Desperately Seeking Susan… To Bloody Well Grow Up

A few months ago I started a nightfill job, which means I miss Desperate Housewives on Monday nights but get home in time for Boston Legal. Last week, I had the night off, so I looked forward to being able to watch it.

I guess this site has made me open my eyes to the infinite amount of shocking female characters out there, because just one episode made me very aware of what a spoilt-brat-pretending-to-be-a-mature-adult Susan Myers (Teri Hatcher) is. And it got me thinking about her actions over the whole first season and a half.

Susan whines a lot. About her deadbeat ex. Big whoop, we all have shitty exes in our lives; I’ve turned mine into amusing anecdotes. About her ungrateful teenage daughter, who has the nerve not to respect her authority after Susan spent the year following her divorce refusing to get out of bed. Hey, maybe try setting a good example and you might get some respect. About her current boyfriend, who’s mysterious (namely, he’s not into D&Ms). Well, you’re an attractive woman, FIND SOMEONE ELSE! About the street maneater Edie, who has the nerve to be pursuing the same man as Susan. Although to be fair, if I was a dull, whiney thing like Susan and my competition was someone as aggressive and feisty as Edie, I’d be concerned too.

Although I’m more concerned that Susan is the DH character that viewers mostly want to be/with. The other female characters have their flaws (I don’t think there’s a truly admirable woman in there, except maybe Edie) but they all have something to offer. Lynette is constantly scheming how to get the better of people, from her husband to her boss and everyone in between. Bree shows a healthy interest in sex and calmly goes about exacting revenge on those who wronged her. Gabrielle is passionate with a deep sense of self-preservation. Edie goes after what she wants, be it a man, a job, or anything else she can think of.

But Susan is boring. And she pretends to be a do-gooder, has even convinced herself she’s Mary Sunshine, even though she’s as self-preserving as Gabrielle and self-serving as Edie. In one episode with Edie and Susan, Edie informs Susan that girls like Susan always looked down on girls like Edie in high school. The inference I made here was even though we did the same things. In other words, the Edies of the world were proud to pursue what they wanted and sleep with who they wanted, while the Susans of the world did the same thing while pretending to be self-sacrificing virgins and passing judgement on the Edies.

In a season two episode, she makes a great show of helping her boyfriend Mike find his missing son. Except she doesn’t actually want his son to be found because he has an unhealthy obsession with her daughter, so when she finds him, she pays him to go away. When Edie cottons onto something, she congratulates Susan on thinking of something so devious and wonders why they aren’t closer friends. Susan, meanwhile, doesn’t see that she’s done anything particularly devious. And when Mike finds out and leaves her, she throws a tantrum in the middle of the street. Babe, ever heard of falling to pieces in the privacy of your own home among your best friends and realising that life goes on before you have a public hysterical?

The thing is, I can see myself being friends with someone like Edie. For sure, we wouldn’t trust each other as far as we could throw each other, but we would respect each other and have a secure knowledge of “˜what you see is what you get’. With Susan, I would always have the feeling that she’s subconsciously looking out for number-one while convincing herself that she’s all self-sacrificing for other people’s benefit. Edie might stab me in the chest for a man, but Susan would stab me in the back, and convince herself that the knife slipped.


  1. Glaivester says

    Your standards for judging characters remind me of my thoughts on Angels in America. I thought Roy Cohn was the only likeable character, because while all of the charaters were a**h***s, he was the only one who didn’t pretend not to be an a**h***.

    The sanctimony is often a lot worse than the malicious deeds themselves.

  2. scarlett says

    Certainly relate to where you’re coming from. I think there’s a deep-rooted socialisation to make women ‘good’ even when they’re self-serving. All the woman characters I like have been unapologetically open about looking out for number one – why they wouldn’t go so far as to call themselves bitches, they’ll all admit they are their #1 priority.
    The thing is, when I think of my friends who I would go to for honest advice, they’re the ones who’ll admit ‘I’m selfish, so sue me’. Maybe honesty about yourself is the first step to honest criticism about the world?

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    I second that. I’ll take an honest jerk over a hypocrite any day of the week. At least with honest jerks, you know what you’re dealing with.

    And I agree with Scarlett: the fact that the show has a hypocritical character doesn’t bother me, as long as she’s treated as such. But if audiences are wanting to be the hypocrite because they don’t get the hypocrisy, that’s discouraging.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Hey, Scar, what the heck are “D&Ms”? Glav wants that in the glossary, and I have no idea what it means myself, LOL.

  5. scarlett says

    D&Ms or DMCs are Deep and Meaninful Conversations – you know, the ones where you sit down and talk about your relationships with men. (As opposed to intense intellectual conversations, which I have with my philiosphical friends all the time.)

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