Readers’ Blog

Analysis on gender features, language features, value and techniques of Desperat

Popularity 1Viewed 777 times 2015-12-14 22:28 |Personal category:essay|System category:News| gender, language, depearte, housewives


This essay aims at analyzing the gender and language features of Desperate Housewives. The relationship of gender and language is studied based on the literature review of several articles in terms of the amount of words spoken and the turns used in the conversation by women and men. On the latter of this paper, this paper will researched the language and gender features respectively. Considering the huge amount of work done on feminism, this essay mainly focuses on other issues and characters concerning gender features of Desperate Housewives including the feminism. The last part of this essay examines the value and techniques used in this series.

It is undeniable that TV series are not the same as daily lives. Nontheless, the lines of the film is a reflection of real daily lives. Therefore, the lines of Desperate could be valuable sources for us to study the relationship between the gender and language.

Gender influences the use of language at some degree. There is a stereotype that women tend to speak more than men. However, Desperate Housewives shows us how wrong the stereotype is. This paper refers to the essay and chart created by Li to quantify this problem. The date on the chart is collected from one selected episode.

The chart above shows us 69.2%, of words were used by males, while 30.8% are used by females. As for the amount of sentences, males use 61.2% words to compose 274 sentences. However, females only employ 38.8% of the sentences. In conclusion, males not only speak more words than female, but also the sentences. The stereotype was not true this time.

Another evidence of the men’s large amount of language can be seen in terms of the turn-talking used Desperate Housewives. “Turn-taking is the fundamental rule to guarantee the smooth transition of a conversation. According to Levinson (2001), it means one participant A to another participant B; another participant B begins to talk and then stops.Li 55”The chart below quoted from Li’s essay shows this problem clearly.

The chart expounds that men uses 126 turns, which is 11 more turns than women’s. Similarly, male employs 2107 words in the selected episode while women only adopt 938 words. Meanwhile, men’s average turn length is 16.72 words which is two times more than the women’s. All in all, men take 52.3% of the turn-talking while 47.7% goes to the women.

The reason behind the male’s more words and turn-talking could be explained by the waves of feminism. As women cry for equal rights and try hard to breakthrough of the glass ceilings, they take more control over their fate and are desperate to shatter the image given by the patriarchal society. Therefore, the male are beginning to be the nagging one while women are becoming more and more succinct and proficient.

Before turning the attention from the relationship between language and gender to the gender feature, the latter part of this essay tells what the series is first. Desperate Housewives was an American TV series created by Marc Cherry. “Since its premiere on American Broadcasting Company on October 3, 2004, it has been translated into many languages, and broadcast in more than 130 countries all over the world. (Li 52)” “The show sets in the street of Wisteria Lane in Fairview. It mainly tells the unknown life of four housewives from the perspective of Mary Alice who commits suicide with a gun in her house. The four heroines, Susan, Lynette, Bree and Gabrielle, are distinct housewives. Faced up with secrets, crimes hidden behind their neighborhood, they finally get through family and neighbor struggles.”Li 53

Judging from the content and background of Desperate Housewives, it is easy to find that this series is a hit considering the fact that it reflects a culture obsessed not only with gender identity, but also with secrecy, deviancy and containment.McCabe and Akass,93Rosalind Coward argues the show’s popularity stems from its playful representation of emotional reality and its ability to tap into the cultural zeitgeist, Ashley Sayeau weighs in on the series’ “flimsy feminism”McCabe and Akass,93Jermyn (2006) claims Desperate Housewives is a feminist text as the female narrator works to frame the show from a woman’s perspective. (Huille,26)

The feminism in this series is quite explicit simply considering the storyline and the character of female characters in this film. “ Busch (2009) contends that Desperate Housewives is depicted from a feminist perspective because the show creates awareness of contemporary feminist issues, such as stereotypical gender roles and the limited choices between motherhood and careers. Desperate Housewives depicts the struggle women have in domestic environments, which highlights contemporary feminist issues concerning domesticity."(Huille,25) The independence and strengths of women are shown clearly on the four main characters. Lynette is proficient on her work with the ability to reach high position in a company. She is the symbol of women’s powerfulness. Susan tended to depend on a man before. However, she gained independence at the end of the series. It could be seen as a process of establishing feminism. Same process also happens to Gabrielle. Gabrielle used to rely on her husband’s support to live a rich life without work at all. Nonetheless, she works after a series of unfortunate accidents come to her family and support her family in the end. Moreover, Bree is an epitome of perfect housewives. Not only is she ideal for neighbors and acquaintances, but she also keeps her house clean and cooks food as good as publishing a cook book which makes her famous and gain huge amount of profit. However, she is burden to her family members. Her ex-husband and children can not bear her at all. This could be viewed as a fight against the traditional image of women. Therefore, the feminism is stressed here with counterargument of Bree’s failure.

Form this point of view, Desperate Housewives belongs to the category of satire. “Desperate Housewives is a nostalgic representation of the past life in the suburbs in the 1950s when every people have a happy life. It simultaneously represents the past life and also the present society. Ding and Hou,3” This quote uses the rhetoric device of satire itself. It can be seen from the series that characters do experience harsh trouble and serious conflict.

The conflict can be analyzed at most based on the lines of Desperate Housewives. Hence, this essay begins to analyze the language feature of Desperate Housewives from now on with the excerpt below.

Excerpt 1

In a shopping mall

Mum Solis: So you shop a lot, huh?

Gabrielle: Yaah, so?

Mum Solis: Most women that shop a lot is because they don’t have anything better to do.

Gabrielle: What is your point?

Mum Solis: When you have children ...

Gabrielle: Here we go...

Mum Solis: And I am just saying that children give your life purpose. You get so busy taking care of them that you don’t have any time to wonder if you’re happy.

Gabrielle: You know why I didn’t so like you? I invite you to a nice shopping trip and you find ways to upset me.

Mum Solis: Oh, you didn’t invite me. I invite myself.

Gabrielle: (Watching her watch in a hurry)

Mum Solis: You keep looking at your watch. Is there some place you have to be?

Gabrielle: No! You know I’m not one of these women who has a hole in their heart that is gonna be filled by a baby. I like my life a lot. It is very fulfilling. (Left with anger)

Ding and Hou,4

 In this excerpt, Mum Solis persuaded Gabrielle to have a baby with her impatient decline. That is where the conflict lied. The mother-in-law wanted to have grandchildren while the daughter-in-law did not think so. From the episode, it can be observed that Mom Solis adopted a rather euphemism way to make persuasions. She grabbed Gabrielle’s loving of shopping and tried to talk her into doing something more meaningful, which is having a baby. This is certain to fail since Gabrielle had a determination to spoil herself without any trouble might be caused by children.

The language features of this excerpt are quite significant, which is the frequent interruption and denial of another person’s ideas. Those are common in the conflict. As for this case, Gabrielle refused to agree with Mom Solis’s idea on having a baby. “Through this message, they high self concern and low other concern, so we can infer that the conflict styles in this excerpt is dominating. People view themselves as independent participants and give priority to their personal goals over the goals of others. Ding and Hou,5” Moreover, they both cut into another person’s words. For example, Gabrielle said “Here we go…”to show her dissatisfaction after Mom Solis said “When you have children ...”

“Although the conflict style between mother and daughter-in-law in American TV series Desperate Housewives is dominating, people also emphasize on the social harmony among family members.”Ding and Hou,1Another piece of episode serves as the evidence for this.

Excerpt 2

Gabrielle: (Surprised) Mum Solis, what are, what are you doing here?

Mum Solis: I came to visit my son and daughter-in-law. What does he look like?

Gabrielle: Is Carlos know you’re coming?

Mum Solis: No, he likes to be surprised. (She put her bags down) Now, come, Gabrielle, come! (Hugging) Family should always hug, regardless of how they feel about each other (Whisper).

Gabrielle: (sigh)

It can be seen from this excerpt that “social harmony exists in the context of the TV series Desperate Housewives. They try to avoid conflict, use indirect forms and adopt silence or nonverbal communicative method like facial expressions.”Ding and Hou,5The language feature of this excerpt can be treated as a symbol of the hiding of true feelings by adopting seemingly pleasant words. Instead of showing hates to each other, Mom Solis expressed her wish of a hug and Gabrielle complied with her. For now, the conflict was reduced to a low level.

Conflict plays a huge part in Desperate Housewives for the dramatic effect and the push of the storyline. Thus, it is of vital importance to explore the value behind this film so that to get a more panoramic picture of this series. “The value of materialism played an important role in “Desperate Housewives.”Harvell and Lamm,112Gabrielle is an epitome of materialism in this episode. She enjoys the high level of standard of living with the support of her husband and shows a apathy toward others. She is considered as a selfish person by many people’s eyes.

Not only is the value of materialism shown in Desperate Housewives, but also redemption. “Olsen and Morgan contend that sinful and illegal behavior is accompanied with attempts at redemption and honesty, making Desperate Housewives a redemptive drama.” (Huille 1) Real as it is, there are a large number of murders, lies and secrets in this series. “The secrets on the show contribute to the show’s popularity as the suspense enhances the drama and excitement. (Huille,22)” Huille also mentioned that “The combination of darkness and mystery intertwined with comedy contributes to the show’s success as these elements provide the audience with a new way for understanding some of the complex issues on the show(Huille,23)”However, the perpetrators always reflected on their behaviors and made up for the wrong doings later on.

Compared to the materialism and redemptive value expressed in this film, the techniques adopted here worth studying as well. This paper refers to the narrator at the beginning and ending of the film as a example for the techniques adopted. What distinguishes Desperate Housewives from other voice narrated audiovisual narratives is that its speaker Mary Alice Young tells her take from the grave. In the very first episode she commits suicide, only to take on the role as an omniscient voice-over narrator commenting in dulcet tones each week on the trails and tribulations of her neighbors....Mary Alice provides additional information the viewer cannot get.(Huille,33) The words told by Mary Young were always full of wisdom and make the plot flow. Take the excerpt from episode 6season 1 as an instance.

Mary Alice:Suburbia is a battleground, an arena for all forms of domestic combat. Husbands clash with wives, parents cross swords with children, but the bloodies often involve mothers-in-law.

It is easy to observe that the lines above shows from the point of view of a outside which is like the prophet. In the episode follows, Mom Solis was hit by a car after found out about Gabrielle’s love affair with her gardener. Mary Alice seldom shows after the first episode, season one. However, she starts and ends every episode and reveals more information about the series to audience. This is really a terrific technique used to enhance the dramatic effect of his film.

In conclusion, Desperate Housewives reveals to us the gender feature of feminism could be wrong with the amount of words and uses of turn-talking in this film which shatter the stereotype of women.  The language feature of this film are worth studying in terms of the analysis of conflicts. Meanwhile, the value of materialism and redemption is also shown in Desperate Housewives, which makes this series more than attracting. Moreover, the narrator Mary Young makes this series distinguished as a dramatic technique. Desperate Housewives contains many language and gender features, values and techniques worth studying, which makes this series a worthwhile subject to study.






Word Count:2270

Works Cited

Ding,Wang and Hou Jin’an. “A Study of the Verbal Conflict between Mother and Daughter-in-law in Desperate Housewives” Cross-cultural Communicatio 4(2008):1-7

Harvell, L.A. and E.R.Lamm, “Desperate Culture: An Analysis of I Love Juicy and

Desperate Housewives” Wichita State University:, (2015)112-113

Huillet, M., "Guilt and redemption on Wisteria Lane : a Burkeian analysis of Desperate Housewives." Diss:Oregon State University ,2013

Li, J."A Sociolinguistic Study of Language and Gender in Desperate Housewives." Theory and Practice in Language Studies 4(2014):52-57

McCabe, Janet and Kim Akass.“ Reading Desperate Housewives:Beyond The White Picket Fence.”Film and History, 37(2007):93 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




Shake hands

Like 0 Share


Comment Comment (2 comments)

Reply Report Igo 2015-12-15 11:49
Very serious topic, but it's good.
Reply Report CarolineKong 2015-12-16 18:04
Igo: Very serious topic, but it's good.
Thank you. I do find this topic worth studying.

facelist doodle Doodle board

You need to login to comment Login | register


Recent comments

Star blogger










Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email:
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.