Last night on DVD I watched the first two episodes from the first season of Desperate Housewives. The entire plot is framed by the sudden, seemingly senseless suicide of one of the housewives, a friend and neighbor of the four main characters, who until the moment of her suicide seemed to be having a perfectly pleasant life, and who, from beyond the grave, narrates the entire series. As I watched these prosperous and well-turned-out but discontented women discuss their various forms of desperation, it came to me: Why are they so desperate? It’s because they’ve lost the normal, primary experience of the goodness of life. This experience comes from beyond our individual selves, from existence itself; it sustains us and allows us to put the ups and downs of our own life in perspective. But being thoroughly modern, secular creatures (the only Christian character in the show is a sinister busybody) and knowing nothing beyond the self and its needs, the housewives lack that primary experience. This drives them to organize their material lives so as to make them “perfect,” a bulwark against the void. But of course no one’s life can be perfect, so they are desperate.
Beyond those considerations, I cannot imagine why this show is a hit. It’s a boring, stupid, cartoonish exercise in alienation.
Note: a correspondent who has seen the entire first season of Desperate Housewives on DVD tell me that later episodes do show the characters turning to the Bible or religion, but not in a way that affects their behavior.