The Grade: The Real Housewives of Melbourne

Words by Maggie McDade

Published on May 12, 2014

For a while I was completely hooked on the Real Housewives of Melbourne. Though we know the formula already (rich women, fake friendship groups, “insights” from the women in question) this one is in MELBOURNE! They are in TOORAK! SOUTH YARRA! They walk along streets that are not that far from where we live IN REAL LIFE!

I watched about five episodes in one sitting, and then at regular intervals in the following weeks I watched more and more. Running through my head almost constantly were RHM catch-phrases (Shine, shine, shine!) and words like darling  and fabulous. I hid the new addiction from my boyfriend, and spoke only in secret to my old housemate Mandy who I knew would sympathise with my situation.

Soon after beginning my affair with Gina, Andrea, Jackie, Chyka, Lydia and Janet I was convinced that the show represented something unique and disturbing about female friendship. I’d sit on the couch with my headphones in. Between mouthfuls of chocolate-coated licorice I’d ask myself questions like: Why are they all called housewives when none of them are ever at home? Does society only find women’s business interesting when it’s attached to the domestic? Why is there a veneer of civility over their interactions, but if you strip it back they’re actually just calling each other cunts and having an awful time?

I thought about the social scenarios in the show. I thought about my own social life. They are very different. In this Grade I am going to review my prospective friendship with each member of the Real Housewives. I’m going to start with my favourite.

I will admit I was judgmental of Gina at first. I saw her backcombed hair, the glittery swatches of fabric that she passes as clothing, and thought she was a twat. But I was wrong. I found out she was a barrister. I recognised her dedication to aesthetic eccentricity. I thought: good on you Gina for wearing what you want and not giving a shit about what fashion is and isn’t. Good on you for not pandering to society’s ideas of what “smart women” look like. Good on you for being in law and not shopping at Country Road. Good on you for being straight talking. My friendship with Gina would be one where I am in awe of her brains and beauty. I would pander to her and love every minute of it. I would also take notes on how to remain straight-faced and argue with grace.


In contrast to my friendship with Gina, which would grow over time like a fine wine as would my appreciation of her depth and intelligence, I would not have a friendship with Andrea full stop. Whether or not she is in real life, on the show Andrea is a self-indulgent, classist, shallow fool. She is married to her plastic surgeon. She owns a “skin clinic” called “Liberty Belle”, which as far as I’m concerned is not a legitimate name for a business, even if it is French. Andrea thinks she is the only woman on the planet to work and have a family. Andrea thinks she needs to share her “talents” with other women in the form of a book on how to run a household, which is basically an enlarged excel spreadsheet with instructions like ‘Make sure Buster (child, not dog) eats his vegies.’ She treats her husband like a school project: ‘It’s taken me twelve years, but I now have the perfect husband. You know, I’ve put a lot of work into him.’ Andrea is the most frustrating aspect of this show and if I saw her in real life I would avoid her.


Jackie operates in an alternate universe. The previously mentioned ‘Shine, shine, shine!’can be credited to Jackie, who uses the phrase with alarming regularity to signify her excitement for someone’s self-confidence/her own self-confidence. She has a lot of self-confidence: ‘Orange represents power and peace. And that’s what I am. Oh my god I look amazing, I mean, how could I not. SHINE, SHINE, SHINE! BLESSINGS TO EVERYONE.’ As a friend of Jackie’s I would no doubt be skeptical of her positivity, but by the end of our first coffee date I too would leave spreading ‘Shine, shine, shine!’ as a middle-class mantra. Jackie also thinks she is married to an international rock star but in reality she’s married to a washed-up 90s Australian drummer. Full points for optimism.


Out of all the “housewives” it is truly bogus that Chyka is called a “housewife”. Woman is never at home. Like, never. Woman is so busy her husband has to make an appointment to see her. Alongside her husband, Chyka runs one of Melbourne’s most successful and busy catering businesses, The Big Group. And I can say with confidence it is busy because I used to live next door to their kitchen and there were people pumping out party sausage rolls and hors d’oeuvres at all hours of the day. I am genuinely impressed by Chyka. She knows how to get it done, and out all of our “housewives” she talks the least crap. If we were friends, I would like to think she would respect me professionally and give me her tips on how to be successful, fabulous, and a hard worker all at once.


On a scale of 1–5, 1 being okay, and 5 being a Complete Turd, Lydia is probably a 3. Her qualities include being beautiful, but altogether condescending and pretentious. She thinks she knows stuff about art, but she also thinks that the Louvre is in London. She has a ski house, but she also called her poor trembling whippet Figaro. Lydia is a friend who thinks she is one hundred times better than you, but who would potentially buy you an expensive painting so could be worth hanging around.


‘All birthdays are significant ’cause if you’re not going to have another one it sucks, ’cause you’re dead.’ Janet. Loveable, sweet, harmless, eternally positive. I feel that through my friendship with Janet, she would accept me for who I am and we would have fun in this knowledge. She would be fine with the author’s Birkenstocks and pink Explorers (‘Yes Janet, the colour contrast is rather becoming isn’t it?’)


I think the distressing elements of this show — the pure nastiness that is displayed at almost every turn — can only be downplayed with the knowledge that the only “real” part of this show is that these women exist and that’s about it. Their friendships do not function like those in real life; they are being paid to bait and torment each other. I still can’t work out what’s worse though – the fact that this program showcases women being awful to each other as a sport, or that there always seems to be a willing audience. Whichever way, I know without any doubt that Gina looks incredible in her sequinned mini-dresses.