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Far from perfect: the complex game of suburban life

Most people in seemingly idyllic and ideal communities really live lives of.well, quiet desperation. Beneath the surface of peaceful and calm surroundings is a harsh, brutal world. It is in such places that the elements and principles of Darwinian evolution are applied in a social setting. There's plenty of backstabbing, betrayed allegiances, deception, and manipulation. All of this is, of course, occurring under the pretenses of being “good neighbors” and “close acquaintances.

” Underneath it all, some are inclined to believe, is the worst possible manifestation of social anxiety. Social anxiety may not be the only cause of this unusual game of deception and counter-deception going on in seemingly quiet areas, but it is often cited as one of the main factors. Somehow, the competitive nature that is implanted in children finds ways to manifest itself, even in such peaceful and theoretically stress-free locales. In some cases, it is rather simple and unobtrusive, such as one housewife making a remark or two about her having a better husband or children than her neighbor. It could be safe to say the two are friends, but share a mild rivalry between them.

However, social anxiety can also lead to some actions that can be considered extreme and unsavory within the context of the communities they happen. While “Desperate Housewives” may simply be a TV show, the harsh fact is that one of the reasons for the show being a huge hit is that it rings true. Certainly, some of the story arcs and events are well-entrenched in the realm of extremity, but most suburban residents can feel the motivation behind them and empathize with characters and the often silly twists. In an interestingly large number of cases, some viewers have even mentioned that, as extreme as some actions have been, they had seriously considered doing such “desperate” deeds at one point or another. Apart from the backstabbing, the suburban environment has sometimes led residents to develop a bit of status anxiety on the side. For one reason or another, certain residents of suburban areas (housewives seem particularly prone) become moderately obsessed with the idea of appearing as close to “ideal” as possible. This can result in some “anal-retentive” behavior and obsession with perfection. In attempting to attain the image of “perfection” for whatever role they are most prominent in, some people develop an acute sensitivity to any perceived threat to their status. This status anxiety can also lead to some subtle hostility. Activities can range from making snide remarks about one person's hospitality and hosting skills during a party to blatant sabotage of a rival's rosebushes.

This status anxiety, combined with the social competitiveness, has created two things. First, it has made an excellent place to study the the validity of applying Darwinian evolution into a social setting. These sorts of environments serve as a near-perfect testing area to see individuals playing their social games in an attempt to secure a goal, though the goal can sometimes be “playing the game” in itself. Second, it shows just how deeply ingrained competition is in the current social environment. There is a mild horror at the realization that, even in such perfect situations and idyllic conditions, the dog-eat-dog mentality still finds a way to exercise itself.


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