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Bree Van de Kamp
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Bree making muffins for her new neighbors.

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Lindsey Arnold http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNdWWxRbBxM


Biography

Bree Hodge is well-known as one of the five leading ladies of ABC’s popular television show Desperate Housewives. Bree resides on a cul de sac in an archetypical suburban neighborhood, known as Wisteria Lane. To many neighbors and friends, Bree is known for being the “perfect wife and mother.” She emulates the nineteen fifties prototype of a wife and stay at home mother, who cooks, cleans, and gossips with the “gals” next door. However, people who truly know her realize her dark and brooding nature, which is in response to the obstacles she must overcome to protect her reputation. Bree’s creative talents have helped her publish her own cookbook and run a catering service. She is the “Martha Stewart” of Wisteria Lane (Internet Movie Database, 2007).
Bree has been married twice, and nearly divorced twice. Her first, but unsuccessful marriage included Rex Van de Kamp and was terminated after his death. She is currently married to Orson Hodge, a former dentist, and she has two children, Danielle and Andrew, both from her first marriage. She is raising a third child, Benjamin, who biologically belongs to her daughter, Danielle. However, Bree has become Benjamin’s primary caregiver.
Bree can be characterized as cold and unemotional. She has a sense of humor, but it is usually overlapped by her sarcasm and cynicism. Bree is a woman of principal. She is a devout Presbyterian, and holds strong to her beliefs, although many would question her morals which can be more self-benefiting, than helpful to others. While Bree attempts to be the perfect woman, she also uses that role to hide many of her flaws and insecurities (Wikipedia, n.d.).

Freudian Psychosexual Development

Psychosexual Development is rooted in tensions of the id, ego and super ego. The id is primitive and selfish; the super ego internalizes society’s rules; and the ego is the mediator between the two. The tensions among these, oppose one another, and beneath them, the sexual energy or libido resides. This sexual energy is directed into various stages including oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital (Friedman, & Schustack, 2009).
When a person is “anal,” meaning trapped in the anal stage of psychosexual development, it is associated with terms such as “stingy, organized, and obstinate.” There are two ways a person can prolong their anal stage and fail to overcome it. Both of them are directly connected to the process of toilet training. Around the age of two, when a child is toilet trained, the id enjoys the relief of defecation, but the parents wish to control it and stimulate the superego and ego with societal rules that defecation in public is not acceptable. Some children understand and learn the way to properly defecate, while some children rebel being anal expulsive. Other children try to assert control over their parents by holding their feces in, and being anal-retentive (Friedman,& Schustack, 2009).
Given Bree Hodge’s over-primped nature, she would be classified as an anal retentive being. Bree’s values are connected to her disciplined childhood. Although there is never a direct description of her lifestyle as a child in the series, there are many hints regarding an unpermissive childhood. In a child’s attempt to control her parents, but still abide by the strict rules of society, Bree probably regulated her defecation and urination processes. The effects of this event have helped create the “perfect” Bree Hodge of today. However, is being so perfect not as good as it seems?
Obsessive compulsion is Bree’s middle name, and the middle name of many other anal-retentive people for that matter. Her fixation with being perfect can be viewed by her clothing and her taste in her cooking. It can also be seen in her immaculately clean living room (abc, n.d.) Bree associates her notion of perfection with being the best, whether it be physical or mental. On many occasions, Bree feels the need to compete with Katherine Mayfair and other neighbors of Wisteria Lane by having the best pies, the prime catering service, and the most innovative ideas. Ironically, her flawless nature also causes her children and both of her husbands to resent her. Unfortunately, Bree neglects the bigger picture at home such as Andrew’s drugs and sexual orientation, or Orson’s loneliness and dissatisfaction, due to her constant obsession to be perfect. In fact, even Bree recognizes a problem, she is likely to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist, if it tampers with her perfection (Internet Movie Database, 2007). This is an example of a Freudian defense mechanism known as denial. Denial is the process of disbelieving what is true in the time of a tragedy. In Bree’s case, when Andrew admitted he was a homosexual, she couldn’t admit it. Her fear was that her reputation would be shattered (Friedman,& Schustack, 2009).
“It means I'm sick of you being so damn perfect all the time. I'm sick of the bizarre way your hair doesn't move. I'm sick of you making our bed in the morning before I've even used the bathroom. You're this, this plastic suburban housewife, with her pearls and her spatula, who says things like, "we owe the Hendersons a dinner." Where's the woman I fell in love with? …I need her. Not this cold, perfect thing you've become.”
-Rex Van de Kamp (Internet Movie Database, 2007)
When Bree experiences an inability to control a situation, it causes her anxiety and triggers passive aggressive behaviors. Passive aggression occurs when someone is upset, but doesn’t act overt and cruel. Instead they attack in a more subtle and peaceful manor such as a silent treatment, or they may appear enthusiastic and happy to one’s face, but may be brooding and plotting to themselves (Friedman,& Schustack, 2009).
Bree is a tactful person. She doesn’t get mad, she gets even. One of Bree’s many abilities is baking; particularly the baking of lemon meringue pies. At neighborhood parties, many people anticipate her reputed lemon meringue pies. However, during season four, Katherine Mayfair, a new neighbor, arrives at the same party with an equally tasteful, if not better pie than Bree. Because many of the guests at the party prefer Katherine’s pie, and Katherine won’t reveal her ingredients, Bree spends an entire evening baking at least nine different types of lemon meringue pies. She plans to avenge Katherine by outshining her, or in this case, out-baking her. Her attack is not openly malicious, but could still provoke insecurities in Katherine should she succeed. In the instances of a person who had been properly bathroom trained during their anal stage, they would forget about their pie-rating, or maybe attempt to prepare a better pie for the next event. What separates Bree as anal is her anxiety and obsession over being the best. In many instances, she goes to an unjustifiable extent to excel over Katherine, and even attempts to secretly give Katherine food poisoning when she is “helping” her at a party. However, in the eyes of many friends and family, Bree is calm and cool about her resentment toward Katherine, even going as far as to create a catering company with her competitor. During this alliance, she deceives Katherine with enthusiasm while plotting ways to outrival her.
The adult result of failed toilet training during the anal stage is neurosis, an anxiety disorder which arises in a collection of the qualities that Bree has, including when “the personality or ego is weak or afraid of censure” according to Sigmund Freud. It also includes the inability to self-assess and highlights obsessive compulsion (Burgy, 2001) In fact, although the writers of Desperate Housewives have officially digressed in their diagnosis of Bree, the character, herself, commonly refers to her quirks in terms of anal retentiveness and neurosis. (Wikipedia, n.d.) “Please don't mistake my anal retentiveness for actual affection.”-Marcia Cross as Bree Hodge (Internet Movie Database, 2007).

The Big Five Personality Trait Theory

A more contemporary approach to assessing one’s personality is an approach called “The Big Five.” This data based model is based on a factor analysis, focuses on five main dimensions of personality that can be assessed through scales, scores, and statistical analysis. There are five dimensions of personality known as the “Big Five” and they are referred to as extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. A person can have all of the big five personality traits. However, there are generally two or three dimensions which tend to dominate and two or three dimensions which appear mild or less (Friedman,& Schustack, 2009).
Bree Hodge, undoubtedly can be classified as high in conscientiousness. A personality high in conscientiousness includes dependability, cautiousness, organization, and responsibility (Friedman,& Schustack, 2009). Without distributing a physical assessment of personality, one can observe Bree as being a conscientious person through her interactions with others, her values, and her success. Success is a potential indicator of conscientiousness for some people, and especially Bree. A study was conducted to measure the academic success of students high in conscientiousness. Students, who were high in this trait, had higher success ratings than those who didn’t. (Funder & Wagerman). Applying this information to Bree and what is known about her successful business, best selling cookbook, and catering services, it could be stated that Bree Hodge is successful, and therefore, possibly conscientiousness.
If this is not conclusive, there are other ways of indicating her conscientiousness such as her organizational skills with cleaning and thinking, in addition to her ability to accept responsibility. (Friedman,& Schustack, 2009). When Bree’s daughter, Danielle becomes pregnant, Bree knows that Danielle is incapable of raising the child properly due to Danielle’s young age. Bree’s develops an outlandish plan to cover up her daughter’s pregnancy. Bree sends her daughter to her grandparents’ house and Bree, herself, pretends that she is pregnant. Eventually, she admits the truth to her friends and decides to raise her daughter’s child, even though it isn’t her own (Internet Movie Database, 2007). Both of these events require a sense of responsibility. In addition, it makes her a dependable person in a time of adversity, which is another trait of conscientious personalities (Friedman, & Schustack, 2009).
A dimension of personality that Bree is lower in, is agreeableness. People who are low in agreeableness tend to be cold, quarrelsome and unkind (Friedman, & Schustack, 2009). The creators of this television drama have put a lot of effort into making Bree a very disagreeable character. Her main characteristic is known as being “cold and unemotional.” She is known for saying things like “I think it’s admirable that you want to forgive Orson because I can’t,” and “Of all the gay men in the world, we get the two without taste?” (abc, n.d.). She is aggressive and unforgiving if a person disobeys or defies her values. When Andrew admits his sexuality to his mother, not only does she disapprove of his lifestyle, she tries to correct it. When her attempt to fix the irreparable fails, she chooses to abandon Andrew. She leaves him on the side of the road with a bag of belongings and money for a bus ticket, a very uncooperative non-agreeable measure. Other instances of the character’s hostile and quarrelsome attitude can be viewed in many of her relationships. Instead of being warm and inviting, she tends to neglect partners, while demanding the optimal husband-performance (Wikipedia, n.d.). She expects a lot of her partners, while being preoccupied with external affairs, and strict scheduling. She is unwilling to alter or change her plans for those of others. Bree’s world is non-negotiable. There are many instances in the series where husbands, lovers and family members have been physically removed from her house at her will because they did not bend their stubbornness to match her principles.

Discussion

In terms of personality, Bree acknowledges her actions, attitudes and the consequences of them. She appears to take pride in the fact that she is anal retentive, and she embraces her pessimism. Desperate Housewives is an interesting series because it focuses on four average housewives, including Bree, and their atypical issues. However, each episode is viewed as some sort of life lesson with an introductory narrative explaining the problem and then the outcome. Through this process, and the passage of time, Bree has been able to better herself. In the beginning of the series, she and her son Andrew didn’t get along. Andrew was defiant and attempted to sue his mother. In return Bree fought back and threw him out of the house for being gay. However, by season six, Bree has come to accept the differences her son may have, and she chooses to become an active person in his life. She has begun to accept beliefs that may be different from her own. As Bree comes to understand people and their flaws, she is also able to better understand her own. After Bree nearly sabotages Katherine Mayfair emotionally, she realizes the instabilities that Katherine has and her own instabilities. She is able to end her rivalry and accept Katherine’s talents, even the talents that may outshine her own. Bree becomes more agreeable (Wikipedia, n.d.).
Bree’s personality is constantly changing. Although many of Bree’s personal qualities, such as her obsessive compulsiveness, dependability, and frigid nature may still exist, the extent to which they prevail changes. As time goes on, you realize that although she may act dispassionate towards others, she admits her feelings more and more to herself. There is no such thing as a “perfect” personality and although Bree Hodge may beg to differ, there are more desirable qualities than others. Hopefully with time, Bree will be able to use her personality characteristics for a more positive advantage.

References

ABC. (n.d.). Bree Hodge (Marcia Cross) Bio- Desperate Housewives- ABC. Retrieved
from http://abc.go.com/shows/desperate-housewives/bio/bree-hodge/24720
Bree Van de Kamp (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bree_Van_de_Kamp
Burgy, M. (2001). The Narcissistic Function in Obsessive Compulsive Neurosis.
American Journal of Psychotherapy, 55(1), 65, 9. Retrieved from
http://ezproxy.lib.uconn.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=4255519&site=ehost-live
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W., (2009). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern
Research (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Higher Education.
Funder, D. C. & Wagerman, S. A. (2007). Acquaintance Reports of Personality
and Academic Achievement: A Case for Conscientiousness. Journal of Research
in Personality, 41(1), 221-229. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2006.03.001
Internet Move Database. (2007). Biography for Bree Hodge from “Desperate
Housewives”. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0015607/bio
MayoClinic. (1998). What are the Signs and Symptoms of Passive Aggressive Behavior?.
Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/passive-aggressive-
behavior/AN01563