling who charmed Anderson Cooper before appearing with Donald Trump on Celebrity Apprentice. Now trust us, we do not believe that proximity to Donald Trump is a measuring stick of life’s greatest achievements. But let’s face it: Sherée wants fame of any kind and as a result she cannot completely alienate Nene.
Next up is The Lost Child…
© The Smart Woman’s Field Guide to the Real Housewives was compiled by a panel of esteemed psychologists, social workers, society columnists, lawyers, publicists, fashion editors, party planners, comedians, respected gays, television critics, bloggers and successful wives.