'Real Housewives' Play the Propaganda Game in First Trailer for Dubai Inaugural Season

Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise is dipping its toe into the international soft power game, releasing the first trailer for the inaugural season of a new series set in Dubai. The season premieres June 1.

Based on the new three-minute clip, the show will feature all the usual Housewives fodder, following a group of frenemies navigating work, family, an exclusive social scene, and the unparalleled rigors of being wealthier than any one human should be. Also, there are camels and lots of desert this time around, but the confessional one-liners are as campy as ever: “There’s a lot of gold here, and we have a lot of gold diggers, too”; “It’s very expensive to cheat on me — ask my exes”; “Play with your boy toy, bitch, don’t play with me — I’m not the one.” 

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Of course, beneath this heavily manicured voyeurism into the lives of the outrageously wealthy denizens of one of the most outrageously wealthy places on Earth, is a whole host of issues tied to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates’ human rights track record. While one of the show’s cast members insists in the trailer that “most of the women are running this town,” it seems reasonable to assume that probably only applies to the most affluent.

While the UAE has made some reforms in the women’s rights realm (they can vote, work, and own property), the latest Human Rights Watch report on the country notes a few areas of concern: Women still need a male guardian to conclude a marriage contract, and must go through obtaining a court order if they want to get a divorce; additionally, it’s much harder for unmarried pregnant women to access prenatal healthcare. On top of all that, migrant workers — which comprise the majority of the UAE’s workforce — have few protections, and the UAE’s labor laws notably exclude domestic workers, who often experience unpaid wages, confinement, and physical and sexual assault by employers. And, last but not least, homosexuality remains illegal in the UAE.

For all those reasons, the announcement of The Real Housewives of Dubai last year did draw some criticism, though Bravo has persevered with the show. And also, let’s not forget, the United States of America isn’t exactly some paragon of upholding the rights of women, migrants, workers, and LGBTQ+ people. 

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