My mother, my monster

Featured in

  • Published 20081107
  • ISBN: 9780733323935
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

REALITY TV: A phenomenon whose lure I had resisted until late last year when, in my search for shows to write about for the TV guide, I came across Wife Swap USA. In fact, I was already curious about it – a show dumped in the summer non-ratings period because of its limited and unglamorous appeal. Reviewers called the participants ‘idiots’. They all used that word, their tone so ferocious and exasperated that I imagined they had wanted to smash the television. Despite the reaction, the premise ofWife Swap USA intrigued me. The producers take two families with opposing views on all things, swap the wives, and pass on to viewers edited highlights of the ensuing chaos. The first episode I watched was fun, but it was the second that really got to me. When asked about her reason for going on the show, one of the wives said, ‘I want my family to know there are people out there worse than me’. I was hooked.

The families live under new management for two weeks. In the first week, each wife has to do things the way her counterpart does them. She has provided the other with an operating manual which includes information on how the household is run, but also the wife’s philosophy – for example, ‘I believe a wife serves her husband; he is the head of the household; his opinions are her opinions’. In the second week, the wife gets to impose her own idea of domestic congeniality.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

More from author

Flame red

FictionDEAR LANCE,I am sitting on the back seat of the bus, heading for Melbourne. This morning, my father took me to the railway station...

More from this edition

Cities of money

EssaySYDNEY 2008: TO make it to the offices of a project team at Macquarie Capital in Sydney's Martin Place, you must pass a security...

Love thy neighbour

ReportageThoughts lead on to purposes, purposes go forth in action, actions form habits, habits decide character, and character fixes our destiny.– Tryon Edwards (1809-94)ABANG'S...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.