Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Gaines- "Model" Couple

Popular TV couple known as Chip and Joanna Gaines have become extremely idolized by women and couples all over the country. The two's hit reality TV show, Fixer Upper on HGTV produced beginning in 2012, had most of America swooning over their relationship and their creative home makeovers. It was just soon after their first season aired, many Americans, especially women, dreamed of being this couple as they had the "perfect" relationship, "perfect" family, "perfect" home, and a really awesome job.

This is known as a preferred reading, which reinforces the status quo ideology specifically about empowerment by proposing taken-for-granted assumptions as common sense. Looking at the Gaines family for example, they are seen as the "perfect" couple with the "perfect" life. They are viewed as a normal couple with a normal life by many viewers and followers, without taking a step back and realizing what they are representing as a normal family, or normal life.

The term reading comes from ideological arguments about empowerment couched beneath the surface of texts.  These reading are proposed through interpellation which occurs when a text leads us to identify certain roles or subject positions. In other words, a popular example is when characters are portrayed as models who look and act in ways portrayed as normal, attractive, and desirable. This also applies to anti-models who look and act in ways portrayed as abnormal, unattractive and undesirable.

The Gaines fall into this category as models who are portrayed as attractive and desirable, because of the popular attention they gained quickly after their show aired on HGTV.
Though this couple is seen as a normal family who became famous and as it "all", their story did not begin this way. This couple who many desire to be like, did not begin with the perfect love story. In other words, it was not love at first sight.

The two encountered many awkward dates and long periods between returning phone calls before anything became of their relationship. They two are very different people, yet somehow create the "ideal" relationship viewers are idolizing. Chip has a goofy, corky personality and will take any risk. Joanna is more introverted, smart, humble and prefers to play it safe. After a long time coming the two opposites attract and were married. At the time, they did not have steady jobs, trying to begin business after business, leaving them struggling with how they were going to provide for their family financially while not losing sight of their dreams.

Many viewers aspired to be this family because they viewed them as a normal, perfect family who had it all without knowing their trials they went through to get to where they are today.

From the hit show (and now published book, The Magnolia Story), the two display empowerment as they began from having nothing to over a couple of years expanding their business and becoming extremely successful. Joanna specifically displays empowerment as she is a role model to many women who aspire to be like her not only because of her success and creative style, but her humble personality, values and testimony. This is different than many who are anti-models and because of this, many viewers desire to be them as they follow their show and learn of their story. Their story specifically supports hegemony as a preferred reading.

Discussion Questions: 
  1. Have you found yourself following a model who is normal, attractive, and desirable? If so, who and  in what ways?
  2. Have you found yourself following an anti-model who is portrayed as abnormal, unattractive and undesirable?


  1. I love watching Fixer Upper! Chip and Joanna really do appear to be the model for the ideal couple. It's interesting how effortless they make "normal" look. Though, I would imagine that there are a lot of dynamics happening behind the scenes to provide that image. It's hard to choose just one model who I would find normal, attractive and desirable. For me, I've found it varies throughout the years. It's never really intentional but I end up emulating certain people and behaviors. I wanted to be just like Rachel from Friends for a long time. I thought she had the perfect body and hair and career (when she stated working for Ralph Lauren). I also really admired Ree Drummand, The Pioneer Woman. She seems to have the perfect life out on a Ranch in Oklahoma and an unbelievable amount of energy. Giada DeLaurentis is probably another women who I admired for years. I thought she was so beautiful and talented and seemed to make cooking look so effortless. I find I'm usually drawn to want to be like women who have qualities I feel I'm lacking. They become the ideal of what I wish I was or what I would like to become. Very rarely, if ever, do I perceive someone who has a life like mine as the model. Perhaps because it's too much reality. I can see the man behind the curtain and can see that effortless and perfect actually take a lot of very hard work.

  2. Rehab Addict and Property Brothers are some of my favorite shows, but Fixer Upper has been one of the last options to select from HGTV and your analysis of the relationship might be why I don't enjoy the show. Chip and Joanna's relationship reflects the "ideal marriage" when viewers immediately tune in, displaying normal, attractive, and desirable behavior. In my own life, I have felt that this model was expected from adults, but during the early years of my adult life it became clear that this type of relationship was not always realistic. The show does not capture their home life and we don't see their struggles as a couple, but to only display the good times on evening television (including frequent marathons) causes viewers to vie for their partnership and careers.

    I am finding my own interests and actions to lean more towards the anti-model. When we assess how we spend our day, who plays an active roles in our lives, and what inspires our behavior, the need for "modeled" behavior is less of a required aspect of life and instead a less "real" reality.